Why English?


The Wheaton College English department's goal is that graduates will enjoy good literature and write clear, coherent prose. The department endeavors to instill within each student a knowledge of major English and American authors, together with pertinent continental and non-Western ones, and a comprehension of the various critical approaches essential to a mature understanding and evaluation of literary achievement. We consistently endeavor to discover the relation of literature to biblical truth.

According to English Faculty:

"Study literature because literature is life. Not life abstractly conceived, but life ingeniously explored through the gifted eyes of the most noted literary artists, past and present. Acquaintance with literature is truly broadening in that it requires the practical application of knowledge gained from all the other humane disciplines. It provides a superb foundation for any vocation one may choose." -Rolland Hein, Professor Emeritus

Why does literature matter? For many reasons. It heightens our awareness of human experience. It enhances our perception of both the world around us and our place in it. Literature makes us more conscious of the problems of life, the good in the world, and the diversities of life. Literature is one of the chief means by which the human race assimilates and grapples with reality. Literature does more than name and intensify our own experiences. It actually expands the range of those experiences. When pursued with an awareness of God as the source and end of all creativity, beauty, and truth, literature can become a means of Christian growth, devotion, and praise." - Leland Ryken, Professor of Literature

"The study of literature is very practical. If it weren't, I'd pitch it in. Who could give up such a wonderful entree into all the issues of life, appealing both to mind and heart, and synthesizing most of the other disciplines? When read through the lens of Scripture, literature can make us experienced in life beyond our years or experience and equip us for engaging people and ideas of every stripe. A person with a well stocked mind and heart is ready for work in the Master's vineyard." -Wayne Martindale, Professor of Literature

According to English Department Alumni:

“An English major at Wheaton teaches you to think and communicate effectively. If you can do that, you can do anything.” 

"You can do anything with an English major. Rather than educating you for a specific task or a specific field, a degree in English Literature educates you for living. It has given me tools to help answer the “why” questions in my life. Answers to the “how” questions are much more easily acquired.” 

“You are prepared for not just one vocation, but several. Ultimately, I continue to believe that most employers, given the choice, would rather train on the job a person who can read, write, and think creatively and analytically, than employ a person who knows the vocation but doesn’t read, write, and think well.” 

“The study of English helps students become effective communicators, grounded visionaries, hopeful speakers, faithful communicators. Moreover, the study of narrative and poetry helps individuals learn to live more faithfully as Christians and to read more carefully.”

How does an English major prepare me for a career?

Some prospective majors and their parents ask, “Wouldn’t it be better to train for a specific job? Or to choose a major that is more practical?”

From our alumni we hear the opposite: deep appreciation for the way the major has helped them develop into the people they are and for the ways it has built a strong foundation for their current careers.

English is one of the most comprehensive and integrating majors in the college curriculum. It has a dual emphasis—the mastery of written English and the study of English, American, and World Literature and the integration of both with issues of faith.

Literature explores what it means to be human, invites us to confront large human questions, and helps us to make sense of the world in which we live. It does not just tell us about the human condition but recreates the very quality of life and encourages us to see and clarify experience through other perspectives. All great writing not only stretches us in this way, but also it touches us where we live, nurtures our spirits, and invites us to see experience through the lens of our faith.

Writing fosters a wide range of abilities that are indispensable in any sphere of life—critical thinking, shaping ideas, using words precisely, adapting to a specific audience, developing creativity and imagination.

An English major prepares you for many potential professions, not just one. A recent survey of alumni shows that English majors are working in almost every conceivable field, e.g. Law, Medicine, Ministry, Publishing, Library, Social Work,Counseling, Technology, Nursing, Business,Non-Profit,and Art.

An English major imparts marketable skills, but more importantly, it helps to produce gifted people. Its benefits do not end when a person leaves the office but are equally evident at home, in the community, and at church. It heightens our perception of the world, enlarges our human sympathies, and allows us to understand our own experiences better. The study of English equips a person for life.

The English major develops important lifelong—and marketable—abilities such as:

  • Interpersonal Skills—the ability to understand different kinds of people, different cultures, different situations and to help us understand our relationships to others
  • Analytic and Synthetic Skills—the ability to see and describe pattern, order, form, beauty, and purpose
  • Critical Thinking—the ability to see multiple dimensions of a problem or situation and to propose and evaluate solutions; the ability to live with complexity
  • Communication Skills—the ability to use language precisely and effectively; sensitivity to audience

So, here's some practical advice on career planning while you are here at Wheaton:

  • Visit Career Services early in your time at Wheaton College.
  • Realize that 6-8 months is the national average for finding a job; start looking well before graduation.
  • Explore a wide range of career opportunities; your English major doesn’t limit you as much as give you great flexibility.
  • Consider doing an internship while at Wheaton to explore possible careers
  • Connect with Wheaton grads currently working in your field of interest.
  • Please know that English department faculty want to help, so schedule a visit with them.

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