The study of literature introduces students to new modes of thinking and constructive disruptions of commonplace experience. It encourages each individual to pause and reconsider assumptions too often taken for granted. Classes in literature and related subjects provide a forum in which students can share responses to texts and consider applications of those texts — testing vital hypotheses as they develop the attitudes and values that will shape and guide their future lives. What could be more important?
And yet it must be recognized that what we commonly think of as “practical skills” are necessary, too. In this line, the study of English develops abilities that are valuable for a broad spectrum of occupations. It sharpens the critical thinking skills and skills of oral and written articulation that are fundamental to any sort of professional life.
Recently, while visiting his alma mater for a commencement ceremony, United States Senator Ernest Hollings, one of The Citadel’s most distinguished alumni, engaged the head of the Department of English in conversation about the value of the English Major in the practical world. Senator Hollings revealed that earlier in his political career he had frequently met with a group that consisted entirely of young men who had amassed large fortunes early in their lives, and who gathered at regular intervals to undertake charitable projects together. Naturally, one of the topics that interested such a group was what sort of path was most conducive to establishing oneself in a successful and profitable career. According to Senator Hollings, when the question arose as to what college major was the surest route to success, the answer that the group overwhelmingly agreed upon was English.
English majors from The Citadel have entered and succeeded in a broad range of professions, including military service, the legal and medical fields, education, and a variety of business fields. Often the paths to these careers have included graduate or professional education following undergraduate work at The Citadel. In order to help each student deal with the particular requirements of his or her chosen career path, the Department of English provides special advisement in the categories displayed along the top of this page. Click on one that you’re interested in for more information.
An English major who selects one of these paths as an area of particular interest will be assigned to an advisor who will help the student develop a workable plan of action to fully utilize the offerings of the English Department and, through electives (which are plentiful in the English curriculum), those of other departments as well.
The connection between pre-legal studies and The Citadel’s English Department has a rich recent history thanks to the work of Professor E.F.J. Tucker, who served as advisor to the Inn of Court during much of the 1980s and 1990s. Following Professor Tucker’s retirement in 1998, his pre-legal work was taken up by current chair of The Citadel’s English Department, Professor Scott Lucas, whose interest in connections between literature and law is reflected in his Ph.D. dissertation (Duke, 1997) on A Mirror for Magistrates. the current advisor to Inn of Court is Professor Thomas Horan.
English majors who want to prepare for law school will be specially advised to help them take best advantage of available courses both within the English Department and as electives in other departments so that they will be ready first for the LSAT and then for law school itself. Although the individual English major is free to choose his or her own faculty advisor, the pre-legal advising will be centered around Professor Horan and his work with the Inn of Court and will include advice on pertinent extracurricular as well as curricular activities.
The pre-M.A./Ph.D. path of study is what is normally thought of as the “traditional” English Major. It emphasizes breadth of literary study covering all periods and genres. It should also include the development of a theoretical understanding of the nature and workings of literature and of the range of possible modes of responding to literature. This grounding in literary texts and textuality in general provides the background necessary to prepare students for the move to greater specialization within a particular province of literary study in graduate school.
The Citadel’s English Department has a faculty with strong qualifications in all periods of English and American literature. Click here for a list of English Department faculty areas of specialization and a brief itemization of major scholarship.
A survey of medical schools, sponsored by the Modern Language Association, asked the following question: “Is it ordinarily possible for a college undergraduate both to meet your entrance requirements and complete an English major?” All those responding answered “Yes.” Comments from deans of medical schools received during the survey included the following:
Many of our students come to us well prepared in science but poorly prepared in discourse and writing. Communication is critically important to a physician. Good preparation in English is mandatory; excellent preparation invaluable. [Dean, University of Arkansas School of Medicine]
Given a basic interest in and aptitude for science, personally I would prefer a non-science major. The “literacy” rate seems to be decreasing — God help us! So the more English majors you give us, the better! [Dean, Bowman Gray School of Medicine]
The ability to communicate is of critical importance in medicine, so that a thorough knowledge of the English language and its literature is a valuable asset for a medical student. I teach a course in Medicine and Shakespeare for students here, partly for this reason. [Dean, George Washington University School of Medicine]
We like to have English majors apply to the medical school. I have observed that their communication skills are of considerable benefit to them in medicine. [Dean, University of New Mexico School of Medicine]
As for the experience of doctors themselves, Dr. Morey Lipton, a retired surgeon, offers the following advice:
Kids come over today and ask me what they should study to get into medical school, and I tell them to study English. If they can read and write, they can do anything, go anywhere. [Quoted from a “High Profile” article in the September 11, 1999 Charleston Post and Courier]
English majors who want to prepare for medical school will be specifically advised to take best advantage of available courses both within the English Department and as electives in other departments (including the preparation needed in biology, chemistry, and mathematics) wo that they will be ready first for the MCAT and then for medical school itself.
The acquisition of practical skills needed to succeed in business careers is a too-often-overlooked aspect of the English Major. These include both skills of articulation and skills of analysis. The ability to adequately comprehend and reason through problems, both actual and hypothetical, and to adequately communicate one’s solutions to those problems is essential to virtually any worthwhile occupation. By studying literary (and other) texts, students develop “textual power” — the ability to deal powerfully (that is, clearly, persuasively, and substantively) with the written and oral communications they encounter. Further, the study of literature (as well as philosophy) helps to foster a breadth of vision and an appreciation of value systems that prepare the student for encountering the dilemma-ridden world of real-life business situations.
English majors who are preparing for business careers may plan to go directly into business employment or to work toward a Master’s Degree in Business Administration. In either case, the English major will be specially advised to help him or her take best advantage of available courses both within the English Department and as electives in other departments (such as Psychology, Mathematics and Computer Science, and, of course, Business Administration).
During recent years the English Major has been an increasingly popular route at The Citadel for students planning military careers. The reasons for this are clear: English majors develop strong written and oral communication skills and strong critical reasoning skills that enable them to effectively analyze texts and situations and formulate well-reasoned responses. These are the skills that former English majors now pursuing military careers tell us they need most; they have them thanks to their experience in the English major curriculum at The Citadel.
English majors who want to prepare for military careers will be specially advised to help them take best advantage of available courses pertinent to the actual demands involved in military responsibilities. Besides communication and reasoning skills, the pre-military specialization emphasizes literary representations of “American-ness,” ethics of leadership, and the relation of the individual conscience to societal mores.
Communications, although basic to many fields of professional activity, is itself nonetheless a newly emerging field of separate specialization at The Citadel. Communications courses offered by the Department of English include basic and advanced writing courses, advanced grammar and rhetoric courses, professional writing courses, and public speaking courses (including the new ENGL 206, which was offered for the first time in Spring 2000). In addition, new courses in multimedia communications will be added in the near future.
The focal points of communications activities in The Citadel’s English Department are (1) Professor Tom Thompson, whose standing in the Charleston area in his field of specialization is indicated by his previous role as Director of the Lowcountry Writing Project, and (2) Professor Frances Frame, who joined the English Department faculty in Fall 2000 as the Department’s specialist in multimedia communications. Although the individual English major is free to choose his or her own faculty advisor, advising for students specializing in communications will be centered around the work of Professor Thompson (as the resident expert on oral and written communication) and Professor Frame (as the resident expert on communications technology).
Creative writing is an activity richly associated with The Citadel thanks to the work of such former Citadel students as Pat Conroy, Robert Jordan (James Rigney, Jr.), and Calder Willingham. The Citadel English Department also includes on its faculty a well-published author, Professor Michael Livingston. Professor Kate Pilhuj is the faculty advisor for The Citadel’s literary magazine, The Shako.
English majors who choose creative writing as their area of specialization are advised in ways that will direct them toward creative writing practice and toward an understanding and appreciation of the issues and assumptions that dominate the literary scene today. Thus, the study of 20th-century literature is emphasized in addition to the creative writing courses themselves. Although the individual English major is free to choose his or her own faculty advisor, advising for creative writing will be centered around Professor Livingston and his work with the creative writing courses.
It is important to note that a B.A. in English is not sufficient for certification to teach English in South Carolina public schools. An undergraduate degree in education can be sufficient for certification; however, to be fully competitive in today’s educational job market, a candidate needs a master’s degree. One viable route to that higher level of qualification is a B.A. in English followed by a master’s degree in secondary education. This path provides an opportunity for in-depth training in the subject area of literature combined with the specifically pedagogical training of the master’s degree in education.
English majors who want to prepare for secondary school teaching are specially advised in ways that will help them establish the needed breadth of subject matter while at the same time specifically satisfying subject area requirements that must be addressed before certification can be attained. By meeting many of these requirements at the undergraduate level, the student can clear away important obstacles to the completion of the master’s degree in secondary education.
Philosophy and Religion
Besides its offerings in literature, literary theory, and communications, The Citadel’s English Department also offers undergraduate courses in philosophy. The two basic courses are Introduction to Philosophy (required for all English majors) and Logic. The Bible as Literature, one of two possible choices (along with Mythology) to satisfy one of the curriculum requirements for the English Major, is a related course. In addition, upper-division courses in Ethics, Philosophy of Religion, Man in Crisis, and other specialized courses are offered as needed to satisfy current demand.
Studies of student performance on entrance examinations for graduate school (GRE and MAT), law school (LSAT), medical school (GMAT), and advanced business programs have shown that the study of philosophy is one of the most effective ways to prepare for advanced study in a number of fields. In addition, the English major is a good choice for the student who plans to enter a seminary after completion of undergraduate studies. English majors who choose philosophy and religion as their area of specialization will be advised in ways that will help them take best advantage of available courses pertinent to their interest in philosophical and religious issues.