About the Department

About the English Department

The English Department at the University of Chicago has a long and illustrious history and a vibrant present. From the 1930s through the 1960s the department was known foremost for the Chicago School of criticism—a mode of analysis and evaluation grounded in the work of Aristotle. From a subsequent generation Wayne Booth famously emphasized the rhetorical force and narratological complexities of prose fiction.

More recently, distinct and wide-ranging interests converge in the commitment to both history and theory: to modes of historicizing literature and culture, and to different modes of conceptualizing the form, function, and effect of discursive and visual texts. The department has a long-standing stake in three journals, Modern Philology, The Chicago Review, and Critical Inquiry. Members of the Department both build on and contribute to the fields of anthropology, history, philosophy, and the visual arts. Our coverage of chronological fields extends from the Medieval era to the twenty-first century, and the Department includes a broad range of subfields, media, and genres: from epic and romance to graphic narrative and video games, from theater to transnational literature to literary intersections with science. The many workshops offer students and faculty opportunities to present and discuss work in progress and to hear and comment on current work by scholars from other institutions.

Support for GSU

Thirty-five faculty members of the English Department have endorsed the following statement:

MEMBERS of the faculty of the Department of English at the University of Chicago express solidarity with Graduate Students United (GSU) and urge the university administration to recognize GSU as the labor union of graduate student workers and enter into good-faith negotiations without delay. The overwhelming vote by graduate students for union recognition in October 2017 and the extraordinary participation by graduate students in the June 3-5, 2019 work stoppage and picket more than justify recognition of GSU.

We fully understand that any change to the employer-employee relationship may bring along unforeseen challenges with the benefits it confers. But a commitment to good-faith bargaining with the elected representatives of the University’s graduate student workers, who have already demonstrated their devotion to the pedagogical and research mission of our institution, can only strengthen the values we purport to uphold. Indeed, some faculty in our department earned degrees as unionized graduate students and know from experience that collective bargaining can help students attain recognition for their work and a stake in determining the terms of their employment which they are otherwise denied.

We also call upon the administration to refrain from actions that may undermine our graduate worker colleagues’ rights to organize or their freedom of expression, including: retaliation against graduate workers or picketers; attempts to replace graduate student labor; efforts to track participation or non-participation in the action; or any threats thereof.