ENGLISH DEPARTMENT

Grove City College

 

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The English Department at Grove City College is dedicated to the study of the great works of English, American, and world literature.  Our approach is to read the literature for its explorations of the fundamental questions regarding the nature of God and man, the meaning of moral choice, the purpose of life, and the possibility of salvation.  We believe that God has revealed truth throughout all creation.  Our goal is to equip the student to discover this truth wherever it may be found, but especially in the enduring works of the literature of Western Civilization.

 Accordingly, we feel an obligation to the literature and to the truth it expresses. We affirm the classical tradition in literary studies, especially as challenged and shaped by Christian thought through the centuries.  True to that tradition, we believe that literature engages us in psychagogia, the leading of the soul to virtue and wisdom.  We also seek discernment in our reading as we bring our Christian faith into conversation with works that may challenge and critique our faith.  We take seriously recent trends in literary theory, but we challenge vigorously those perspectives that posit the total relativism of truth and critical norms.  We believe in absolute truth and believe that our study of literature should be a quest for the ongoing revelation of that truth in our lives.  We are open to discovering this truth in new authors and works of literature, yet we believe that literary works that have stood the test of time have done so because they have best satisfied the two classical purposes of literature: to teach and to delight.  They do so in ways that both celebrate and transcend the particularities of gender, race, nationality, class, and historical period.  They are both culturally situated and universal.

Our approach could best be defined as exegetical.  This involves three major phases of analysis:

 1)     idea:  What was the author trying to communicate?  What timeless, universal truths does the work explore?  How did the author's initial audience read and understand the literature?  How did the culture affect the author?

2)     form:  How does the author express these values and truths in effective, memorable ways?  How are form and style intertwined with content and essential to comprehending the work?

3)     response:  How do we as twenty-first century Christians respond to the literature?  To what extent can our responses be enriched by various classical and contemporary approaches?  How do we respond to the ethical, theological, and aesthetic dimensions of the work?

 All three of these steps are essential, but the third must follow, not precede, the other two.  Only then can our response to the literature be properly informed.

We believe that the exploration of these questions will enable us to understand the lasting significance of the literature we study.  We also believe that such appreciation ennobles the imagination and enriches the life of the individual student.  The study of literature is for us an experience of Christian stewardship, and we welcome into our program all those eager both to stir up in themselves the God-given gifts of intelligence and imagination, and to think after them the thoughts of the writers who have shaped us and our civilization.

The Department of English sets high standards for its students in the development of composition and research skills necessary for writing clear, well-supported research papers in MLA format for each literature course in the program.  To this end, all freshman English majors take English 201: English Literature Survey I as the foundational Writing Intensive (WI) and Information Literacy (IL) course in the major.  Oral communication skills are essential to success in graduate school as well as in careers related to English, and English 351 or 352: Shakespeare serves as the required Speaking Intensive (SI) course in the department.