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Academic Major Spotlight on: English Literature & English Literature – Creative Writing

How can a major in English Literature at Agnes Scott translate into a career?

Thinking about majoring in English Literature or Creative Writing? You’re not alone here at Agnes Scott. For current first-year students (Class of 2027), English Literature – Creative Writing is the third most popular intended major. But what does it mean to major in English Literature and how does that differ from Creative Writing?

 

What does a major in English Literature or Creative Writing mean?

Let’s start with the basics: English Literature combines literature, language and writing to gain a broad understanding of British, Irish, American and postcolonial media. While the emphasis falls on reading and writing, film, history and language all also factor into the curriculum. Focusing on both depth and breadth, classes use literature as a jumping off point for research and discussion.

English Literature – Creative Writing is similar to the English Literature path, but with a focus on – you guessed it – creative writing! Not only does this major also integrate research, discussion and analysis on a variety of English Literature topics, but you’ll get to concentrate on the two genres of your choice to hone your writing skills. Poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction are just a few of the genres that you’ll practice in this major. In addition, the Creative Writing students work with the Departments of Theatre and Dance for anyone interested in writing screenplays or more dramatic works. If you have a strong foundation in reading and want to take your writing skills to the next level, consider Creative Writing.



What kinds of classes do I take with English Literature or Creative Writing?

Both of the English Literature majors have a foundation in reading and writing. You’ll begin the journey by taking two English Composition courses – The Craft of Writing and Advanced Composition. These classes will lay the foundation for more advanced coursework as the major progresses. 

As you move through the major, you’ll have the opportunity to focus on your interests! Much like the Agnes Scott community in general, the class options are exceptionally varied. Early on, you’ll see courses such as Literature of Ireland, Topics in Black Writing, Topics in Ethnic American Literatures, Gothic Literature, Queer Literature, Women and Film, Southern Women Writers, Literature and Political Violence and Fantasy & Race in Medieval Literature. Click here to see a full lineup of available English Literature classes. 

During your upperclass years, you’ll see more advanced courses such as Ethnicity in American Literature, Asian American Literature, African American Fiction and Film, The Brontë Sisters, and many others. 

If you choose to concentrate on Creative Writing, you’ll also have a host of writing classes available to you. Topics vary from introductory courses on fiction, poetry, dramatic writing and creative nonfiction and progress into Screenwriting, Authorial Studies and Solutions Journalism. 

Both majors culminate with senior research seminars. For the English Literature major, the course is research-focused on a subject of your choosing. A faculty member who is considered a content expert works with each student to support the research and progress of the critical essay that serves as the capstone project for this major. Students in this major will also present their work at a public event after participating in peer workshops. 

The English Literature – Creative Writing major is set up as more of a workshop, with students completing their capstone, manuscript-length piece. Research, drafting, editing and presenting are all part of the process of this project in a genre of your choosing. 

 

What skills will I learn in this major?

Both of the English Literature majors focus on not only analyzing and interpreting literary works, but also placing these works into the global context of history, sociology and culture. While the English Literature – Creative Writing has a stronger writing core, both majors will focus on writing with proficiency in a variety of themes and styles. 

Not only will you read and write about professional and published works, but you will also learn the tools to peer review in a workshop setting. With the guidance of the ASC faculty, you’ll learn how to hone your listening and feedback skills for your peers. Sharing your writing skills with others and shaping your work based on constructive criticism are all part of the writing journey that will assist in honing a variety of other skills. These workshops and writing assignments serve as jumping off points to learn how to apply knowledge to different situations, disciplines, and problems in the real world. 

At the end of your four years, you’ll have a deeper understanding of how literature impacts history, shaping of cultures, and have the research and analytical skills to apply to other related fields. Of course, you’ll also learn about a variety of genres, literary periods and creative approaches as related to writing for different audiences. 

 

How can majoring in literature or creative writing help me in the future?

Like Agnes Scott alum of all majors, English Literature and Creative Writing have provided the foundation of opportunity for our graduates after leaving campus. Bhumi Patel ‘12 was a double major of both Dance and English Literature – Creative Writing during her time at ASC. Using her majors, Bhumi works as a freelance dance writer and runs her own dance studio in California. She recently returned to Agnes Scott in 2020 (virtually) to work as a visiting lecturer for an intermediate/advanced Modern Dance class. Creativity is the backbone of all of her work, noting that, “We need creative thinking in the world, so it’s necessary in every field, and it’s important that students feel empowered to engage in their work.” Her writing and choreography focus on social justice, equity and activism.

Another alum living closer to campus is Kathryn Murray ‘78. Kathryn “Kitti” Smith Murray was an English Literature major who currently owns and operates Refuge Coffee, located just down the street in Clarkston. Before owning the coffee shop, Kitti worked at a law firm, managed an apartment complex, and has authored and co-authored many books using the skills she learned at ASC. After settling back in Georgia, Kitti and her husband decided to open up Refuge Coffee as not just a coffee shop, but a place to build community. Refuge serves as a place for refugees escaping political and religious persecution to work, improve their English, and receive on the job training in one of the most diverse cities in the country. Kitti notes that “Being able to communicate and distill language to tell our story is so important… I learned that at Agnes Scott; the school where I was meant to be.” 

Leticia Urieta ‘09, an avid writer from Austin, Texas, will be a featured guest at the upcoming Agnes Scott Writers’ Festival. Leticia has been published in several places, including Chicon Street Poets, Lumina, The Offing, Electric Lit and many others. She currently lives and teaches in Austin as the Program Director of the Austin Bat Cave, a literary community serving students in the Austin area. She is also the co-director of Barrio Writers Austin and Pflugerville, which is a free creative writing program for local youth. She will be doing a guest reading at the upcoming Writers’ Festival on April 5. 

 

The Annual Writers’ Festival here at Agnes Scott 

So let’s talk about the upcoming Writers’ Festival. Not only is it the 53rd consecutive year of the fest here at Agnes Scott, but it’s the oldest continuous literary event in Georgia. Much aligned with the English Literature majors, writers from across the country will be on campus on April 4 and 5 to engage in reading, teaching and discussion about literature. 

In addition to our more seasoned guests, the festival also features writing contests for our very own Agnes Scott students, as well as other college students in Georgia. Any undergraduate or graduate student here in the state of Georgia had the chance to submit their work under one of the following categories: poetry, short fiction, creative nonfiction and playwriting/screenplay writing. 

For those looking for an early start to the festivities, the Student Finalists for the writing contest will be reading their works on April 2 in Alston Campus Center. The works will be considered by our guest judges, Sholeh Wolpé, Leticia Urieta ‘09, and Beth Ann Fennelly. While the winner of each category will take home $500, each of the finalists will also have their piece published in the Agnes Scott College Writers’ Festival Magazine, which will be available at the Writers’ Festival.

Readings and conversations led by our guest judges (listed above) including Sholeh Wolpé, our keynote speaker, are just a few of the exciting events happening at the fest. If you’re looking to see how majoring in Literature or Creative Writing can boost your career path, consider stopping by the Writers’ Festival!

 

Ali Mills is a Sr. Administrative Assistant and Admission Operations Coordinator at Agnes Scott College. In her free time, she enjoys reading, puzzling and playing outside.

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