Department of English

Department of English

Mission and Goals

The Department of English offers students opportunities to enrich their lives with courses in literature, writing, rhetoric, language, and journalism.

Mission Statement

We aim to serve the needs of all students by developing their abilities to write for college, for professional work, and for their lives as citizens, and by preparing them to understand and to write on academic topics in their major disciplines. 

Faculty scholarship is an integral part of the English department mission, and we are committed to fostering a collegial, supportive, and collaborative intellectual environment. Students are best served by faculty who are actively contributing to the production and advancement of knowledge, and thus can guide students in their coursework and mentor them in their own research aspirations in directions that are relevant to the present and the future.

This overall mission takes concrete form through our majors in English and Journalism; through our minors in English, Creative Writing, and Journalism; through our courses that support the college’s general education requirements; and through the Writing Program, which serves the entire campus with first-year and junior-year writing courses, with Writing Across the Curriculum, and with the Writing Center. In what follows we define our mission more specifically in each of these areas. 

The English Major

English majors have a choice of two emphases: in Literature, or in Writing, Rhetoric, and Language. We also offer minors in English and in Creative Writing. 

BA in English


We are committed to fostering our students’ capacity for deep reading and to increasing their understanding of the power and beauty of literary works. We enable students to analyze and critique literature with insight and interpretive power and to communicate their ideas about literature effectively in writing. We want our students to recognize how literature illuminates the human condition, expands their capacity for sympathy, and inspires them to respond significantly and powerfully to their local and global communities.

Writing, Rhetoric, and Language


We encourage and teach students to develop expressive techniques and abilities with which to succeed in creative, professional, and civic writing. We provide them the means to serve as a voice for themselves, their community, and humankind.


Through study of the uses and effects of language in various contexts and historical periods, we are committed to helping students gain a rhetorical awareness of how writers and speakers have structured their written and spoken discourse to reflect their goals and beliefs. Through guided practice, we assist students in developing rhetorical capabilities that will enable them to influence debate in the various communities that they will participate in throughout their academic, professional, and civic lives.


We teach students sociolinguistic theory and the history of English to help them explore where their own language fits in the complex linguistic landscape of the United States and beyond.

The English Minor

The goals of the English minor are the same as those articulated for the major, but adjusted to meet the needs of students who are majoring in another subject. 

The Creative Writing Minor

The Creative Writing Minor provides aspiring student writers with introductory and advanced instruction in literary techniques necessary for writing poetry, fiction, stage drama, and other genres, and encourages the practice of sustained, deep revision. The goal of the minor is to guide students in developing their literary abilities and artistic sensibilities through the practice of creative writing.

The Journalism Program

BA in Journalism

The Journalism Major aims to give students the broad range of knowledge, skills, and techniques needed to succeed as journalists in print, broadcast and online media. We aim to prepare students to work in digital media and more sensitive local news coverage without ignoring the heightened demand for strong, traditional journalistic writing and reporting practices. We teach our students to navigate the complex legal, ethical, and cultural issues involved in reporting the news. Our journalism offerings help students to sharpen the analytical and critical thinking skills that they need to effectively evaluate news and societal issues for their audiences. Our goal is to provide students with the journalistic skills and training to enrich their community, nation, and the world.  

The Journalism Minor

The Journalism Minor is designed to encourage students who have an interest in media and journalism, but are majoring in other areas, to pursue these fields while at York. 

The Writing Program

The Writing Program is housed in the English department, but its mandate is to serve the entire campus community. We are a coordinated program with three interrelated components:

At the first-year and junior level, the Writing Program is responsible for the teaching of the college’s general education writing courses, conceiving and implementing a unified pedagogical vision across multiple sections, and providing professional development opportunities to both full-time and part-time faculty. The Writing Program seeks to prepare students to read and produce reflective and argumentative writing that is supported by engagement with textual evidence. We introduce students to the writing conventions of different genres and academic disciplines, and to scholarly research, helping them to develop an awareness of themselves as members of an academic community.

The Writing Across the Curriculum Program promotes a culture of writing and supports best practices in the teaching of writing at all levels and in all disciplines in the college. We seek to ensure a coherent and effective sequence of writing instruction by coordinating writing intensive courses in all majors, consulting with departments and individual faculty on curricular development and writing assessment projects, and offering faculty development opportunities to improve writing pedagogy.

The Writing Center provides tutoring services and workshops to support students at all levels in improving their writing.   

General Education and Specialized Writing Courses 

In addition to the required writing courses, the English Department contributes to the college’s general education program by offering courses that are of interest not only to our own majors but to non-majors as well, including courses in creative writing, American and world literature and language, business writing, digital composing, social justice journalism, and special topics courses.

English BA Program Goals

  • Discipline-specific Knowledge and Discourse: Students will speak and write effectively, addressing complex issues in the language of the chosen field of study.
  • Critical Reading: Students will understand and articulate insights about complex texts, both primary and secondary, including literature, criticism, and various genres of non-fiction.
  • Writing: Students will produce a work in an appropriate genre for a chosen emphasis and at an appropriate level: literary criticism, creative writing, rhetorical or linguistic analysis.
  • Research Activities: Students will engage in authentic research, including finding and evaluating both primary and secondary sources.

Journalism BA Program Goals

  • Understanding News Values: Students will apply and prioritize "news values" concepts in a professional environment such that they fit a news organization's mission, style and guidance.
  • Genres and Roles: Students will learn to fit into a newsroom environment, learning to work with a news team.
  • Research and Reporting: Students will work as autonomous reporters.
  • Critical Thinking: Students will determine what constitutes balanced reporting in particular cases, based on analysis of a particular news situation.
  • Interviewing: Students will show facility in multiple types of interview situations.
  • Writing and Editing: Students will distinguish between clean writing and writing which is in need of further revision.