Name: Amy Lou Brouner
Year: Class of 2012
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia
Area of Studies: Africana Studies and English
What am I thinking, sitting here writing a blog after having already spent the better part of the day typing a ten-page essay on Mrs. Dalloway and with another essay on the horizon? Well, fortunately that essay did not take too much out of me and was in fact almost a pleasure to write with my music blasting and a mug of tea always within arms’ reach. More importantly, I care strongly about sharing what a great major English is, especially at Johns Hopkins.
Although freshman could not declare a major until second semester, I have been set as an English major since I arrived at Hopkins and sat in on my first English class, “Introduction to Literary Study” (ILS), with Jared Hickman. I am a laboriously slow reader and writer, so when I got my first essay back with an A-, my elated thought was “Yes! I can do this.” So I have continued for three years, with each class further reenforcing my certainty that English is the major for me. These classes have included the traditional “Shakespeare” with Drew Daniel or a less traditional course on publishing in post-colonial societies. The department is also flexible with cross-listing courses, so I have been able to cross-list courses not offered by the English department, such as “Madness in Caribbean Literature.” That being said, the major requirements- one semester ILS, three pre-1800 courses, and six 300-level courses- cannot be fulfilled by more than two cross-listed courses.
And (yes, I am aware that starting my sentence with “And” is not proper English) let’s face it, why would you want to take more classes outside of the English department? Now in my last semester, I only wish I could take more classes in the department with the amazing faculty. While I have been privileged to take classes with Professors Richard Halpern (recipient of a Guggenheim) and Frances Ferguson (recently inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences), I regret not having taken classes with a number of other professors. The professors are exemplary as scholars and instructors; they keep class discussions flowing fluidly and sometimes humorously, so that you almost forget that you are learning, and they make students feel very comfortable sharing their opinions and analysis. Further, students adore the English professors not just as academicians, but as genuinely engaging individuals. For example, Professor Drew Daniel not only lectures on Shakespeare but also performs with his band Matmos, and Professor Hickman takes time out of his afternoon to chat and eat cookies with the English Club. A few years ago, some friends of mine tagged along for the annual English barbecue that professors, graduates, and undergraduates all attend, and they left raving about how personable and cool the English department is (I will not share what my friends’ departments were with which they were comparing).
Now that I am done with my schpiel about how much I love the English department, here are the dry details: Hopkins’s English department consistently ranks in the top ten in the nation. Coming in, you should try to register for Introduction to Literary Study, the main 100-level class. If you cannot register for that class, try to take a 200-level course like “British Literature” or “African-American Literature.” These are large lecture classes of around 60-students that give you a taste of the brilliant work the professors are doing. However, do not be discouraged by the large size of these classes and the wide range of reading, for you will soon be ready for the English-lovers’ heaven that is 300-level classes. These classes are usually seminar style classes of less than 20 students, allowing you to engage in meaningful discussions with your peers and professor. Courses change every semester, so that professors can teach in-depth subjects about which they are passionate and which are often relevant to their current research. If you come in wanting to study English, that outline of courses is what you have to look forward to as a surface description of the major, but as I hope that anyone interested in English knows, there is always so much more richness beneath the surface.
Click here to access more information about the English Undergraduate Program of Study.
To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective and the English questions thread.