The study of literature in English is one of the most rigorous and enlivening scholarly exercises an undergraduate student can engage in. With a canon that captures both the classic and the contemporary, literature in English remains vital and relevant for any coherent understanding of the world. To train as a scholar of literature is to train the mind to ask incisive and critical questions, the hand to write persuasively and effectively, the eye to see beyond the obvious meanings of texts and images, the voice to orate, and the heart to empathise with the greater human experience.
Today, literature in English encompasses not only the classics of Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens; it embraces the reluctant magnificence of modernists such as James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and Thomas Stearns Eliot. In the past century and in the current moment, literature in English is as much a function of Chinua Achebe, Toni Morrison, Derek Walcott, and Mohammed Hanif as it is of Harold Pinter and David Foster Wallace.
The English major at LUMS, an innovative and cutting-edge programme, seeks to train its students to ask questions that have a global resonance. By honing their skills in close reading, rhetoric, critical analysis, and contextual thinking through a curriculum whose methodology is rich in critical theory, the English major will produce broadly educated and multifaceted graduates. Students will be asked not just to grapple with the range of meanings and moments present in poetry, novels, plays, films, and essays, but also to produce compelling writing on their own. The craft of research and knowledge of the great intellectual debates on literature and criticism make up the backbone of the English major. Students will be trained in issues that range from the implications of a single word in a text such as Homer's Odyssey to the particular social and historical contexts within which literary works come into being. Why is it that a writer from modern-day Kenya or Pakistan chooses to write in English? What does it mean to "write back?" Students will attempt to account for the enduring resonance of particular works—novels, plays, poems—which continue to speak to us across the boundaries of time and space. Engagement with literature facilitates a process of self-discovery and helps extend our understanding of the human condition.