Department of English

DEPARTMENT OF

English Language and Literature

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Why Study English at Queen’s?


“English taught me to understand and appreciate human nature, to consider alternative viewpoints, and to express my opinions clearly and with conviction.”

“The critical thinking skills I learned in English are universally applicable, and this is the best thing a humanist education can offer."

My English degree is one of the most flexible degrees out there. English graduates can go off in a variety of directions and use their verbal, written, and analytical skills to make a case for themselves.”

Students in Dr Ritchie's 2017 Gothic Fiction SeminarThese reflections from recent English graduates sum up the goals of our English programs at Queen's: to introduce our students to the best writing by diverse voices in our world and to literary traditions reaching across historical periods and around the globe, while training them to be perceptive readers, incisive thinkers, and effective writers in a communications society.

Student in Dr Ritchie's 2017 Gothic Fiction Seminar


As an English student, every year you will participate in both lecture and seminar classrooms, pursuing your passion for imaginative writing while learning important transferable skills for career or professional development—for example, to analyze documents and synthesize information, as well as to express complex ideas and frame persuasive arguments.


Our award-winning teachers will inspire and guide your development, and you will have the opportunity to share your enthusiasm for literature through a variety of social events like Tea with Profs, organized by the English Departmental Student Council, the English DSC.


What Comes After an English Degree?

Has anyone ever said to you, "That's nice... but what will you do with that?" Here is what some of our BA graduates have said about life after Queen's...

Muskoka Dittmar-McCallum, BA 2018

After completing her Honours BA in English and Philosophy, Muskoka went to pursue a Masters in Museum Studies at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information. She is currently the recipient of a fellowship with the University of Toronto’s Art Museum as a Collections Assistant before entering the second year of her Masters program. 

“My passion for museological scholarship and its practical evaluation began in ENGL 200 when Professor G. Dujardin brought her class to W.D. Jordan Rare Books & Special Collections Library. We were given academic access to a collection of rare books, handmade prints, and historic pamphlets. The librarian, Jillian Sparks, instructed students on best practice for handling paper-based mediums and taught methodologies for evaluating modes of production to construct an argument for the work and its intended audience. Through this exercise, I was instantly drawn to the artifacts and their social histories. In my fourth and final year at Queens, Professor E. Peacocke’s ENGL 422, Romanticism and The Visual, facilitated a study into the ways in which art manifests itself throughout the period in a variety of texts. Our academic work was coupled with field trips to the Agnes and Etherington Art Centre which connected me with museum professionals. My undergraduate studies in literature has built a foundation for creative and interdisciplinary thinking that has led me to a career in the cultural sector.” 

Stuart Borenovic, BA 2016

"I have found the skills I gained in my time as an English major extremely valuable in my law school career.

Both English literature and the law are premised on language and its use in conveying a particular meaning. Similar to many critical theorists, lawyers are often occupied with arguing what is the most appropriate meaning to be attributed to a particular piece of text. English students will be familiar with questions such as: what was the author’s intent? Does the author’s intent matter? What is the cultural and social context surrounding the text? What contextual evidence can be used to support one interpretation over another? These questions are also asked by lawyers, and the answers are often the main thrust of a lawyer’s argument before the court. Having undertaken these arguments many times in essays and exams as an English student, I was very well prepared to deal with the examination of language when I entered law school.

English also prepared me to think critically and argue effectively. I found many of my English classes taught me to push back against accepted wisdom and challenge traditional interpretations of a text. I was able to apply the same critical analysis to legal decisions, and thus effectively argue for a different reading of the law in my assignments. My ability to effectively communicate through essays — perhaps the most deeply ingrained skill an English student learns — was also invaluable when forwarding arguments.

I look forward to continuing to use these skills in writing legal memos as an articling student. Eventually, I hope to even employ such skills in court. The abilities and perspectives I gained from my English degree remain in constant use and will be invaluable throughout my future career."

Sam Ali, BA 2015

“My time at Queen’s studying English was amazing in so many ways. It opened me to so many opportunities like teaching English and living in Italy for four months. A trip I did completely alone and was able to understand who I was as a person. Every professor, class, book, poem that I encountered taught me about myself. After Queen’s, I missed being able to read books and have discussions around them. Since then, I started a book blog on Instagram @readwithsam where I documented my reads and talked about them with fellow book lovers. Later on, I launched my website, www.readwithsam.com where I have interviewed authors, and been given books from publishers prior to their release date to review. I’ve been so grateful to be able to surround myself with books, authors and book lovers. I’ve also been writing for The Nerd Daily on my thoughts on books and popular culture topics. But, my 'muggle' job (that’s what I like to call it), I work in the staffing industry where I find cool people for cool jobs. That is until I can become a full time book reviewer and writer.

The English program at Queen’s was able to give me the courage and confidence to be able to voice my opinion on particular narratives. It taught me to not be afraid of what’s in my way, and that every character in any story has their own path... and I think that resonates so much with real life and that as we figure out this thing called life, it’s different for us all, but it’s definitely a story worth telling.”

Elisa Hall, BA 2018

"As English graduates, we are often asked what we plan to do with our degree. How it prepares us for the ‘real world’ and for some of us, what kind of job we will have. I was asked these questions over and over again and to be honest, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was constantly stressed out about choosing between law or teaching because that’s what all my peers were doing. 

Few people talk about the transition between university and entering the workforce. I knew it would be uncharted territory, I knew it would be scary, but I never thought it would be lonely. When we pack our bags and close the doors to the places we have called home, a small sense of panic rises. I want you to know that it’s okay to be scared, it’s okay to be lonely, it’s okay to have no idea what you are doing. When you set out on uncharted territory, get the keys to your first apartment, and the interview for the job you didn’t think you ever had a chance at, you become a little braver, a little less lonely and get a better idea as to what you are doing with your life. 

When I left Queen’s, I knew I had gained the necessary skills to make something of myself. I didn’t know what that was, nor can I honestly tell you what that will be. However, what I can tell you is this: I am detail-oriented, I am analytical, I am able to understand perspectives and synthesize information and I can write and edit; both skills of which are dying in the business world.  Most importantly, I can stand up for myself in a room full of executives and speak with clarity and confidence. 

When I left Queen’s and moved to Vancouver, I thought I’d be lucky to get a job, period. Instead, I found a job as a content writer at what I thought was a small furniture company. I got the job because of my writing. Not because I had the most experience out of all the other candidates, but because the owner liked my writing. Two and a half weeks in, my boss quit and suddenly, there was no marketing manager. My small writing product descriptions and the occasional blog post turned into something much greater. Two months and a half month into working at Moe’s Home, I was Marketing Coordinator and a month after that I got permission to rehire for my old position as content writer. I began to project manage, organize photoshoots, take creative direction, and go on work trips. I had the career acceleration of someone five years my senior. 

When I left Queen’s, I never thought that I would have been able to accomplish what I have in the last year. I’m not saying this to give myself a pat on the back, but to let you know that you should be proud of your degree. You don’t just accumulate a small library of books when you get an English degree, you acquire the key concepts of philosophy, rhetoric, analyzation and the proper use of the oxford comma. Be confident in what you are doing, continue to lead, and don’t forget to take pride in your work.”