English core changed to add more course variety

Sept. 22, 2015, 11:59 p.m.

This year, the English department is branching out to include a wider variety of English core classes and a new undergraduate minor in the digital humanities. The changes aim to enable students to focus on more specific topics in a more specialized context.

English core changes  

The previous English core sequence, a requirement for English majors and minors, has undergone a major change. The year-long, chronological sequence featuring Literary History I, II and III – English 100A, 100B, and 100C, respectively – has been replaced in favor of more thematic classes.

The spirit of the Lit History sequence will remain the same,” said Gavin Jones, English professor and department chair. “Students will still be expected to take three broad courses that offer an introduction to the long history of British and American literature.”

“The main difference is that now there will be more choice for students, with two courses being offered per quarter,” he added. “Each course will offer an introduction to a literary period, seen through a particular thematic lens.”

Instead of simply having each class cover a specific time period in literary history, the English department is implementing English 12A: “Introduction to English III: Introduction to African-American Literature” in the fall; English 10A: “Introduction to English I: Medieval and Renaissance Lives” and English 11A: “Introduction to English II: From Milton to the Romantics” in the winter; and three other “Introduction to English” classes in the spring.

“Similar survey classes are replacing [Literary History] I, II and III but [are] taught by a wider variety of faculty more than once an academic session,” said English professor Elaine Treharne.

In their annual discussion regarding course presentation, the faculty members teaching the three main historical periods decided upon this change to better “introduce students to the essential issues through a compelling focus,” according to Jones.

“This is how the sequence was originally designed, so I’m glad that we’re now perfecting that design,” Jones said.

For some professors, the shift in classes’ focuses will also change how they approach teaching the core. Treharne and Jackson Eli Reynolds Professor of Humanities Stephen Orgel will be teaching a themed approach to the core, rather than a chronological approach.

“We are talking about ‘Medieval and Renaissance Lives,’ and it will be one week of medieval material alternating through the quarter with one week of Renaissance,” Treharne said. “We’ll uncover all kinds of relationships, personal stories, poems about love and longing, and it should be a thrilling 10 weeks.”

Minor in digital humanities

The Stanford English department has also set up a new minor in the digital humanities debuting this fall. It will serve as a significant means of collaboration between faculty across humanities and social sciences.

“It fills a need at Stanford to provide students in [humanities and social sciences] with a cogent program that permits them to learn new tools and methods for digital research within a specifically humanistic context,” Treharne said. “The minor will foster the thoughtful organization of learning and the documented acquisition of skills focused on the digital, technological and textual environment, while guiding undergraduates in the process of mastering pertinent knowledge.”

There are three clusters identified as pathways through the minor: spatial humanities, quantitative textual analysis and text technologies. Each of the clusters aims to expose students to the most current methods and applications in digital manipulation and data presentation. Students will also learn about the trials, tribulations and liberties that a digital environment poses in terms of human communications.

“Such a minor would utilize the world-renowned and innovative resources in digital humanities that Stanford already has in abundance,” Treharne said.


Contact Ruiwen Adele Shen at shen.adele ‘at’ gmail.com.

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