Department Initiatives in Response to the Recent Racist Killings by Police, 6/9/20

The Brandeis University English Department is enraged at the police murders of George Floyd in Minneapolis, of Breonna Taylor and David McAttee in Louisville, of Tony McDade in Tallahassee, and the many others who have been killed by police. We give our support to Black communities, Black organizations, and the Movement for Black Lives that have demanded justice and accountability in the wake of the ongoing and pervasive criminalization, hyper-incarceration, and state murder of Black men, women, and children in all 50 states and around the globe.  

These protests reflect a long history of Black struggle against the systematic structures of racism, antiblackness, and oppression that have been part of the U.S.’s settler colonial and racial capitalist projects. We are an English department in a state and community with a history and present of racism, as discussed by local journalists. Massachusetts also has the history of Crispus Attucks, a Black man who was the first casualty in the Boston Massacre of 1770, along with the Boston Tea Party, the first violent looting of the American Revolution.

We understand that in order to dismantle white supremacy we must continue to resist racism and especially antiblackness in our classroom pedagogy, training for graduate students, and our vision and goals for the department. This work must center how to make a material difference in the lives of our Black colleagues, staff, students, and community.

We commit to working on the following:

  1. Inviting speakers working on issues related to antiracism and antiblackness in literature, art, culture, politics;
  2. Committing to further decolonizing and democratizing our curriculum, especially as it relates to race in the United States, and to include Black writers on our syllabi in engaged and meaningful ways, beyond mere tokenism;
  3. Committing to support our colleagues in other departments who have been in the forefront of doing the work and having the burden of dismantling white supremacy in our institution;
  4. Including more Black scholars in our department colloquia and other parts of department life;
  5. Making the continuing case for target of opportunity hires and other hires whose work addresses issues of race and inequality.


In Memoriam

The English Department would like to remember two former faculty members, Robert O. Preyer and Eugene Goodheart, who passed away during the 2019-2020 academic year. Selecting their names will bring you to Provost Lisa Lynch's words of remembrance.

Immerse Yourself in Literature and Culture

Studying English can help you perfect your understanding of a language you already use and enhance your appreciation for cultures you inhabit and/or encounter. The Brandeis Department of English trains students not only in skills for the present but also in deep knowledge of the past. 

We teach and study poetry and prose, as well as journalism, film, television and new media, and place these texts in historical and geographic context.

We study the past because literary works shape themselves as a tradition in which dialogue, disruption, revision and influence occur over time; and because, for many of us, context is integral to comprehending the particular novel, poem or essay under study. Extension over the globe complements immersion in the past. Wherever people rely on English — wherever some version of the tongue is spoken and written — we consider it our mission to study the literature and culture in which and to which it is put to use. 

Literary Genres

We teach a wide variety of genres within literature in English. The main rubrics might be poetry, prose, drama and media, under which a vast array of overlapping and heterogeneous subcategories will fall. These will put the kinds of qualities that we study to different use, depending on whether they are fictional or not, political or not, persuasive or expressive, public or private, philosophical or historical, religious or secular. The discrimination and analysis of these qualities and categories, their similarities and differences, belong to literary (and media) criticism, and we therefore teach the practice of criticism, but we do so by also teaching its theory, its history, and its philosophy. None of these categories is hard and fast in practice, and in different contexts any of them might merge with any other.

Degree Programs

The Department of English offers the following degree programs: