Department of English


English Language and Literature

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Our History


Watson Hall

Watson Hall, courtesy S.M. Straker

The Department of English was founded in 1888, when James Cappon (MA Glasgow) was appointed to the first Chair of English at Queen's. Some English language and literature had been taught between 1841 and 1870 as part of Logic, Rhetoric, and Moral Philosophy; between 1870 and 1888 the subject was taught with History and Modern Languages. The early focus was on the history of the language, grammar, and literary history; during Cappon’s 31-year tenure the curriculum was redirected to focus on the direct examination of literary works themselves. Graduate studies have been a part of English at Queen's since at least 1929, when the first recorded MA was granted. The first recorded PhD in English was granted in 1942, but almost all graduate work was at the MA level until our PhD program was founded in the 1960s.

In 1950 the Department of English had six members, two of whom were appointed in that year to replace retirees. The department grew slowly until the mid-1960s, when student numbers at Queen's expanded dramatically. Seven new tenure-track members were added to the department in 1967 alone, and by 1970 the department had grown to comprise thirty-three permanent members. Since that time, it has contracted slightly.