Faculty and students in an English class
Training in the rigors and pleasures of critical thinking, close reading and lucid writing


The Cornell Literatures in English Department retains the pluralistic ideals of the university’s founders and continues to respond to and embody a constantly evolving discipline. Within the department, ongoing debates about the role of critical theory or cultural studies, the status of popular culture, the relevance of film studies and hip hop, or the definition of the words “English” and “literature” themselves have led to new understandings of the discipline, as well as a range of textual productivity, from producing critical editions to writing poetry.

Interdisciplinary Reach

Students in a First-year Writing Seminar

Outside the department, the growth of interdisciplinary work has led to a range of connections across the humanities at Cornell, from comparative literature to medieval studies, from Asian-American Studies to feminist, gender and sexuality studies, with English faculty maintaining affiliations in all of these disciplines.

Along with teaching more than a third of the Freshman Writing Seminars offered by Cornell’s Knight Institute of Writing in the Disciplines, the Literatures in English Department’s nourishing of this wide range of scholarly and creative writing has maintained the department’s central importance in the humanities at Cornell and world-wide.

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"If you read quickly to get through a poem to what it means, you have missed the body of the poem."

— M.H. Abrams, Class of 1916 Professor Emeritus