“In the long run, a people is known, not by its statements or its statistics, but by the stories it tells.” –Flannery O’Connor
One of the founding departments of Stanford University in 1891, the English department is the cornerstone of the humanities at Stanford. The pioneer faculty of English was an eclectic group of writers, comparativists, and literary scholars. Today, the faculty continues to reflect the innovation and creativity of the Bay Area, conducting bold research and teaching across the traditions of British, American, and World literary history. Consistently ranked as one of the top departments in the country, Stanford English is home to the Center for the Study of the Novel, the Literary Lab, and the world-renowned Creative Writing Program.
The Power of Literature
Human beings are story-telling animals. Literary study necessarily confronts us with the richness of human experiences, helping us to appreciate common values and the differences between those experiences across cultures, places, and times. Literature shows the design of the creative process, allowing us to interpret the deep motivations of human minds and societies—both in the past and today.
The Skill of Critical Thinking
The study of literary texts nourishes our critical minds and our imaginations as we journey through the rich history of British and American literature. It encourages the art of close reading, interpretation, and the skill of problem solving through critical thinking. It teaches us to express our experiences and our ideas effectively in written and verbal communications that are adaptable to a wide range of different media. The ability to analyze issues at hand, to identify core concerns, and to present relevant solutions persuasively are keys to success in any field.
English at Stanford
Our internationally renowned faculty are both intellectual leaders in literary studies and acclaimed writers across genres. We are also deeply involved in the digital humanities and in interdisciplinary research and studies.
A diverse range of undergraduate and graduate courses are offered. Undergraduates have the opportunity to acquire fundamental writing skills, to learn about the powers of argument and analysis, and to see the big picture of literature’s development from the Middle Ages to the present. A coterminal master’s program is offered to undergraduates who wish to participate in graduate-level courses. The rigorous graduate program prepares students for careers in academic and other leadership fields. Visit our Degree Programs site for more information.
The Department of English is also the home of Creative Writing Program--one of the best-known in the country--that cultivates the power of individual expression within a vibrant community of writers. Many of our English majors pursue a concentration in creative writing, participating in workshop-based courses or independent tutorials with Stegner Fellows, Stanford’s distinguished writers-in-residence.
Beyond the Classroom
Find inspiration throughout the year in readings by visiting novelists, short-story writers, and poets. Join the Literary Lab, an experimental research group that bridges the humanities and technology to view the new face of literature in this age of big data and digital mapping. Participate in the undergraduate colloquium at Center for the Study of the Novel, in which students explore how and why the novel has become such an essential part of our culture.