For the past few years, I’ve felt a disconnect between how and what we teach English majors in the classroom and the reality of the contemporary professional workplace. Yes, I still believe in reading and writing literature, in close reading and analysis, in the value of research, and in the importance of excellent written and verbal communications skills. But the common research or term paper I’ve assigned for the past 15 years seemed more to prepare students to get PhDs in English than to prepare them to find employment in the marketplace. So, I thought, how can we keep our learning outcomes at the heart of what and how we teach and yet better prepare students to meet the developing needs of the market? Digital technology, social media, creativity, voice—all of these elements seem to key to successful careers using an English degree. We are the experts on reading and communication, and businesses now communicate more and more through the web—through interactive websites; through Google searches and marketing; through social media like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram; through video, podcasting, apps, games, etc. So I thought we could explore these technologies as means to exhibit and assess our learning about British Literature, Global Literature, Literary Theory and methodologies, about teaching, and about new modes of writing and reading. We read differently now, because of the internet. We write differently now, because of the internet. So why shouldn’t the English major and what we do be different now as well?
Hopefully, even though many of the assignments we will do are new, challenging, and even scary at times, you will look back and think that they prepared you for #whatyoucandowithanEnglishmajor in your future. You will learn TONS about British literature, culture, periods, authors, and concepts, but you will also learn several new skills and ways to communicate with an audience that will transfer directly onto your resume and future careers. You are a NEW generation of English major—be proud! 🙂