In our department, you will join a community of students and teachers who love reading and writing, appreciate the power of language, and embrace the pleasures of great literature.
The English department believes that skillful, self-aware reading, writing, and thinking provide a foundation for meaningful living. We seek to develop forms of analysis and expression that are both critical and creative and that help us comprehend the multiple cultural practices and values of the twenty-first century. In this endeavor, as described more fully in our Diversity Statement, we foreground diverse identities and ideas, which shape in complex ways the literary traditions we seek to understand and to teach.
Villanova English majors acquire a broad understanding of Anglophone literary history as well as familiarity with the major genres of the tradition. A department of accomplished scholars, we focus on undergraduate education and make our majors the center of our pedagogy. While preserving the value of literature as a cultural form, we cultivate in our students the analytical skills necessary for negotiating today’s rapidly changing world. Our presence is manifest across the university through the programs in Africana Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies, Irish Studies, and Writing and Rhetoric, in all of which English faculty are prominent, and in recent innovations such as the “Creativity on the Page” Learning Community.
Graduates with a Villanova English degree will possess rich expressive, analytic, and research skills.
They will be able to write analytically and creatively, and their work will be clear, persuasive, insightful, and well-organized.
They will be well-versed in Anglophone literary traditions and genres and will be able to employ the disciplinary vocabulary of English studies to interpret a wide variety of texts. In addition, they will be able to assess the historical contexts, ideological assumptions, and aesthetic values of the texts they encounter.
Finally, Villanova English graduates will be able to locate, incorporate and evaluate secondary sources (critical, theoretical and historical) in their literary analyses.
The English Department recognizes diversity as an imperative. Because diverse identities and ideas shape in complex ways the literary traditions we seek to understand and to teach, we cannot do justice to the texts we read without foregrounding diversity itself. We define diversity broadly, as the presence of difference among faculty and students and within course content, especially but not limited to race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, national origin, sex, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, body style, age, ability, religious affiliation, and legal status.
Our approach builds upon the most influential developments in literary criticism in the last fifty years, which have featured a dramatic expansion of the literary canon beyond white male authors, the rise of multifaceted structures of analysis based upon evolving theories of identity and difference, and special attention to the history of subordinated subjects within national literatures. Diversity and its counterpart, inclusion, constitute an ethos and a set of principles that we can use to organize our teaching and our work with one another. Inclusion requires not merely that differences be present, but that we affirm those differences and oppose systems of oppression based on them. Rather than a goal to be achieved, we see diversity and inclusion as a process in which we must all be engaged. We can expect to make mistakes in our work to cultivate diversity, and we acknowledge that success requires us to remain committed to learning from each other and from our students. While we see demographic statistics—about our faculty, our students, and the authors and topics covered in our courses—as useful tools for measuring diversity, we also recognize that our commitment to diversity must go beyond them.
Each semester, Tsering Wangmo Dhompa, Yumi Lee, Adrienne Perry, and Kimberly Takahata host a regular BIPOC writing hangout for the Villanova community. Any students, staff, faculty, and alumni who identify as Black, Indigenous, or people of color are welcome to join this in-person and online meetup.
At each of our hangouts, we provide creative writing prompts as well as time to share and check in. No need to see yourself as a writer in order to attend. It’s a fun, warm, and welcoming creative space. We also have pizza! See our department calendar on our home page for more specific information about upcoming meeting times and places. You can also email Professor Tsering Wangmo with questions, to express interest, or for the Zoom link.
The students and faculty of Villanova English are engaged in research that speaks to contemporary conversations surrounding topics such as climate change, gender and sexuality, and the impact of racism and colonialism—historically and in the present.
Kimberly Takahata, PhD, spoke about “Indigeneity and Indigenous Life in Colonial Virginia” at the Northwestern Undergraduate Conference on Literature. Heather Hicks, PhD; Jean Lutes, PhD; Kate Neilsen, PhD; and Lisa Sewell, PhD, presented a panel on climate stories and writing for change appropriately titled “The Apocalypse Isn’t Here Yet.” Mary Mullen, PhD, presented on “Comparison, Colonial Unknowing, and Ireland” at a conference devoted to "How Victorianists (Might) Talk about Race." Yumi Lee, PhD, gave a colloquium at the University of Pennsylvania on the renewed visibility of the Korean War in American literature. Tsering Wangmo Dhompa, PhD, participated in a Tibetan Women Writing Seminar at The University of Virginia. Finally, Jean Lutes, PhD, and her student assistants (including Madeline Davids '22 MA) continue to work on the ‘Steenth Street Project, an effort to recover a book of short stories, written by the pioneering Alice Dunbar-Nelson, about Black children in turn-of-the-century New York.
Our community also benefited from the work of visiting scholars who engaged with relevant topics, such as Erin Murphy, PhD, of Boston University, who spoke at the Villanova GWS conference on “Amazons and Zombies: Margaret Cavendish’s Soldiers, Gender, and the Paradoxes of War.” In addition, as part of the 2021-2022 Esmonde Colloquium, Carissa Harris, PhD, of Temple University presented on “Twice Militant: Women’s Intersectional Anger from the 1381 Uprising to #SayHerName” and Robbie Richardson, PhD, of Princeton spoke on the place of Indigenous peoples’ bones in the history of museums in Europe and North America. Each year, a diverse group of prominent writers participate in our Literary Festival, meeting with students and offering a public reading as part of their time on campus.
Department-wide professional development: At the beginning of each monthly department meeting, English faculty share anti-racist and inclusive pedagogy resources and lead short, focused reflection exercises. Recent and upcoming topics include, among others, gender inclusive practices, advising first-generation college students, racial slurs in the literature classroom, and disability studies.