Mission Statement (adopted January 2009)
The Knox College English Department maintains two separate majors, Creative Writing and English Literature. While embracing the relationship between the disciplines, both programs maintain their own distinct curricula, major and minor requirements, disciplinary objectives and pedagogical goals, as well as co-curricular programming that often speaks to both disciplines. The two majors live amicably side-by-side, and professors who teach in one area also teach in the other. The department is committed to creative expression, to informed interpretation, and to the study of literature’s global and historical dimensions.
In each major, our mission can be divided into four categories, Reading, Interpretation, Writing, and Speaking.
The mission of the Literature Program is to encourage, support, and direct students’ active engagement with and exploration of literature as expressed through our major requirements, our minor requirements, our individual courses, and our curriculum, through which we endeavor
• to teach students close reading and other interpretive approaches as embodied through literary theory;
• to impart to students an understanding of literary history; of how literary movements, periods and genres have evolved over time;
• to emphasize intersections of literature and history, literature and other arts, Anglophone and other literatures;
• to equip students with tools of analysis that will serve them in all aspects of life and allow them to be critics of their culture and society;
• to teach correctness, and the cultivation of an authoritative, clear and eloquent style, in writing;
• to teach students how to construct and articulate an argument, and to contend with multiple other arguments;
• to emphasize the importance of research in the writing of ambitious interpretive papers;
• to stress the necessity of revision;
• to emphasize literature as a window on the larger sociopolitical and historical world;
• to consider the political and ethical values of literature and of literary criticism;
• to cultivate spoken participation through oral presentations, class discussion and our capstone course.
Our mission culminates in the capstone experience, Senior Seminar, in which students read and analyze a group of texts united under a particular rubric, usually a contemporary issue in literary study, then organize and stage an academic symposium open to the entire department and the general public. Their final project is to extend and revise this paper, taking questions raised at the symposium into account.
The mission of the Program in Creative Writing is to encourage, support, and direct students’ active engagement with and exploration of the creative process as expressed through our major requirements, our minor requirements, our individual courses, and our curriculum, through which we endeavor
• to establish an environment of respect in which students regard themselves and their peers as literary practitioners;
• to offer students workshop experiences in multiple genres (creative non-fiction, fiction, playwriting, poetry, screenwriting, translation), wherein they can explore and experiment with the conventions of these genres;
• to explore the manifestations of the creative process in an additional visual or performing art;
• to emphasize formal and thematic literary concerns of historical and contemporary English-speaking cultures, and of diverse world cultures;
• to teach close reading and other interpretive approaches to literature, as embodied in our beginning writing courses;
• to develop intuitive, creative, and critical skills that will serve students in all aspects of life;
• to explore and enhance the relationship of memory and imagination to the creative process;
• to teach the practical, emotional, and ethical values of writing and creative endeavor;
• to stress the necessity of revision as process, and process as fundamental to artistic vision and production;
• to cultivate students’ active engagement and participation in a community of writers and artists, representative of a wide array of aesthetic and critical positions;
• to encourage spoken participation through oral presentations, workshops, class discussion, our student reading series, and our capstone course.
Our mission culminates in the capstone experience, Senior Portfolio, in which students trace the development of their voice and vision through the collection and revision of their entire oeuvre of creative writing. In a required critical introduction to their manuscripts, students explore their influences and aesthetic sources, situate themselves within the literary tradition, and consider current challenges and future prospects for their work.
The department is also committed to co-curricular offerings that enhance our students’ interpretive and writing abilities, as well as engaging them in a vibrant literary and artistic community. Such offerings include:
• our semi-annual, award-winning literary journal, Catch;
• our online journal of literary-criticism, The Common Room;
• numerous lectures, readings and performances by visiting scholars, writers and artists;
• Milk Route, a series of formal public readings by students of their own work;
• opportunities to attend and present work at off-campus literary conferences, readings and symposia, and to participate in the larger community dialogue (as represented by complimentary subscriptions to The Writer’s Chronicle);
• student-initiated ventures such as the magazines, Cellar Door and Quiver, art exhibits and performances (including readings), and civic contributions (such as visits to schools, prisons, and other local venues).