English and Comparative Literature

Administrative Information

Director of Undergraduate Studies: Prof. Erik Gray, 408K Philosophy; 854-1668;

Departmental Advisers:
Prof. Austin Graham, 306 Philosophy;
Prof. Erik Gray, 408K Philosophy;
Prof. Anahid Nersessian, 408H Philosophy;
Prof. Cristobal Silva, 408I Philosophy;

Departmental Office: 602 Philosophy; 854-3215



Rachel Adams
Branka Arsic
Christopher Baswell (Barnard)
Sarah Cole
Susan Crane
Nicholas Dames (chair)
Jenny Davidson
Andrew Delbanco
Kathy Eden
Brent Edwards
Farah Jasmine Griffin
Saidiya Hartman
Marianne Hirsch
Jean E. Howard
Maire Jaanus (Barnard)
Philip Kitcher (Philosophy)
Sharon Marcus
Edward Mendelson
Robert O’Meally
Julie Peters
Ross Posnock
Austin E. Quigley
Bruce Robbins
James Shapiro
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (University Professor)
Alan Stewart
Mark Strand
Gauri Viswanathan
David M. Yerkes

Associate Professors
Marcellus Blount
Julie Crawford

Associate Professors (continued)
Patricia Dailey
Michael Golston
Erik Gray
Ross Hamilton (Barnard)
Molly Murray
Frances Negrón-Muntaner
Joseph Slaughter
Maura Spiegel (Barnard)

Assistant Professors
Katherine Biers
John Gamber
Austin Graham
Matt Hart
Nicole Horejsi
Wen Jin
Eleanor Johnson
Anahid Nersessian
Cristobal Silva
Dennis Yi Tennen

Adjunct Assistant Professors
Zander Brietzke
Marianne GiordaniMark Phillopson
John Robinson-Appels
Victoria Rosner
Richard Sacks
Paul Stephens
Benjamin Taylor

Eileen Gillooly
Deborah Martinsen

The program in English fosters the ability to read critically and imaginatively, to appreciate the power of language to shape thought and represent the world, and to be sensitive to the ways in which literature is created and achieves its effects. It has several points of departure, grounding the teaching of critical reading in focused attention to the most significant works of English literature, in the study of the historical and social conditions surrounding literary production and reception, and in theoretical reflection on the process of writing and reading and the nature of the literary work.

The courses the department offers draw on a broad range of methodologies and theoretical approaches, from the formalist to the political to the psychoanalytical (to mention just a few). Ranging from the medieval period to the 21st century, the department teach major authors alongside popular culture, traditional literary genres alongside verbal forms that cut across media, canonical British literature alongside postcolonial, global, and trans-Atlantic literatures.

At once recognizing traditional values in the discipline and reflecting its changing shape, the major points to three organizing principles for the study of literature— history, genre, and geography. Requiring students not only to take a wide variety of courses but also to arrange their thinking about literature on these very different grids, the major gives them broad exposure to the study of the past, an understanding of the range of forms that can shape literary meaning, and an encounter with the various geographical landscapes against which literature in English has been produced.


Students are not assigned specific advisers, but rather each year the faculty members serving on the department’s Committee on Undergraduate Education (CUE) are designated undergraduate advisers (see above). Upon declaring a major or concentration in English, students should meet with the director of undergraduate studies or a delegated faculty adviser to discuss the program, especially to ensure that students understand the requirements.

Students must fill out a Major Requirements Worksheet early in the semester preceding graduation. The worksheet must be reviewed by an adviser and submitted to 602 Philosophy before the registration period for the final semester. The worksheet is available in the English Department or on-line at It is this worksheet—not the Degree Audit Report (DAR)—that determines eligibility for graduation as an English major or concentrator.

Course Information


Generally lectures are addressed to a broad audience and do not assume previous course work in the area, unless prerequisites are noted in the description. The size of some lectures is limited. Senior majors have preference unless otherwise noted, followed by junior majors, followed by senior and junior nonmajors. Students are responsible for checking for any special registration procedures on-line at


The department regards seminars as opportunities for students to do advanced undergraduate work in fields in which they have already had some related course experience. With the exception of some CLEN classes (in which, as comparative courses, much material is read in translation), students’ admission to a seminar presupposes their having taken ENGL W3001 Literary Texts, Critical Methods. During the three weeks preceding the registration period, students should check for application instructions for individual seminars. Applications to seminars are usually due by the end of the week preceding registration, and admit lists are posted by the second day of the registration period at Students should always assume that the instructor’s permission is necessary; those who register without having secured the instructor’s permission are not guaranteed admission.

Departmental Honors

Writing a senior essay is a precondition, though not a guarantee, for the possible granting of departmental honors. After essays are submitted, faculty sponsors deliver a written report on the essay to the department’s Committee on Undergraduate Education (CUE), with a grade for the independent study and, if merited, a recommendation for honors. CUE considers all the essays, including sponsor recommendations, reviews students’ fall semester grades, and determines which students (no more than 10% of all graduating English majors) are to receive departmental honors.

The Degree Audit Reporting System (DARS)

The DAR is a useful tool for students to monitor their progress toward degree requirements, but it is not an official document for the major or concentration, nor should it replace consultation with departmental advisers. The department’s director of undergraduate studies is the final authority on whether requirements for the major have been met. Furthermore, the DAR may be inaccurate or incomplete for any number of reasons—for example, courses taken elsewhere and approved for credit do not show up on the DAR report as fulfilling a specific requirement.

On-Line Information

Other departmental information—faculty office hours, registration instructions, late changes, etc.—is available on the departmental website.