In the Department of English Language and Literature, we study the history of cultural expression in English and we cultivate the art of writing; we analyze how expression both emerges from and affects social conditions; we research the history and present use of the English language; and we make space for diverse ways of being and learning in our classrooms to enable students to read, speak and write with awareness and skill.
Our Department is a vibrant meeting ground for people who care about the English language and everything humans can do and have long done with it. We investigate its availability for those who would impose, those who would resist, and those who would debate power of many kinds. We track the development of English and its movement across the globe. We encounter English on the page, the stage and the screen. We relish its capacities to awaken perception and elude simplification. We invest daily in the conviction that words matter.
Our faculty have expertise in historically, geographically, formally, and topically diverse areas, from the first millennium to the third, from Britain to India to the Americas, from the novel to the lyric poem to digital media, from Theatre and Performance Studies to Rhetoric and Composition Studies and from Disability Studies to the study of Gender and Sexuality. Many are jointly appointed in other units across the University, making our Department a confluent place for multiple traditions, commitments, methodologies and insights. We are also a place where scholarly and creative writing meet; it is hard to draw a line between those who create and those who study literature, as individuals straddle that line in their training, in the research they do for their poetry or fiction, and in the craft our scholarly faculty employ in their writing.
The Department has long been a seedbed of innovative programs that extend students’ learning beyond the Ann Arbor campus, including the New England Literature Program, the Prison Creative Arts Project (now housed in the Residential College), the Bear River Writers’ Conference, the Great Lakes Arts, Cultures, and Environments Program and the incipient Detroit River Story Lab. On our campus, our faculty have been the founding forces behind or inaugural directors of numerous efforts and organizations: the Initiative on Disability Studies, the Program in the Environment, the Program in Medieval and Early Modern Studies, and the Institute for the Humanities. English faculty have directed Women and Gender Studies, American Culture, Comparative Literature and the Sweetland Writing Center. Our faculty have provided international leadership in English, as presidents of the Modern Language Association and editors of its journal PMLA, as well as other leading journals, including our own Michigan Quarterly Review.
Our highly-ranked PhD programs, in English Language & Literature, English and Women’s & Gender Studies, and English and Education, offer students the opportunity to become scholars in the area—or interdisciplinary areas—of their choosing, to pursue in-depth original research projects and to become practiced teachers. The Helen Zell Writers’ MFA Program, one of the finest in the world, trains fiction writers and poets to hone their craft in small workshop settings, while hosting a dazzling roster of visiting artists throughout the year. Graduate students take leadership roles in the intellectual life of the Department and the College, inaugurating and running over a dozen interdisciplinary interest groups, from the Rural America Working Group, to the Global Postcolonialisms Collective, to the Early Modern Colloquium, to the Mark Webster Reading Series.
Faculty and graduate student instructors begin involving students in our endeavors with the approximately 5,400 first-year students who annually enter our small, workshop-oriented classrooms through the English Department Writing Program, which provides the most common threshold experience into humanistic inquiry at the University of Michigan. For the hundreds of students who decide to pursue a major or minor in English, or who minor in English and Creative Writing, including those who complete capstone research and creative projects, we form a community of discussion-oriented classrooms, workshops and tutorials. We also facilitate, accredit and fund learning experiences and career advancement through internships. Here, we share our dedication to intensive reading and writing as a means to access the complexity of history, and to extend our students’ creative, analytic and communicative capacities. Because the materials we teach take as their subjects our fellow humans, our histories, and our environments, we help our students to read the world and to write the future with insight and precision.
435 South State Street
3187 Angell Hall
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1003
Phone: (734) 764-6330
Fax: (734) 763-3128
Department Chair's Office: (734) 647-7477
Department Manager: (734) 764-7301
English Department Writing Program Inquiries
Department Website Administrator