The Department of English is thoroughly revising its graduate literature curriculum in order to streamline, modernize, and render it more reflective of department strengths. We are streamlining by removing a number of redundant or obsolete classes. We are modernizing by moving to a “special topics” model of courses, with broad rubrics that retain traditional historical fields while enabling specialized focus. And we are rendering the course list more reflective of department strengths by including areas that embody shifts in our department (and in the profession at large) toward more global, transnational kinds of courses; toward integrating film and media into cultural study; and toward the digital humanities.
Our revision will replace the current list of literature courses with the new offerings. We note here that the revisions pertain only to literature courses—courses that serve the MA and PhD programs in American and British Literature.
Our revised curriculum clarifies the division between 700-level and 800-level courses. (This division is consistent with what we found in curricula of the 18 peer and peer-aspirant departments that we surveyed.) Both 700- and 800-level courses will now be “topics” courses that may be repeated with different content. The main distinction between levels is that the balance between breadth and depth tilts toward breadth in the 700, toward depth in the 800. More elaborately:
700-level courses are designed to provide a degree of coverage within one of a series of recognized fields. The rationale for these courses is not linked to the production of a long seminar paper. At the professor’s discretion 700-levels courses might instead be organized around other kinds of academic writing—conferences presentations and abstracts, blog posts and other forms of on-line writing, shorter interpretive/critical papers, and so on.
800-level seminars are devoted to in-depth explorations of specific critical problems or issues and are organized according to a shorter and more open-ended set of designations. Unlike the lower-level courses, these seminars are geared toward the production of potentially publishable scholarship. The courses will therefore generally culminate in an article-length research paper or comparable assignment.
Our procedure for making this revision is as follows: We will first add the new offerings, which include both 700- and 800-level classes. These will all have new, currently unused numerical designators. Once the new courses are on the books, we will cut all the “old” courses—hence in effect replacing what’s now there with the new curriculum.