Chair’s Message

Photo of Meredith McGill

Summer 2021

Welcome to the Department of English at Rutgers!

We are a vibrant group of scholars, teachers, students, and staff who are dedicated to the study of literature in English and to the arts of careful reading and effective writing. The largest unit in the School of Arts and Sciences, the English department encompasses multilingual language learners and those pursuing doctoral research, undergraduates taking their first courses in literary study and renowned poets and scholars at the forefront of their fields. Our department includes creative writers, book historians, literary theorists, film and media specialists, and experts in writing in English from the Anglo-Saxon period to the present, in the British Isles, the Americas, and across the globe.

You'll find the hub of the English Department in Murray Hall, but we have offices supporting the Writing Program on all New Brunswick campuses. You can learn more about our various programs through the pages linked to this website that focus on the Graduate Program, the Undergraduate Program, Creative Writing, the Writing Program, the Rutgers English Language Institute (RELI), and our center for interdisciplinary research, the Center for Cultural Analysis (CCA).

We are proud to have graduated close to 300 majors and minors in English and Creative Writing in 2021. Our undergraduate majors persevered through challenging times, completing a rigorous course of study that includes the analysis of literary texts from a wide range of historical periods as well as courses in African-American literature, Literature of the Global South, and Literary Theory. Twenty-five undergraduates completed honors theses. Sixteen were works of literary criticism on topics from John Milton to Toni Morrison, and nine were creative theses, including collections of poems, stories, memoirs, and novels-in-progress.

In the past academic year, over 5,500 undergraduates successfully completed Expos 101, a significant achievement and a rite of passage for students at Rutgers-New Brunswick. Teachers in RELI worked across formidable time differences to deliver instruction to approximately 350 student who, due to the pandemic, had to attend their classes from abroad. Thanks to the Rutgers Overseas Semester Experience program, RELI students stayed closely connected to the Rutgers community even though they were far from New Jersey.

Seventeen graduate students completed their PhDs in 2020-21. English Department graduate students published essays in premiere journals and won numerous awards, including fellowships from the Mellon Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies. In 2020-21, the Center for Cultural Analysis brought together faculty and graduate students from across campus to explore the topic: “What is Photography?” In 2021-22, CCA will convene an interdisciplinary seminar on the topic of The Commons, as well as supporting numerous smaller faculty-student working groups.

While Murray Hall has been closed during the pandemic, the work of the English department has continued remotely. We are offering courses in literature and in expository writing in all three summer sessions. This summer we welcomed 13 students to the Rutgers English Diversity Institute, introducing them to graduate-level work in English and to the application process for PhD programs. We continue to be vital contributors to the Rutgers Future Scholars program, teaching writing and close reading to academically promising 7th-12th graders living in our campus communities in Camden, Newark, and New Brunswick.

We are proud of our work as scholars and teachers, and of the imaginative and resourceful staff who hold the department together and keep things running smoothly. The creativity with which English department members have responded to shifting and uncertain circumstances during the pandemic has been inspiring. We very much look forward to being back together in Murray Hall in September; until then, we will be working in two modalities, both on-site and remotely. We would be happy to respond to your questions by phone and email, and we look forward to seeing you back on campus at the end of the summer.

Meredith L. McGill
Professor and Chair