About the 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 two journals, Modern Philology 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.

The undergraduate major in the Department attracts the largest number of students in the Humanities at the University and offers emphases in both literary analysis and in creative work. The PhD program is small; between four and 16 new PhD students enter each year. A number of students in the MAPH program (a master's degree program in the Humanities Division) concentrate their work in the English Department.

The Department continues to hire junior and senior faculty to consolidate our strengths in the chronologically defined fields, and to expand our offerings in creative writing, transnational Anglophone literatures, new media, and other developing areas of inquiry.

—Department Chair Frances Ferguson