What does it mean to study English today? The English department at UC Santa Barbara engages this question by offering its students the opportunity to explore Old English manuscripts, Internet texts, American novels, Anglo-Irish literature, queer textuality, science fiction, literature of the body, modern poetry, Shakespeare etc.--all kinds of "literatures" written in English. In the process, we study the complex interactions between literature, culture, and history. At the heart of literary study lies the simple yet striking recognition that language constitutes both a technology of thought and a constituent of human reality. We transform this recognition into undergraduate and graduate programs of study that develop the critical skills required to negotiate complicated literary and cultural texts.
Together, we spend time working on questions like these: (1) How do historical and cultural contexts lend written texts their intelligibility and convey their strange power? (2) How do gender and minority discourses inform our understanding of literature? (3) How does the study of English engage the public sphere?