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What we do

In the Department of English and Cultural Studies, we teach students to interpret cultural representations through traditionally celebrated literature as well as other kinds of texts such as film, graphic novels, political treatises, television series, theoretical essays, pamphlet literature, children’s literature, young adult novels and films, comic books, etc. We see English as a global language rather than as simply a European one with offshoots in North America. 

How we evaluate students

We offer students a range of assignments from the standard research essay to performance workshops, blogs, creative writing, literature reviews, chapbooks, wikis, digital site design, reflective writing, performance analyses, play reviews, group presentations and individual seminars. Increasingly, we are finding ways to incorporate experiential and research learning into our courses. For instance, in “Representing Aboriginality: Aboriginal Literature and Film from the Post-Settler Colonies,” students examine writing and filmmaking by aboriginal people located in such post-settler states as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S. and conduct their own research, locating poems, films, short stories, and novels by first nations authors that have not yet been subject to scholarly analysis and developing original interpretations of them. In “Shakespeare and the History of the Book,” students study a range of writing by Shakespeare in terms of the material/historical conditions that allowed these texts to emerge into print and are given opportunities to examine rare books and to participate in digital humanities scholarship and analysis. In “The Politics of Comedy” students review some of the major comedic genres (including plays, stand-up comedy, television shows, and film) and analyze the ways that comics from different epochs have negotiated the various cultural politics of their day: the politics, for instance, of gender, race, class, sexual orientation and disability. In a special topics course in American drama, students participate in the production of a play – either through acting, set design, stage management, etc. – then later analyze the production itself as well as study other American plays, learning from professionals and amateurs from the world of theatre. In the Creative Writing Workshop, students produce their own literary texts, interacting with other students in the class and the professor to hone and challenge their creative writing skills.

Given our high expectations for our students, we were not surprised when a number of our students’ essays were accepted for publication in the first issue of Huron University College’s new undergraduate journal, Liberated Arts (See http://ir.lib.uwo.ca/lajur/). Many of our students also publish their poetry, short fiction, and art in the College’s annual publication, Grubstreet, which seeks to showcase student creativity.

We teach the skills that create excellent writers

Finally, we pride ourselves on our attention not just to analyzing the content of cultural texts but to understanding how the forms in which those texts appear can also contribute to any meaning we might be able to construct from them. So we are a department that sees great value in encouraging our students to focus on the forms in which they communicate: for instance, an essay, a response paper, a poem, a play, a letter, a short story, etc. In every single one of our courses, we focus on students’ writing. Consequently, our students learn not only how to construct well-articulated and logical arguments but also how to take control of standard English grammar as well as to use the English language felicitously and effectively.