GUIDING PRINCIPLES

Two students read outside on campus.

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.

Diversity Initiatives

As a first step in our response to the rising Black Lives Matter movement, we invite you to consider this reading list on white supremacy, policing, and racial justice.

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Faculty of color in the English department have started a biweekly writing hangout for Villanova community members who identify as people of color. You don't have to be a writer to show up. We will provide creative prompts to get folks writing. All you need to bring is paper, pen, or whatever you like to write with. For folks who like to share their words, there will be time for that, too. Send a note to Professor Adrienne Perry for the meeting link. Feel free to invite your friends! The group will be meeting every other Tuesday during the fall 2020 semester.

Two events will feature anti-racist scholarship by VU English faculty in spring 2021. First, a discussion of literature, white supremacy, and anti-Black racism, featuring Dr. Travis Foster’s recent book Genre and White Supremacy in the Postemancipation United States. Second, a discussion of Dr. Yumi Lee’s recent article on Toni Morrison’s vision of a world free of policing, featuring Dr. Lee and Dr. Monica Kim, assistant professor of history at NYU and a co-editor of the special issue of the journal in which Dr. Lee’s article appeared.

Core curriculum courses: We organized a two-part anti-racism pedagogy workshop in October 2020 for faculty teaching Core English courses (English 1050 and 1975) led by Dr. Maurice Hall, a former faculty Villanova member and current Dean of the School of the Arts and Communication at the College of New Jersey.
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. This practice began in August 2020. Recent topics include addressing plagiarism, racial slurs in the literature classroom, and disability studies.

Feel free to reach out to the diversity, equity, and inclusion commitee:

Dr. Jean Lutes, DEI Committee Chair
Dr. Travis Foster
Dr. Yumi Lee
Dr. Mary Mullen
Dr. Adrienne Perry
Dr. Lisa Sewell

Villanova University
Department of English
St. Augustine Center
Room 402

Department Chair
Professor Heather Hicks