Undergraduate Studies

The English Major

The curriculum of the English major at the University at Albany fosters two fundamental abilities: the first is critical thought and interpretation; the second is thoughtful expression.

Students of English Studies pay attention to language, literature, and culture in their historical and theoretical contexts; in their aesthetic and practical dimensions; and in their social, as well as political significance. Working with the Advisement Office and a Faculty Mentor, students tailor a program of study that develops specific areas of intellectual interest, while preparing for post-graduation goals.

The Department offers a variety of special programs to its majors, such as the English Honors Program, a chapter of Sigma Tau Delta (International Honors in English), the Writing Center, and undergraduate internship opportunities. English majors have gone on to successful careers in education, law, editing, publishing, medicine, theater and film, broadcasting, politics, public policy and administration, advertising, and librarianship, to name just a few!

Choose Your Own Path through the English Major

The University at Albany English Department organizes its course offerings into eight areas of study in order to clarify the issues, topics, and projects that English students engage with and that define our faculty areas of expertise. English majors may wish to select courses in one or more of these areas of study to focus their work.

Coursework in these areas of study prepares students for further graduate or professional study and careers in education, law, medicine, publishing, journalism, politics, public relations, social services, international relations, library science, museum curation, advertising, media management and production, and more.

American Literature and Culture

This area of study focuses on American literary traditions, which begin with Native American stories and mythologies, and find their way through colonization and revolution, Civil War and legacies of segregation, up through twentieth and twenty-first century responses to the crisis of U.S. democracy. Students will engage with varied traditions—from the Puritan sermon, the gothic novel, and slave narratives to modernist poetry, Chicanx corridos, and social media—to understand how U.S. expressive practices have taken shape and how they continue to shape what “America” means. Matters of language, form, and genre are central to some of the most pressing issues facing us today: the construction of communities, the creation of identities, and the movement of people across borders of nation, race, and sex. The American Literature and Culture area of study prepares students for successful careers in law, education, politics, journalism, public relations, social services, and international relations.

British Literature and Culture

British literature and culture studies range from the 5th to the 21st century, engaging traditions, texts, and media from the British Isles (England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales) and Anglophone regions of the world such as Jamaica, South Africa, India, and Australia. Students in this area develop imaginative insight into works that run the gamut from the earliest textile arts of the book to contemporary film and theater. They also hone their interpretive acuity regarding topics such as the identities debated in the landmark achievements during the Middle Ages and Renaissance; the response of writers to the scientific revolution during the Enlightenment; the cultural impact of the expanding colonial empire during the Romantic and Victorian eras; and the innovations of writers and filmmakers in the face of political, postcolonial, and technological upheavals up to the present. This area of study prepares students for a broad range of careers in fields including electronic media and museum curation, public relations, publishing, law, and library science.

Environmental Humanities

Within English, the study of the Environmental Humanities engages questions relevant not only to the study of literature but also to philosophy, history, anthropology, political science, economics, and the sciences in examination of the complex relationship of humans to the natural world. This area of study explores the changing nature of human engagement with the nonhuman through literary, historical, and cultural texts in order to understand the impact of such engagement. It addresses the underlying connections between human history and natural history, and the ethical dimensions of human accountability to the environment. The dangerous period of climate change that is now unfolding puts these questions at the center of both scientific and humanistic scholarship. Familiarity with major issues and debates in Environmental Humanities will be helpful for future careers in Law, Teaching, Government, Consulting, Policy work with International Organizations, Environmental Sciences, and related fields.

Film, Screen Media, and Visual Cultures

Film, Screen Media, and Visual Cultures focuses on the analytic and writing skills related to a broad range of traditional and new media including the visual arts, photography, film, television, video, graphic fiction, and digital media. With a historical scope from the Middle Ages to contemporary culture, this track concentrates on topics such as disaster films, the French New Wave, visual rhetoric in digital media, graphic novels, film adaptation, and Renaissance painting and poetry. Students in this area learn to read and interpret the visuals that dominate our cultural landscape as well as consider what it means to deploy images in this media-saturated world. This broad, rigorous, and interdisciplinary approach offers excellent preparation for further study or for a career in the film industry, new media, arts criticism, advertising, media management and production, game development, market research, librarianship and curation, archiving and preservation, publishing, or teaching.

Postcolonial Literature and Culture

The study of Postcolonial Literature and Culture examines the interactions of cultures as they have been brought into contact with one another through the forces of globalization and empire. Though it often takes as its focus 19th and 20th century texts that are directly about questions of colonialism, it also sheds light on earlier periods, showing how many of the central ideas of modernity have been formed through cross-cultural interactions. Courses will look at hybrid or mixed identities, the tensions and productive intersections that occur between different cultures, and the way the migration of peoples has shaped the 20th and 21st centuries. The field has wide-ranging implications in the areas of translation studies, law, history, geopolitics and globalization to name but a few.

Social Justice

The study of Social Justice concerns how texts and their producers, from both past historical moments and the present, have engaged in social and political efforts to transform the conditions of people’s lives. Courses in this area can encompass the study of literature, film, popular culture (such as television and journalism), activist writings (like pamphlets and manifestos), social media, political theory and other theories about social change, and more. Classes might explore issues tied to the representation of gender, sexuality, race, class, and intersectionality, as well as related political efforts such as abolition, suffrage, new social movements, anti-colonial and postcolonial efforts, or social media activism. Or courses in this area might investigate the cultural and textual legacies of revolutionary and radical politics (such as socialism, communism, and anarchism) or other political movements (such as peace, ecological, and antipoverty movements). Students interested in careers in the non-profit sector, in working with social movements, or in advancing the idea of social justice in any of their future endeavors will likely be interested in courses in this area.

Writing

Our department’s focus on writing offers students a wide range of courses, opportunities and approaches to the study of writing. Writing courses develop students as writers by emphasizing practice in multiple genres and media and as scholars and researchers by emphasizing the study of writing processes, forms of narrative and expressive literature, and theories of composition and rhetoric. This area of study also supports students’ exploration of the dynamics of working with writers as editors, tutors, and teachers. Courses in this area of study include AENG 302 Creative Writing, AENG 309 Professional Writing, AENG 350 Contemporary Writers, and AENG 306 Literary Publication: History and Practice.

Teacher Preparation

Our teaching preparatory focus provides students who have an interest in teaching secondary education a broad background in literature and writing. This focus draws on guidelines published by Pathways into Education in UAlbany’s School of Education to prepare students for graduate school in education and for teaching in a classroom by ensuring students study the various literatures and forms of writing they will teach to their own students. The focus includes World, American, and British literatures in addition to Shakespeare, writing, and an area the student chooses to bring into their own teaching as an area of specialization.

Careers for English Majors
Graduates with degrees in English from the University at Albany have gone on to pursue a range of interesting and fulfilling career paths, making a difference in their lives and the lives of others. Some pursue further graduate study in English, sometimes taking advantage of our B.A./M.A. program to jumpstart these studies. Others have gone to law or medical school or pursued careers as teachers. Many pursue internships and then careers in publishing and editing, for which our proximity to New York City and Boston have proven advantageous. Some other noteworthy career tracks recent alumni have taken include: social media manager, social justice center director, television producer, and marketing coordinator.

See more about what English major alumni of the University at Albany have gone on to do here (https://www.albany.edu/english/alumni.php).