We are excited!

Over the last two years, the SFU Department of English has been working hard to revise and update our courses, to streamline our programs, and to revivify our academic offerings. Now, after months of student consultation, faculty input, and committee revisions, we’re thrilled finally to unveil our new curriculum for Fall 2021—just in time for our return to in-person teaching.

Among the most important things we’ve taken into account during this long process have been the voices and concerns of our students. I’ve had conversations with many of you over my nearly two years as Undergrad Chair, and you’ve been honest with me about what has worked and what hasn’t worked about our major and our courses. You love the passion and commitment of our instructors, but you wonder why so many of our courses are bound up in “traditional” (read “rigidly Anglo-centric”) literary periods; you appreciate the breadth of our 100-level lectures, but you wish that more of our upper-level classes overtly addressed crucial issues like race, gender, and environmental justice; you are excited about our range of discussion-based 400-level seminars, but you’re frustrated at having to navigate so many prerequisites and area-requirements to access them; you want to take an English elective or two because you’re interested in literature, but haven’t been able to get in from outside the department.

We’ve heard you, and we’ve used what you’ve said to create a new and more flexible curriculum, one that we know will make our department a more vibrant and more inviting place to study. (You can read more specifics about these changes here and here.

With all this change, though, we’ve also made sure to keep the things that make English the exhilerating field of study that it is. As it has for decades, studying English at SFU means coming to terms with the fundamental role that language and literature play in shaping our complex world. It means grappling with big issues—race, gender, sexuality, ethics, economics, politics, environment, religion, and more—and also recognizing the small details, the tiny turns of phrase, that give those issues nuance and texture. It means discussing, arguing, writing, and questioning; it means changing your mind and standing your ground. It means working closely with a faculty that has won more teaching awards than any other department, all while producing scores of scholarly books and articles, as well as award-winning fiction and poetry. And yes, it means reading—it means embracing the pleasures and challenges and difficult beauty of some of the finest literature ever written, from the sixth century all the way up to the present day.

Crucially, studying English also means engaging with—and preparing for—the world outside the university. Students in English develop analytical, communication, and cognitive skills that are singularly valuable on the job market, skills that pay dividends in a competitive environment. Every year, our graduates enter careers in law, publishing, social media, teaching, politics, urban planning, advertising, public relations, computer science, and more. And with the resources of our innovative Connect: The English Alumni Network, we’ll help you find a job when it’s all over.

David Coley
Undergraduate Chair