+ English – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \


The discipline of English is as dynamic and far-ranging as the language itself. In an English class, you might analyze a medieval poem or produce your own piece of flash fiction. You might consider literature's relationship to historic social change or trace its role in contemporary political conflict. You will investigate the meaning of life, build unassailable arguments, and find your own voice.

Students majoring or minoring in English gain the critical reading, thinking, writing, and communications skills necessary for bright futures in a wide range of fields. Our majors go on to careers in education, law, business, publishing, non-profit work, organizing, filmmaking, information technology, journalism, and the arts. We are proud that several of our students have been awarded U.S. Student Fulbright Awards over the years. These teaching assistantships have allowed them to take their skills and insights to various countries across the globe.

The English Department offers a wide variety of courses, including many without prerequisites that are open to non-majors. Entry level courses such as Travel Literature, Global English Literature, Creative Writing, and From Novel to Film offer an opportunity to experience literary study in English and Comparative Literature and delve into fascinating topics. We offer majors and minors in both English and Comparative Literature, and a concentration in Creative Writing.

Student Profile:
Madi Johnson '20

Madi Johnson '20

Majors: English and Political Science Double Major, Public Policy Minor

"I knew I wanted to be an English major before coming to college, but the English department at HWS has given me the freedom to explore all aspects of literature – from Modern American Fiction and Literary Theory, to Film Analysis and Creative Writing. Every professor in the department is enthusiastic about their courses and has helped me to become a better writer with every class I take. I hope to pursue an Independent Study or Honors Project to continue to explore my interests in English."

Knight v Snail II:  Battle in the Margins

Knight v Snail II: Battle in the Margins (from the Gorleston Psalter, England (Suffolk), 1310-1324, Add MS 49622, f. 193v.

Sample Courses

Medieval Genres
This course approaches the Middle Ages through its representation of different genres in an array of texts, manuscript illuminations, music and other artistic expressions. It exposes the cultural and social conditions that are illustrated by these texts. Students will evaluate the social, religious and gender politics that are revealed by each genre. The investigation will begin with texts originally written in Latin. It will start around 700 with the writings of an Anglo-Saxon monk, the Venerable Bede. Students will follow Saint Brendan in the adventures that probably led him from his Irish monastery to the coast of America, many centuries before Columbus. Students will then reach the continent and discover the troubadour Bernard de Ventadorn and other poets from France. They will travel between France, England, Italy and Germany to evaluate the genres of fables, popular romance, fabliaux and dramatic farce.

Trias Residency for Writers

Trias brings a new nationally-known writer to campus each academic year. Visiting writers have the freedom to write and engage in meaningful mentorship of students. During their residency, the writer offers a reading, public lecture, brings other authors to campus for readings and works closely with the best writing students at HWS. Past Trias Writers in Residency include Lidia Yuknavitch, John D’Agata ’95, Jeff VanderMeer, Mary Ruefle and Chris Abani.

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Meet Our Faculty

Faculty in the English department are as diverse and dynamic as the language itself. They will encourage you to investigate the meanings of life, help you to build unassailable arguments and guide you in finding your own voice. Below you will find the writers, innovators and educators available to you at HWS. Meet the entire department >