Departmental Learning Goals

English Department Learning Goals

A student who completes an English major will have learned to talk about and write critical interpretations of literary works, using a variety of approaches.  Majors learn to consider the genre and form of a work, to apply critical or theoretical methodologies, and to place a work in its historical context.

Mapping of departmental learning goals onto Bryn Mawr learning outcomes

Writing Skills

General learning goal for writing:

Students will learn to write well-organized and crafted prose; facility and fluency in language

Students will learn to use writing as a flexible tool of critical literary analysis, culminating in the successful completion of the Senior Thesis

Specific learning goals:

  • Students will learn to generate critical questions appropriate to the analysis of works of literature and film:  Questions that are significant; relevant to work at hand; non-obvious to the casual reader or viewer; and capable of development, given the length of the assignment
  • Students will develop claims in response to critical questions through argument and analysis, not merely through summary, assertion or example.
  • Students will locate and incorporate appropriate textual evidence to support their argument.
  • Students will learn strategies of effective paper structure.
  • Students will learn to incorporate quotations effectively and in various ways.
  • Students will learn to analyze texts, using a critical approach or methodology.

Research Skills

General learning goal for research: 

Students will become familiar with library research tools relevant to English Studies and to use them in the production of a successful Senior Thesis

Specific learning goals:

  • Students will learn to identify and locate books and journal articles of literary and film criticism relevant to the topic of their papers.
  • Students will become familiar with the databases most useful to literary and film criticism and will learn how to access them.
  • Students will learn to evaluate sources:  for example, to distinguish between different types of secondary sources -- scholarly and popular; academic and journalistic; peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed.
  • Students will learn to evaluate online sources for relevance, authority and accuracy.
  • Students will learn to consult reference librarians for research help.
  • Students will learn to cite and document sources using MLA Style, and to use software designed for this purpose (e.g., Zotero).

Oral Communication Skills

  • Students will learn to communicate effectively in classroom discussion, both contributing and listening actively.
  • Students will develop skills and confidence to deliver presentations

Quantitative Ability NA

Ability to View Problems from Multiple Perspectives

  • (The major in English) helps students identify crucial questions of history, genre, literary form, and theoretical approach from a range of perspectives throughout the English-speaking world through cross-cultural and trans-historical engagement offered in courses at all levels of instruction.
  • Supports students in questioning the presuppositions of literary study by offering courses on texts and literary traditions from a range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds at all levels of instruction.
  • Contributes regularly to the curricular offerings of Africana Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Latin American Iberian and Latina/o Studies (LAILS), and other programs emphasizing under-represented perspectives
  • Encourages and supports students in expanding their own specific areas of interest to include hands-on engagement in various cultures through the college Study Abroad program.
  • Supports students’ engagement with diverse approaches to key problems in literary discourse through the required semester-long Methods of Literary Study (ENGL 250), in which students explore the power of language in a variety of linguistic, historical, disciplinary, social, and cultural contexts.

Critical Thinking Skills

  • Emphasizes critical analysis and interpretation through written assignments, intensive class discussion, and independent research and inquiry. This is a core element of the required Senior Seminar (ENGL 398) and Senior Essay (ENGL 399) courses, and is reflected in elective courses at all levels of instruction.
  • Aids students in developing incisive critical thinking skills by introducing them to diverse perspectives on key theoretical debates from a range of fields and time periods. This is a core element of the required Methods of Literary Study (ENGL 250), and is reflected in courses at all levels of instruction.
  • Helps students refine their faculties of reading closely, writing incisively and passionately, asking productive questions, producing their own compelling interpretations, and listening to the insights offered by others. This is a core element of the required Methods of Literary Study (ENGL 250), and is reflected in courses at all levels of instruction.
  • Offers students a supportive, hands-on, and structured process in which to deepen their critical thinking skills through the required Senior Seminar (ENGL 398) and Senior Essay (ENGL 399) sequence, in which students 1) identify key theoretical debates in their literary fields of interest 2) develop an original argument that intervenes in these debates and 3) refine and express that argument in a 30-40pp critical essay on a topic of their own devising.
  • Supports students in the development, revision, and publication of their critical essays through intensive one-on-one guidance, as well as through the department’s Undergraduate Calls for Papers listings

Problem-Solving Ability

  • patience with the intricacies and complexity of an idea; willingness to wrestle with a conundrum or intriguing suggestion to the closure possible at the moment


Contact Us

Department of Literatures in English

English House
Bryn Mawr College
101 N. Merion Avenue
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010-2899
Phone: 610-526-5306

Bryn Thompson, Administrative Assistant