Department of English

Trees with autumn color on the west side of Andrews Hall
Imaginative Reasoning:
Read the World,
Write the Future

An Education in Imaginative Reasoning

Central to the core mission of the Department of English is imaginative reasoning: the ability to think hypothetically about the world in all its diversity—the past, present, and future; the local and the global—in order to engage critically with social and political phenomena, envision what is possible, and dream up audacious solutions to seemingly insoluble problems. Imaginative reasoning is the tool that enables us to create a rupture in the seemingly smooth flow of daily information by helping us re-frame how we look at the world—at ourselves and others, as well as at institutional structures and social, economic, and political constraints... [ continued ]

Our Core Values

  • Pursuing social justice
  • Affirming diversity
  • Engaging with a broad array of real and imagined communities based on empathetic understanding
  • Fostering a sense of belonging
  • Instilling a desire for civic engagement
Read the full mission statement
Derek Walcott

In Memoriam, Derek Walcott

Joining readers and writers around the world, the Department of English mourns the passing of one of the giants of world literature. To show our respect, we offer here a poem by Kwame Dawes, Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner, Chancellor’s Professor of English, and founder of the African Poetry Book Fund.

For Derek Walcott1930-2017

"...For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God." Paul (2Cor.1:20)

In the black box, the lights isolate emotion
with theatrical efficiency—every gesture is art,
as if in the clean, rehearsed moments, the word
as the beginning of all things, and glorious yes
of possibility, must be followed by the congregants
saying Amen—this is the holy theatre, a world
I have come to think of as a home place, a shelter,
the womb of my art. So there in that black box
deep inside a winter storm in Providence, they
tell me the old man has slipped into his first sleep,
and his editor calls each day to listen to the soft
ebb and flow of the sea in his breathing. No one
wants to say "all is silence now", but we do know
that after the poem is over, what remains is a soft
pulse of the sea where we the Makaks of history
find our cathedrals, our history, our glorious tomb.
I did not expect the thickening pain in my throat,
as if I could fall down and weep—I did not expect
the moment to be like this, but it was and here
is the beginning of our lamentation. For weeks
I have carried in my head the calculation of greatness—
how ambitious was the madman Lowell, how
full of the privilege of his New England elitism,
how it is that every time I read of the Boston police
coming to secure him and carry him to another dark
asylum, I can only think that I envy him the dignity
they afforded him; and I think that the St. Lucian
would have known that five white Boston cops
would not sit at his breakfast table while he shivered
and ranted and read for them "The Sea is History",
before escorting him to the asylum of fire and healing.
This is the way history arrests ambition. We stay
sane so that we can live to go mad in our secret chambers.
But the old man has slipped into his first sleep and at last
all his promises of last poems, last words, last
testaments, seem fulfilled. This is not yet an elegy, merely
an effort to clear the phlegm in my throat, and a way
of saying that his art comes to me burnished with
so many grand yeses; and on this morning of grey
chill, I have learned to pray for language, just enough
to offer a word of company for the old man. The word
is waves—not original, surely, but I offer it—the sea,
the soft waves reaching the coast, the pulling back,
the soft snore of a man waiting to leave the shore at last.

Kwame Dawes
March 16th, 2017

In Support of the LGBTQA Community

Friday, February 24, 2017

The English Department’s mission is deeply informed by a sense of social justice and unequivocal affirmation of diversity and inclusion; for this reason we want to reiterate our commitment to the LGBTQA community. Our department was among the first in the country to offer courses on gay and lesbian literature -- the Crompton-Noll Award, a national prize given by the Gay and Lesbian Caucus of the Modern Language Association, is named in honor of Louis Crompton, the UNL English professor and pioneer in LGBTQA scholarship. Today, our LGBTQA graduates are shaping the literary culture... Our faculty is proud of our decades-long commitment to the intellectual development and professional guidance of our LGBTQA students, and our provision of safe spaces for learning in Andrews Hall. [ continued ]

Read this and other department communications

Support the Department of English

The English Department Development Fund supports a range of department programs and student needs: assistance to undergraduate and graduate students, writing and scholarship awards, visiting lecturers and writers, and special opportunities for the department and the community.


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