Carnegie Mellon Reimagines the English Degree

Carnegie Mellon University has relaunched its undergraduate English degree as the Bachelor of Arts in Literature & Culture. The new program reflects a new vision for the humanities as well as the ongoing demand for humanities graduates.

The program is designed to teach the building blocks of interpretation and analysis - critical thinking, inductive reasoning and persuasive argumentation - applied to literary and cultural texts and artifacts, but also as crucial skills to be applied across a variety of fields and professional career paths.

Literature & Culture complements the university’s strengths in technology, STEM fields and the social sciences. Building skills in reading, writing, and systematic methods of problem formulation and solving speak to students’ employability and readiness for postgraduate education.

"English has been an area of study for over 100 years at our university - basically since the beginning of our institution. Over the years, we have remained consistently dedicated to a humanistic education that gives students an awareness and appreciation of the greatest works of literature and to the nuance and complexity of cultural traditions," said Andreea Ritivoi, head of the Department of English and professor of rhetoric.

The English Department at Carnegie Mellon offers a suite of undergraduate majors. In addition to the new Literature & Culture Program, students can major, additional major or minor in creative writing, professional writing, technical and scientific communication, film and visual media, and humanities analytics.

"The sheer number and diversity of our undergraduate programs attests to the richness of English education as we envision it at Carnegie Mellon," Ritivoi said. "When prospective students tell me they want to declare a major in English, it gives me joy to ask, ‘Which one’’ If you are passionate about literature and you want to nourish your imagination as well as sharpen your critical thinking, this major is for you."

The program is offered as a primary major, and it is also available as an additional major, minor and elective coursework.

"Our new B.A. in Literature & Culture is designed to showcase the best our department has to offer," said Rich Purcell, director of the Literature & Culture Program and associate professor of English. "Whether you are simply taking elective coures, fulfilling a requirement for your home department, minoring or majoring, students who pass through the program will share the classroom with faculty who use their expertise to connect the importance of literary works and other cultural objects to the world beyond the classroom. We seek to pass that expertise along to our students through the seminar-like formats of our classes as well as independent research assignments. In our program, students can take a wide range of courses that will give them the opportunity to critically think and artfully write about foundational works like Dante’s ’Divine Comedy’ and Toni Morrison’s ’Sula’ or take classes on television and media studies."

Students interested in the Literature & Culture Program should contact Laura Donaldson, assistant director of undergraduate programs and academic adviser in the English Department.

Learn more about the Literature & Culture Program.


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