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Department of English: Mission Statement

The world of the twenty-first century holds many new challenges and opportunities for individuals and communities: recently emerged digital platforms have quickly modified how we retrieve information, how we communicate with each other, and how we present ourselves to the world; fast-moving technological advances mean that workforces constantly have to update their knowledge base and acquire new skills; new types of jobs emerge while traditional ones are disappearing; attempts to find gainful employment may require us to relocate to distant, unfamiliar places; and the very notion of what constitutes a fact or the truth has been contested. Globalisation has created many exciting opportunities for worldwide travel and broadened personal horizons, for huge audiences and enormous economic profit. It has also generated experiences of alienation, dislocation, and exploitation. A key task for the Humanities is to critically engage with and make sense of these diverse new contexts and experiences as well as to explore the ones that preceded and shaped them, and to do so from a position of ethical integrity.

To understand how we as individuals and as members of different communities encounter and operate in a complex, multifaceted, and deeply intertwined world, the English Department at UNC fosters a sustained engagement with the ways in which human beings experience their realities and how they give expression to these experiences through the written word or audio-visual means. Embracing the simple notion that nothing happens in isolation and that ideas and practices have histories, we trace the interconnectedness of the past, the present, and the future, of the local and the global.  We explore the socio-political and cultural mechanisms and concepts that have shaped individual identities and communal ways of living in the past, and interrogate how, in our present, certain deeply ingrained behavioral patterns and habits of thought may be limiting our ability to see alternatives, and prevent us from imagining different, potentially better ways of thinking, being, and doing.

We reflect critically on the materials from which we reconstruct the contexts that shaped the texts and images that we seek to understand both on their own terms and in relation to our lives, and we think hypothetically and creatively about the world in all its diversity. Constantly seeking to stretch our intellectual abilities and expand our personal knowledge base, often by working collaboratively, UNC English faculty and students embrace the idea that a thorough grasp of the complexities of a given problem combined with an imaginative approach to problem solving will move the seemingly insurmountable and insoluble into the realm of possibilities. In the process, UNC English students learn to communicate their vision with persuasive force and analytical precision. We foster an intellectually engaged, inclusive community of scholars of undergraduate and graduate students, alumni, lecturers, faculty, and staff.

The faculty of UNC’s English Department believes that all areas of our curriculum – literary and film studies, linguistics, composition and rhetoric, creative and professional writing, secondary education, and the digital humanities – equip our students with the intellectual skills they need to intervene actively and effectively in political, civic, and cultural affairs in their communities, and to become inspiring educators in their own right. Students are led, through practice in critical, creative, and professional writing, to transform themselves into informed global citizens and engaged community members whose knowledge and skills prepare them for successful careers in multicultural environments and fast evolving digital spheres. But UNC’s English Department offers no mere utilitarian education: English faculty want their students to share with them a sense of intellectual excitement and creative play. The mission of the Department of English is to provide an enjoyable transformative education fit for the twenty-first century.