Department of English at Illinois State University

Goals of the English Major

The Illinois State University major in English Studies is distinct from other programs in the state and the region. These goals are designed to guide students as they create their plans of study in the English major by articulating both the overarching philosophy that informs the Department’s curriculum and the specific knowledge and abilities English majors should acquire.

The following goals reflect a few recurring themes: the ability to read critically; the ability to synthesize ideas and information from a range of sources and to use that knowledge as the context for exploring new ideas; and the ability to speak and write thoughtfully, creatively, and persuasively in a variety of situations. More broadly, they ask students to progress from acquiring received knowledge to critically thinking about knowledge and then to creating knowledge; to understand the social effects of language and to be able to use language for particular social effects; and to become a productive, critically thinking member of society.

The Department’s curriculum is based on the English Studies model. This model articulates the ways in which all the fields of English Studies—rhetoric, literature, language, and writing—connect and enter into dialogue with each other. Faculty and students explore the ways each specialized course connects to, informs, and is informed by others across the fields of English Studies. In Senior Seminar, the capstone course for the major, students have the opportunity to reflect on the courses they have taken and to synthesize their experiences as English majors.

Although the following goals are organized into six categories for clarity, these categories are not autonomous. Rather, in the spirit of English Studies, they overlap and enter into dialogue with each other.


English Studies

Students will be able to

  • make connections among the various areas of English Studies
  • recognize similarities and differences among the areas of English Studies
  • synthesize the work they have done in their various courses into their own sense of what they have accomplished as English majors
  • argue for their own agency in a language-based culture



Students will be able to

  • recognize and name techniques that effective rhetors use to persuade their audiences
  • articulate the importance of the rhetorical situation to analyzing any text
  • understand how ideology functions in everyday life, including the ways that commonplaces inform our collective understanding of logic and persuasion
  • articulate the functions and effects of language choices - both their own and others
  • perform rhetorical analysis on written, oral, and visual texts
  • compose effective rhetorical arguments


Students will be able to

  • read and demonstrate familiarity with a variety of texts from a culturally diverse range of historical periods and national origins
  • demonstrate familiarity with the ways in which texts are produced
  • use a wide range of critical and cultural theory to engage with and respond to texts
  • engage texts from a wide variety of genres and through experience or research
  • place texts in an appropriate generic, national, historical, and aesthetic context
  • bring appropriate and effective interpretive strategies to bear on texts
  • create written and verbal arguments supporting interpretations of texts through critical reading and research



Students will be able to

  • demonstrate knowledge of the history and structure of the English language
  • understand correctness as socially constructed, with registers as socially situated, with dialects as resulting from social separation, with variation as arising along the parameters of age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic group, etc.
  • understand the complexity of grammar
  • advocate for the equal viability, systematicity, and worth of all human languages and dialects


Students will be able to

  • write effectively, creatively, and imaginatively in a variety of media and in a wide range of writing situations
  • construct logical and persuasive arguments using appropriate evidence
  • draw connections among complex ideas and synthesize ideas in creative ways
  • be familiar with the kinds of technology that will allow them to produce, engage, and manage electronic and printed texts in the workplace



Students will be able to

  • select and evaluate a wide range of appropriate resources for English Studies
  • formulate an effective research strategy for finding relevant information for research projects
  • engage new material in textual, visual, and aural forms
  • evaluate and synthesize new information and ideas into their projects, giving appropriate attribution to their sources
  • make decisions about the purposes for sharing research and demonstrate understanding of the ethical and legal uses of intellectual property