Paul Budra teaches Shakespeare and early modern literature and has published articles on Renaissance literature and contemporary popular culture. He is the author of A Mirror for Magistrates and the de casibus Tradition and co-editor of the essay collections Part Two: Reflections on the Sequel, Soldier Talk: Oral Narratives of the Vietnam War, and From Text to Txting: New Media in the Classroom. He is a past president of the Pacific Northwest Renaissance Society, former Associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and winner of the SFU Excellence in Teaching Award for 2004.
By Paul Budra
Welcome back to a new semester at Simon Fraser University! Although our institution is officially on a tri-semester schedule, the fall semester is always the most exciting. That’s when the majority of our new undergraduate students and all of our new graduate students arrive. The campus comes alive with events and activities. This year’s fall semester promises to be even busier than usual because it marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the university.
It is also a busy time for the English Department. At the end of last year the Department came together in a daylong retreat to rethink our undergraduate courses. We surveyed students, crunched numbers, and solicited opinions. The result was a plan to overhaul the undergraduate curriculum beginning with the first-year courses. Look for innovative new programming to emerge over the next few years.
Even with those changes, some new students are bound to ask the question, “Why study English?” There are two obvious reasons. Society is in the middle of an information revolution and the vast bulk of that information is disseminated through language and narratives. Whether it be the anecdotes that politicians tell when stumping for election; the narratives of new bestselling novels, video games, or films; the arguments of legal cases; or the rhyme innovations of hip-hop artists and pop stars, language in its many forms surrounds, informs, and influences us. An understanding of rhetoric and narrative, as well as the uses, abuses, and traditions of knowledge that literature in its many forms embodies and communicates, is an essential tool for navigating the 21st century.
The second reason is, perhaps, more obvious. Literature is art. It is a source of pleasure and knowledge, a way of understanding the world. Literature distils culture, concentrating the complex variations of the human experience into story, poem, and performance. There is no more pleasurable way to learn than through literature.
And there is no better place to do it than at the English Department at SFU. Our professors bring their original research to the classroom. Their fields of expertise range from the traditional to the ostensibly outlandish. Our Department has won more teaching awards than any other in the university. And our staff members are professionals with many years experience, trained to help students like you.
Please do not hesitate to contact them or myself if you have any questions about studying English here at SFU.
Have a wonderful year.
Professor and Chair