January 15, 2009


The mission of the English Department is to educate students in the diverse voices and forms of British, American and Anglophone literature, and to approach literature both critically and creatively in their writing.  By analyzing literary texts and genres, and considering the personal, aesthetic, and historical forces that inform them, students will develop their abilities to think critically and develop an informed position.  By encountering and creating a wide range of literary perspectives, students will gain an appreciation of complexity and difference necessary to engage in humane actions.


While the learning outcomes listed below are applicable and practiced at every level of study, students in courses at the 300 level will engage in more sophisticated processes, both in cognitive and affective domains; therefore, learning outcomes are listed from the lower levels of taxonometric classification to the higher


GOAL ONE:  Students will analyze the literary forms of the genres of poetry, dramatic literature, and prose fiction


Objective One:  Students will recognize distinctive features of poetry, dramatic literature, and prose fiction


Learning Outcomes


·         Students will read representative texts in each genre


·         Students will define specific qualities that distinguish different genres


·         Students will explain what subjects, styles, intellectual or cultural issues, and aesthetic effects are the provenance of each genre


·         Students will master the skill of “close reading” as a way of understanding generic qualities



Objective Two: Students will analyze specific literary forms within and across genres


Learning Outcomes


·         Students will learn the terminology of generic analysis by mastering terms such as “sonnet,” “epic,” “lyric,” “revenge tragedy,” “realism,” “post-modernism,” “creative nonfiction,” “journalism,” and “the new journalism”


·         Students will apply their knowledge of generic distinctions and terminology as a method of literary analysis


·         Students will evaluate how a text supports or defies the literary conventions of its genre



GOAL TWO: Students will closely observe elements of literary texts and recognize

patterns of meaning


Objective One:  Students will learn the language of literary analysis


Learning Outcomes


·         Students will define the major rhetorical and literary structures that found literary analysis, including (but not limited to) figurative language, tropes, motifs, and organizational structures


·         Students will identify rhetorical and organizational structures in assigned texts


·         Students will evaluate the effectiveness of a work’s use of rhetorical and literary structures



Objective Two: Students will master the skill of “close reading” as a way of understanding and evaluating literary texts


Learning Outcomes


·         Students will interpret the meaning and significance of a short passage of text


·         Students will explain how rhetorical and literary structures convey meaning in short passages


·         Students will evaluate the effectiveness of the text’s use of rhetorical and literary structures



GOAL THREE: Students will comprehend the theoretical and historical development of British and American literature


Objective One:  Students will develop an awareness of the specific periods and movements in the development of British and American literature




Learning Outcomes


·         Students will identify the major qualities of literary production in the following historical periods: Medieval, Renaissance, 18th century, Victorian and 19th-century American, and 20th-century modernism and post-modernism


·         Students will evaluate how a text supports or defies the literary conventions of the time period



Objective Two: Students will comprehend the relationship between historical period and key voices of literary theory from that period


Learning Outcomes


·         Students will read the works of representative literary theorists from various time periods


·         Students will understand the various attitudes toward literature held by representative literary theorists


·         Students will identify by historical period the philosophical foundations of attitudes toward literature


·         Students will recognize the essential features of several 20th-century schools of literary theory, chosen from New Criticism, New Historicism,  Reader Response Criticism, Marxist Criticism, Feminist Criticism, Post Colonial Studies, and  Queer Theory



GOAL FOUR:  Students will develop insight into ways class, religion, race, gender and sexuality inform literary works and reader or audience reactions


Objective One: Students will confront diverse literary voices, cultural experiences, and values

Learning Outcomes


·         Students will read literary works from a variety of  race, class, and gendered perspectives


·         Students will develop an appreciation for literary works from traditions and cultures other than their own


·         Students will explain how “others” are both exploited and benefitted in literary production



Objective Two:  Students will understand personal and cultural forces that lead to the development of new literary subjects and modes of expression


Learning Outcomes


·         Students will understand the importance of literary tradition as well as the importance of breaking from that tradition


·         Students will read and understand both canonical and non-canonical literature and articulate the political foundations of a canon in British and American Literature



GOAL FIVE:  Students will use analytical and creative writing, class presentations and discussion to meet Goals 1-4



Objective One:  Students will create arguable interpretations of various literary texts


Learning Outcomes


·         Students will understand various methods of inventing and supporting a thesis for a critical essay


·         Students will employ clear and concise organization, reasoning and writing in critical essays


·         Students will closely conform to the conventions of Standard Written English



Objective Two: Students will conduct research on well-defined literary questions, making judicious use of primary and secondary sources


Learning Outcomes


·         Students will judge the effectiveness and appropriateness of supporting secondary sources for interpretive arguments in presentations and essays


·         Students will learn the basic steps in internet research


·         Students will evaluate internet sources for their appropriateness as secondary sources


·         Students will learn MLA citation format



Objective Three: Students will create and sustain a compelling voice in their writing, whether in literary analysis or creative writing


Learning Outcomes


·         Students will employ revision as an essential step in the writing process


·         Students will analyze rhetorical and aesthetic effects of their own language in peer editing sessions, conferences with instructors, and class discussion and model essays



Objective Four:  Students will participate in both formal and informal presentations and discussion


·         Students will participate in small group and class-size group discussion


·         Students will develop skills of expressing their ideas to both classmates and instructors


·         Students will gain confidence in expressing their considered, critical opinions


·         Students in creative writing courses will give public readings





Student work varies according to class level and course type, as indicated above, and means of assessment also vary.  Syllabi and assignments usually indicate criteria for evaluation, as indicated by samples attached. 


In summary, faculty in English use the following means of assessment:


·         Peer comment on in-class presentations, drafts of essays, and other projects in literature courses, on creative writing in workshops, and on drafts of the senior thesis. 

·         Oral work, including student presentations and performances, individual and collaborative.

·         In-class exams testing key concepts and/or giving a choice of essay questions, and take-home essay exams, both closed- and open-book.

·         Creative projects in literature courses.

·         Technical exercises in creative writing workshops.

·         Informal writing, such as reading journals, brief personal responses to literary texts, and synopses of texts.

·         Short essays (approx. 4-6 pages) emphasizing close analysis and interpretation of a literary text.

·         Longer analytical and interpretive essays (approx. 8-12 pages) requiring more extended analysis and/or use of secondary sources.

·         Individual conferences on student drafts of essays and creative writing

·         Capstone Experience:

1.  The Senior Thesis (fall semester, except when a student has a serious conflict, such as student teaching):        

            Students in the literature concentration write a 30-35 page critical study.  This essay may examine works by a single writer with a thematic or other focus, compare the treatment of a particular issue or theme in works by two or three different writers, or examine a particular literary form or mode.

            Students in the creative writing concentration write 25-30 pages of creative work, with a 6-8 page critical introduction.  The project could be a collection of poems, stories, or creative nonfiction essays, an extended work in any of these genres, or a mixed mode with a strong unifying concept.

            In both concentrations, the senior thesis requires students to synthesize analytical, creative and expressive skills they have developed in their coursework.  All students writing the senior thesis meet together in a seminar with members of the faculty in English to discuss methods of research and writing, and to read work in progress.


2.  The Comprehensive Examination in English (spring semester, except when a student has a serious conflict, such as student teaching):

            The comprehensive examination in English is a timed take-home exam in two parts taken over the course of one weekend.

            The purpose of the first part of the exam is to demonstrate the student’s knowledge of English and American literature in the genres of poetry, dramatic literature and prose fiction from periods both pre- and post-1800.  Students write essays in response to three questions from a choice of 10-12, showing their ability to apply aesthetic, historical and cultural concepts to literature read in their college work. 

            The purpose of the second part of the exam is to show the student’s ability to closely analyze and interpret passages of poetry, dramatic literature and prose fiction.  Students write essays on three passages, selecting one from a choice of two or three offered as representatives of each of the three major genres.  Students are expected to develop an interpretation of the passage, demonstrating their ability to recognize and analyze significant formal elements of the genre.





·         In additional to our regular English department meetings to discuss curriculum and budget, the English faculty will meet at least twice a year to evaluate the effectiveness of specific components of the major.


·         Course grades and sample exams and essays from lower-level courses required for the English major (104, 104, 214, 250) will be used to determine the effectiveness of these courses as preparation for more advanced work in the major.


·         Senior theses from ENGL 401 each fall will be used to evaluate the senior seminar and advising processes and revise the guidelines students receive for research and writing.


·         Results of the spring comprehensive examination will be used to determine how well the exam reflects the kinds of work we ask from our students.  We will compare results for four-year students with those for transfer students in order to evaluate how required courses at Wells compare with those we accept as substitutes from other institutions.


·         Given the growth in numbers of students choosing the Creative Writing concentration, we will examine the pattern of grades for students in this concentration to determine how their outcomes in creative writing workshops compare with their outcomes in literature courses.


·         We will use enrollment data to help make decisions about staffing needs and course rotation.


·         We will use the data we have available on Wells English major graduates to assess how well our major prepares students for graduate work, their chosen careers, and engagement in civic life.