In a favorite photo of mine, Ross Gay, English Professor and award-winning American poet, wears a tee-shirt with these words: “Poetry is not a luxury.” It’s not a slogan, but a philosophy, one that captures who we are and what we do in the Department of English. Our students, faculty, and graduates specialize in indispensable things: the joy of a gratified imagination; the persuasive elegance of rhetorical dexterity; the shifts in literary or narrative movements; the spark of interpretive nuance; the gift of a creatively rendered great idea; the pleasures of studying the most remarkable linguistic achievements of humankind.
The Department of English is home to all such essentials. Whether you’re looking to hone your craft as a working poet; meet fellow Jane Austen fans; develop rhetorical skills for public advocacy or digital document design; study the sonnet in the Age of the Brain; write graceful, polished paragraphs; read all the Shakespeare you want; or analyze the ingenuity of your favorite graphic novel, this is the place. Our courses offer a wide range from which to choose whether as an English major; as a minor in Literature, Creative Writing, or Communication and Public Advocacy; or just because a class (on literary masterpieces, or science fiction, or the poetics of rap, or Kurt Vonnegut) catches your eye.
Let Professor Christoph Irmscher show you the treasures of the Lilly Library. At the Lilly, you might examine the first printed edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales alongside Professor Karma Lochrie, or the first edition of Pride and Prejudice alongside Professor Rae Greiner. Study slang (“the people’s poetry”) with Michael Adams, resident expert in dictionaries and the history of words; delve, with Professor Shane Vogel, into the artistic nightlife of cabaret culture; develop a passion for nature and environmental writing; work with specialists in 19th-century literature like Ivan Kreilkamp. Spend some time as an intern for the journal Victorian Studies, or work alongside Creative Writers on IU’s literary magazine, the Indiana Review. Alums have gone to do just about anything you can imagine: one served as food critic for the New York Times, another edited Sports Illustrated; a third rose to the rank of chief editor for the publisher Houghton Mifflin. Still others go on to teach, to study the law, to work in student writing centers, or in industry from non-profits to finance. Who knows? You might even develop a great idea for a start-up.
So, what can you do with an English degree? Something essential. Anything you want.
Patricia Clare Ingham
Chair of the Department of English
Poetry is not a luxury.Audre Lorde