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English faculty Rob Smith, with students in class in American Literature.

English Literature

Department Chair

Chad Simpson

Associate Professor & Chair of English

2 East South Street

Galesburg, IL 61401-4999



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Major, Minor

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 Bridget Jones" 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 literature with Barbara Tannert-Smith, Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman with Rob Smith, 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 believe in exploring the vast array of cultural perspectives that literature brings us. You'll take courses in film, gender and women's studies, Africana studies, theatre, modern languages, and more. Our "Literature and Power" course, for example, with its rotating themes such as "Queer Literature," "The Body in Literature," among others, teaches not just about literature, but about the world in which literature is made.
  5. We read around the world. Students study Ernest Hemingway before traveling to Cuba; others travel to Dublin, London, and Paris after a course on Samuel Beckett. Most recently, Professor Robin Metz led 30 students on a three-week arts immersion course in London called " London Arts Alive."
  6. We know that books matter. Senior Seminar, the capstone of your English literature experience, is a testament to our belief that reading makes 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 a researched paper and field questions from the audience.

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, author, "The Making of Zombie Wars" and "The Lazarus Project."
  • Rita Dove,  American poet and essayist and former U.S. Poet Laureate.
  • Marilynne Robinson, novelist, "Lila" and "Gilead."
  • 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, 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 Monday, September 16, 2019