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Professor Gina Franco and students in an English Literature class.

English Literature

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Chad Simpson

Chair & Associate Professor of English

2 East South Street

Galesburg, IL 61401



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How we work

  1. We make connections. We read the canon, but we don’t always read it alone. We’re interested in the vast, endless literary tradition. Courses like “Jane Austen and Lizzie Bennet” and “The Immigrant Author in America” explore the threads that connect contemporary and classic works.
  2. We read widely. With the varied interests of our faculty members, you’ll be exposed to a broad range of literary styles and criticism. You might study children’s and young adult literature with Barbara Tannert-Smith, British Modernism with Beth Marzoni, Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman with Rob Smith, Shakespeare with Roya Biggie, or the Bible in literature with Gina Franco—just to name a few.
  3. We read deeply. Some of our courses allow students to delve into a single author’s body of work. By pairing the study of an author with criticism, students track the trajectory of a life and the expanse of a period. Recent authors include Flannery O’Connor, William Blake, Maurice Sendak, William Carlos Williams, and Virginia Woolf.
  4. We read the world. You’ll take courses that explore the vast array of cultural and historical perspective literature offers us, including “Border Crossers” and “American Poetry and the Women’s Movement,” among others. Our “Literature and Power” course, for example, with its rotating themes such as “Literature and Medicine” or “The Artist and Power,” teaches not just about literature, but about the world in which literature is made and read. Your studies in other departments, such as film, gender and women’s studies, Africana studies, theatre, modern languages, and more, will enrich your exploration.
  5. We know that books matter. Senior Seminar, the capstone of your English literature experience, is a testament to our belief that reading make us better people. The seminar focuses on issues in literature and society that are currently being discussed locally, nationally, or internationally. The term culminates with a conference at which you’ll present your paper and field questions from the audience.
  6. Our Grads Find Success. Caleb Fridell ’16 is pursuing a Ph.D. in literature at the City University of New York. Amanda Axley ’14 is studying for her MLIS at the University of Iowa. Lauren Assaf ’10 is an attorney at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. B.J. Hollars ’07 is the author of nine books and associate professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire.


English Literature Alumni Working in Related Field

Recent visitors

Many writers and scholars visit the Knox campus each term supported by the English Department and the Caxton Club, a scholarly and creative presentation series by faculty, visiting scholars and artists.

  • Aleksandar Hemon, MacArthur Genius, author of "The Making of Zombie Wars" and "The Lazarus Project."
  • Rita DovePulitzer Prize-winning poet, essayist and former U.S. Poet Laureate.
  • Marilynne Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning Novelist, "Lila" and "Gilead." You can also read Robinson's interview with President Barack Obama from 2015. 
  • Osama Alomar, Arabic poet.
  • Ross Gay, poet and editor, "Against Which" and "Bringing the Shovel Down."
  • Beth Charlebois, scholar of Shakespeare and performance. 
  • Jaspreet Singh, novelist, essayist, short story writer and a former research scientist.
  • Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, film critic, "Form factor: A non-boring look at the ‘how' and ‘why' of film style."
  • Tisha Turk, Director of Academic Support for Writing and Speaking at Grinnell College, "Fan Videos, Fandom, & Digital Literacy: a discussion on multimedia in the Liberal Arts."
  • Gretchen Henderson, scholar of English and art history, writer, "Poetics of Embodiment: (dis)Ability, Creativity, and the Shape of Space." 
  • Reeve Parker, scholar of English Romantic poetry and drama
  • Wendy Hyman, Renaissance scholar, "What Early Modern Scientists Learned from Poets."
  • Wayne Koestenbaum, poet and cultural critic.
  • Annette Wannamaker, scholar of children's literature.
  • Valerie Traub, a leading Shakespearean critic and author of Feminist Readings of Early Modern Culture.


We have a policy of recognizing outstanding student work. Each year, the following prizes are awarded by outside judges:

  • The Howard Wilson Prizes in Literary Criticism: awarded to students writing the best pieces of literary criticism 
  • The Lorraine Smith Prize in English: awarded to a sophomore for writing the best essay in an English course
  • The Elizabeth Haywood English Research Award: given annually to support a student project in England.
  • The Nina Marie Edwards Memorial Fund: provides assistance to juniors and seniors carrying out independent or Honors projects in English and Creative Writing
  • The Davenport Awards in Poetry, Playwriting, and Fiction: for outstanding original work
  • The Procter Fenn Sherwin Prize in Fiction: awarded to a senior who submits the best original short story
  • The Bev White Prize in Fiction: given to a beginning writer for the most outstanding piece of creative writing
  • The Scripps Prize: awarded to a graduating senior with the highest grades in English.

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Printed on Sunday, October 24, 2021