Chair’s Message

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August 13, 2018

Dear colleagues, staff, students, and friends,

It is an important time for the Humanities to grow, and Rutgers English is building on two years of faculty recruitment, which have brought six new tenured professors into the department in African-American and Diaspora Studies, Eighteenth-Century Literature, Environmental Humanities, Gender and Sexuality, History of the Book, Literature and Philosophy, Literature and Science, Romanticism, Nineteenth-Century American Literature, and Victorian Literature.  In the coming year, we will be recruiting two more faculty members, in Twentieth-Century Poetry and Poetics and in African-American Studies.  

Our standing faculty have been extraordinarily active: teaching both undergraduates and graduates with great distinction, advising and placing recent PhD students in jobs across a spectrum of fields, publishing award-winning books, leading professional organizations, delivering keynote and plenary lectures at national and international conferences, receiving awards and fellowships, and bringing their creativity and intellectual resources to the governance of the department, the School of Arts and Sciences, and the university.  Our goal over the next several years will be to advance many of these colleagues, honoring their important research, teaching, and service.  The mentorship of young scholars has been a signal feature of Rutgers English for many years.  We are also augmenting and promoting our talented staff members, who are vital to everything we do.  

We are particularly committed to our undergraduates.  Some take our courses to major or minor in English, but many of our students are based in disciplines well beyond English and even the Humanities.  Our literature, media studies, creative writing, and literary theory courses draw students from across the university, who come to our department to learn how language works, to read and analyze complex literary works and to write poems, essays, plays, and novels of their own.  They come to think about what counts as literature, especially in English, and why that matters for our ideas of creativity, national belonging, and citizenship.  Each semester thousands of undergraduates enroll in our writing courses, which are revered nationally for their intellectual rigor and commitment to evidence-based argumentation.  Here they read challenging essays focused on crucial topics of the day, and they learn to write, to argue, and to weigh ideas in ways that are fundamental to both their lives and the careers they hope to pursue.

Our PhD program ranks among the top 15 in the U.S.  We are very proud to continue a long tradition of teaching and mentoring exceptional students from across the nation and the world. In the coming years we are focused on two initiatives: the expansion of our course offerings to include writing for public as well as academic audiences; and the preparation of our graduates in pursuing a range of humanities careers.  In addition, we are launching campaigns to facilitate international travel, language study, and research, both for undergraduates and graduates.  Learning new languages, engaging with scholars beyond North America, and tapping into new archives – are all essential to the intellectual vibrancy and collaborative internationalism of the twenty-first-century university. 

One year ago this month, we were horrified to witness violence and bigotry in Charlottesville, some of which took place on the University of Virginia campus.  In the aftermath of the 2016 election, the Department re-affirmed its commitment to diversity and inclusion, to the protection of undocumented immigrants in our community, and to nourishing the intimidation-free spaces that are the condition of education and democracy.  We continue to affirm those values, and I am including links to the Department’s 2016 statement supporting sanctuary and to the University’s statement against bigotry in Charlottesville.  

As a community of students, faculty, and staff, we believe that the study of language and literature, and the study of the Humanities more broadly, prepares us to understand the diverse histories of our national present and to participate in the evidence-based discussion of our collective future.  Together, we are committed to nourishing those projects publicly, institutionally, and individually in the years to come.

Rebecca L. Walkowitz
Professor and Chair
Department of English
Rutgers University

English Department Resolution Supporting Sanctuary, December 2016

Statement from President and Chancellors after Charlottesville