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English Department

English Major

From Phillis Wheatley and Alice Walker to Ava DuVernay and Beyoncé, women of African
descent are central to our story. The English major at Spelman College offers comprehensive training in Anglophone literary, visual, and rhetorical traditions with a special emphasis on Black women’s contributions to global histories of cultural expression.

Students are taught by innovative faculty whose internationally-recognized expertise in areas such as creative writing, critical race theory, gender and sexuality studies, postcolonial studies, and film and media studies drives the conversation—and the discipline—in the spirit of social transformation that is the cornerstone of a Spelman education. A small professor-to- student ratio means that each student’s unique goals and interests are recognized and nurtured. The highly individualized nature of our program underscores our fundamental belief in the power of free-thinking women.

Why Study English?

As Audre Lorde reminds us, “poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence … within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Reading and writing are not leisurely amusements or passive retreats from reality; they are integral to building and maintaining a free and equal society.

Through a varied and rigorous curriculum that examines English-language cultural expression in all its forms written, oral, visual, performative — students learn to think critically about the ideas and thought systems that have shaped our world. Reading the past enables our students to contextualize the social, technological and political developments that influence our present, while understanding complex forms of expression, from novels to digital media, enables our students to, quite literally, write the future.

Whether they are conducting original research in Spelman’s rich archives (which include the personal papers of Audre Lorde and Toni Cade Bambara), presenting original works at one of Atlanta’s many literary festivals and societies, or applying their training in the nuances of the English language to internships in advertising, journalism, or law, Spelman English majors are united in one truth: that language is liberation, and that words can and do change the world.

Why Study English at Spelman?

At Spelman, students have the opportunity to create a course of study that is as unique as they are. After acquiring a broad foundation in the discipline, each student, in consultation with faculty, determines where  she will take her English major. Students choose between two tracks: Writing Studies, which focuses on compositional practice in creative and/or professional applications; and Literary & Textual Studies,  which emphasizes critical interpretation and analysis of expressive forms (including, but not limited to, traditional written forms, film, media, and/or performance). Within these tracks, students further self-design their own plans of “deep study.”

Ok, But Do English Majors Get Jobs?

Absolutely! Even in the wake of the 2008 economic downturn, our majors have gone on to top graduate and professional schools, and have built successful careers in areas such as arts administration, communications, politics, journalism, public health, technology, business, law and education.

In a world where information is readily available and always evolving, Spelman English students graduate with skills that allow them to move it, and themselves, forward. Through a broad and rigorous course of study that requires considerable independent thought, research and planning, our graduates develop the skills in critical thinking, writing, synthesis, problem solving, creativity, empathy and interpersonal communication that are essential to staying competitive in today’s job market. As study after study consistently demonstrates, the skillsets that students develop by studying the humanities are highly sought after by employers in largest growth in hiring and pay in the last three decades.

Since 2015, the outlook for English majors —as compared to other liberal arts majors, as well as those who studied fields like business and computer science—has been particularly good, both in terms of job opportunities and salary.

Contact Us

English Department
The Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby, Ed.D. Academic Center

Additional Contact Info

College Bulletin


English in Action