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English Literature

English lit class

Department Overview

Congratulations to recent award recipients!

Alexis Riddick '19 Rebecca Regan ''19

The Lang Award is given to “a graduating senior in recognition of outstanding academic accomplishment.”  This year the award was given to Rebecca Regan, English Literature Honors Major. 

In nominating Rebecca for this award, English department faculty praised her ability to synthesize divergent material with "a brilliant sense of reading and reimagining the text that is both startling and profound." One faculty member noted that "Rebecca manages to combine often-opposed approaches to literature in work that seems to seamlessly join the best of both.” Another remarked, "I came to believe that Rebecca Regan was born to be a literary critic. Except that during that same year, Classicists told me she was born to be a Classics scholar, and Linguists told me that her work in that field is superlative, and in addition to all that erudition, she sings!"

Alexis Riddick '19 Alexis Riddick ''19

Alexis Riddick, special major in English and Educational Studies, was awarded The Sarah Kaighn Cooper scholarship this spring.

The Sarah Kaighn Cooper Scholarship is awarded to the member of the junior class who is “judged by the faculty to have the best record for scholarship, character, and influence since entering the College.” From an English department perspective, Alexis is a stellar example of all of these attributes. This summer, she is working with Professor Peter Schmidt as a TA for the Swarthmore Summer Scholars program. Co-President of OASIS, Alexis produces work (both spoken and written) that is "searching, courageous, powerfully articulated, and tremendously moving." 


2019 Hicks Prizes for Literary Criticism: Cee Howe (1st prize) and Leo Elliot (Honorable Mention)

(1st prize) Cee Howe ’19: “Twies a day it passed thurgh his throte”: The Aural and Oral Passages of the Prioress’s Tale

(Honorable Mention) Leo Elliot ‘19: Ghosts of Fascisms Past and Future: Arendt, Orwell, and totalitarian language in Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story

The Hicks prizes are endowed by friends of Philip M. Hicks, former Professor of English and Chairman of the Department of English Literature.

2019 Snyder Prize for Best Critical Essay by a First-Year Student: Daria Syskine (1st prize) and Keyan Shayegan (Honorable Mention)

(1st prize) Daria Syskine ’22: It’s Not About Mr. Collins: Charlotte’s Pursuit of Domestic Happiness

(Honorable Mention) Keyan Shayegan ’22: Essay on the reading of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah and Graham Greene's The Heart of the Matter

The Snyder prize is funded by the Department of English Literature in memory of Susan Snyder, distinguished Professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature and Chairman of the Department.

    Why Study English Literature at Swarthmore?

    In the Department of English Literature, we study how literature shapes experience. Students learn how to read closely, think inventively, and write creatively and analytically. We offer classes on a wide range of topics, from novels to new media, from critical theory to popular culture, from poetry to digital humanities. In these classes, students explore how the form of a text illuminates its meaning; how literature both reflects and challenges structures of race, gender, sexuality, and class; how historical circumstances enable imaginative expression and how imaginative expression changes history. Our curriculum emphasizes writing in English from the US, the UK, South Asia, the Caribbean, Ireland, and South Africa, and educates students in methods including critical race and ethnic studies, feminist studies, environmental studies, and queer studies. We teach students how to analyze a world of texts and to use their voices in it.

    Students are eligible for paid internships during the summer to produce original creative writing projects and pursue guided research in literary study. In collaboration with faculty, students also work on a variety of digital humanities projects based at Swarthmore and at archives and universities nationwide. Along with a vibrant public culture of lectures and events featuring prominent novelists, poets, and cultural theorists, the department creates opportunities for students to present their research to peers and faculty on campus, as well as at regional and national academic conferences. Majors and minors in English Literature succeed in careers as diverse as law, education, medicine, finance, journalism, publishing, academia, and community organizing.

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