English has long been one of the most prestigious departments at the University, and it consistently ranks among the top departments in the nation. From Edgar Allan Poe’s days on the West Range in the 1820s, through William Faulkner’s celebrated residency in the late 1950s, to the two department faculty who have served as recent U.S. Poets Laureate, Rita Dove and Charles Wright, UVa English boasts an illustrious history and stature among humanities programs worldwide.
The department studies British, American, and global Anglophone literatures from the Anglo-Saxon era to the present day, and imparts methods of critical reading and writing. All English majors receive a firm grounding in the history of literatures in English, an expansive vision that links cultural heritage to urgent contemporary concerns. Majors become proficient at the analysis and interpretation of texts, and learn to express themselves in writing with precision, elegance, and persuasion. In addition to reading books beloved through the generations, the study of English enables students to grapple with questions of existence, beauty, desire, and power that are fundamental to the human condition.
The UVa English major delivers an esteemed and distinctive preparation for a wide range of careers and professions. Upon graduation, majors regularly and successfully enter careers in business, government, the media, the arts, teaching, and administration; many go on to graduate study in law, business, medicine, creative writing, and humanities doctoral programs. Recruiters in many fields identify the strengths for which UVa English graduates are known—critical reading and writing prowess—as highly coveted and increasingly rare in today’s emerging workforce.
With more than sixty faculty members, the department offers students the opportunity to study closely with diverse and renowned scholars and teachers. Professors specialize in every facet of literary endeavor, from historical periods of literature, to literary theory, to the practice of writing, to interdisciplinary studies. English faculty have published hundreds of influential books, edited many of the most important editions and collections of literary works, and garnered awards including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the MacArthur “Genius Grant,” and numerous Guggenheim Fellowships, N.E.H. Fellowships, and elections to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
With around 400 majors, English is one of the larger undergraduate programs at the University. English stands out among other programs this size in that the great majority of courses for the major are offered as professor-led seminars, rather than large lecture courses.
In addition to fostering close interaction between faculty and undergraduates in the classroom, the department offers six optional area programs within the major that allow students to pursue particular areas of interest intensively and with structure. The department also actively supports study abroad, double majors, and other means by which students design their undergraduate educations to reflect their personal interests and goals. A faculty advisor works with each student throughout to ensure a coherent, intentional, and rewarding program of study.