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  • Humanities & Fine Arts


What can you do with English?

But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.

- Toni Morrison, Sophie Kerr Visiting Writer and Nobel Prize Winner

At Washington College,  you can do everything and anything with words: critical and creative writing; journalism, editing & publishing; analysis of literature and media, both old and new; how to read a book and how to make one. You will learn from celebrated visiting writers and scholars who join your classes or read at the Rose O'Neill Literary House. (Toni Morrison visited in 1987 and read from an unpublished novel titled Beloved). You will engage in a variety of experiential learning opportunities, from class trips to study abroad programs to internships in communications, editing, journalism, publishing and other fields. You will be guided by a faculty mentor and develop independent research for your Senior Capstone Experience. As a critic, editor, essayist, journalist, poet, and storyteller you will become knowledgeable and skilled in analysis, creativity, inquiry, and persuasion. You will do langauge.

Washington College is also home to the largest undergraduate literary award in the country: the Sophie Kerr Prize. The prize is awarded each year to a graduating senior chosen for their "promise for future fulfillment in the field of literary endeavor." In a world of expanding communication, we need intelligent readers and artful writers to make meaningful connections. Graduates in English, Creative Writing, and Journalism, Editing & Publishing make meaning of the world in words.

Sophie Kerr, a successful writer in the early 20th century from Denton on the Eastern Shore, created an endowment for the English department. This endowment enables us to bring to Chestertown and to your classroom well-known writers, editors, and scholars and host literary events and readings throughout the year. Take a look at one full year of events (2020-21) sponsored by Sophie Kerr and the O'Neill Literary House (as captured by the Pegasus Yearbook). The Sophie Kerr endowment also supports the nation’s largest undergraduate literary prize (large as in $63,000, larger than the Pulitzer Prize). 

Our Core Values 


Critical Knowledge

 You will learn from faculty that specialize in book history, film, flash fiction, narrative journalism, poetry, literary theory, and other special topics. You will read from a variety of authors from both the medieval and postmodern time periods.  At the end of your studies, you will write an independent research project, known as the Senior Capstone Experience.

Creative Encounters

Prominent writers will visit your classes, host writing workshops, and read at Literary House and Sophie Kerr events. You will meet and talk directly with active writers and scholars. Visiting writers have included: Jericho Brown, Nick Flynn, Rebecca Makkai, Maggie Nelson, Lidia Yuknavitch, Jason Fagone, and many more! 

Experiential Learning 

You will apply your knowledge to internship opportunities in communications, editing, journalism, and numerous publications on and off campus. Recent internships include Copper Canyon Press, C-SPAN, Library of Congress, and the National Portrait Gallery. Campus Publications that offer internships include The Elm, Cherry Tree, Collegian, Pegasus, and the Washington College Review.

What You Will Learn

Students will understand the breadth, variety, and depth of literature in English across a range of genres and time periods.

Students will employ a variety of analytic and interpretive skills to evaluate literary and non-literary texts.

Students will use information and research effectively and appropriately from a variety of sources. 

Students  will write and produce texts that are imaginative, intelligent, and persuasive. 


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Declare Your Major or Minor

Email: [email protected] to become an English major or minor, Creative Writing minor, or JEP minor!


Sophie Kerr Promise Grants 

Apply now to receive funding for experimental learning and professional opportunities!

What's Different Here? Let Us Count the Ways


The amount English major Justin Thomas Nash received in 2021 for winning the Sophie Kerr Prize, the largest undergraduate literary prize in the country. 

That's more than the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, combined. In more than 50 years of the prize, over $1.5 million has been awarded. Watch 2020 Prize winner Mary Sprague, who also took home more than 63k, interviewd by CBS News. And that's only part of the story. Each year the other half of the endowment supports scholarships, books, events with writers and scholars, and experiential learning opportunities for all majors and minors.


The number of internships English majors have completed since 2018.

Recent internship experiences: Apollo Theater (NYC), Capital Gazette (Annapolis), Copper Canyon Press (Port Townsend, WA), C-SPAN (DC), Delaware Today Magazine (Wilmington), Law Offices (various locations), Library of Congress (DC), Maryland House of Delegates (Annapolis), National Portrait Gallery (DC), Today Media Custom Communications (Baltimore) Triada Literary Agency (PA). On campus: Cherry Tree, The Elm, O'Neill Literary House, Pegasus, Washington College Review.


The number of English majors completing a Senior Capstone Experience or thesis, independent research and writing guided by a faculty mentor. 

Recent thesis topics: Weaponry and Thing Theory in Beowulf; Shakespeare in South Korea; Alt Lit and Authorship; Henry David Thoreau as Deep Ecologist; Toni Morrison and Magical Realism; Female Autonomy in The Hunger Games; Imperialism from Joseph Conrad to Tupak Shakur; Revising the Myth of Marianne Moore; Queer Continuity in Woolf and Cunningham; Nature and Poetry in José Martí’s Versos Sencillos. Read Sophie Grabiec's prize-winning thesis on Milton and gardens.


Sophie Foster's Plan

Class of 2024 • Reisterstown, MD • English Major + Creative Writing & Journalism, Editing, and Publishing Minors

Year 1

First-Year ExperienceFirst Year Seminar

As a first-year student, I took the Jane Austen FYS with Dr. Katie Charles, which ended up being such a revelatory course for me. Midway into the semester, I became invested in an essay that would grow into my SCE, and it was (and continues to be) so motivating to develop an argument I felt passionate about with the guidance of an Austen scholar as insightful as Dr. Charles. As someone who writes primarily poetry, this was among the first times I felt any enthusiasm regarding academic writing, and the English department has continued to foster and amplify said enthusiasm. 

Year 2

Learning By Doing Getting Involved

When I moved on campus for my first year in person following a virtual freshman year, I was particularly interested in building community, so I became managing editor of Collegian, a copy editor for The Elm, and secretary of Writers' Union. Something that continues to strike me as profoundly valuable in our literary spaces here is the ease with which anyone can find themselves in the middle of them. I had absolutely no interest in journalism at all coming into college, and now so many of my highlights have stemmed from working with The Elm these past few years. 

Year 3

Continuing to EngageWithin the Community

My junior year was full of many of the same joys I filled my sophomore year with: I became poetry editor of Collegian, news co-editor of The Elm, and president of Writers' Union. Largely, this year reinforced my firm belief that community sits at the heart of everything I value; Washington College's English and literary faculty continually bend over backwards so my classmates and I can collaboratively pursue everything we're drawn to. There are few colleges that send undergraduates to AWP, and even fewer that pay their student writers and editors. I'm always overwhelmed with gratitude for the dedication of our department to its students. 

Year 4

Senior Capstone Experience and BeyondPublications and Austen

In my last year here, I'll be splitting my focus between serving as the editor in chief of Collegian, editing the opinion section of The Elm, leading Writers' Union for my second year, and writing my SCE with the counsel of my advisor, Dr. Charles. My thesis, which started in that Austen FYS, is fundamentally a character study of Mary Bennet that positions her as a feminist figure in the text and evaluates the evasion of sexualization and the disempowering of men's attention. Beyond graduation, I'm hoping to pursue an MFA in poetry and eventually work toward a career in publishing.


Joshua Torrence's Plan

Class of 2024 • Perry Hall, MD • English & Psychology Majors +Creative Writing, Gender Studies, and Medieval and Early Modern Studies Minors

Year 1

First-Year ExperienceBecoming an English Major

I took King Arthur: From Myth to Modernity with Dr. Rydel as my FYS, and that course, along with Dr. Rydel's support, single-handedly made me an English major. I came into WAC just wanting to major in Psychology, but after going through such a glorious English course based in discussion and close reading, I couldn't pass up on the opportunity to take classes like it for the next four years.

Year 2

Learning By DoingPublications and the Theater

I became the Copyeditor for Collegian during my sophomore year, and being a part of the college's literary publication sated and increased my need to read and my need to write. It was just wonderful to find community with writers after so long feeling isolated from the pandemic. I also played a role in Percy Mohn's senior thesis production of Twelfth Night, which was incredibly fun and opened me up to the theatre side of campus. 

Year 3

Continuing OnMore Involvement

 During my junior year, I became Prose Editor of Collegian, became the secretary of Writers Union, continued my job as a food service worker in Hodson, played the Shaper in Sophia Rooks' playwriting thesis Grendel, started working at the theatre as a member of Gibson Crew, and was inducted into Sigma Tau Delta.

Year 4

Senior Capstone Experience and BeyongSexton, T.S. Elliot, and Smart

I will be writing a combined English and Psychology paper examining how the poetry of Anne Sexton, T. S. Eliot, and Christopher Smart are reflective of the tenets of liberation psychology, a praxis conceived by Salvadoran psychologist Ignacio Martin-Baro that repositions psychology as a relational, inherently political discipline. I will argue that the dialogue between the poets shows a real need to imbed Martin-Baro's theories into how clinical psychologists approach their clients in the 21st century. I am most looking forward to my study abroad journey at St. Andrews, Scotland, as well as pursuing an MA in clinical psychology after undergrad.


Delaney Runge's Plan

Class of 2024 •Reisterstown, MD • English Major + Education Studies, Creative Writing & Journalism, Editing, and Publishing Minors

Year 1

First-Year ExperienceSeminar

For my FYS, I took Jane Austen Fan Culture with Dr. Charles. I felt that this class strengthened my writing skills, prepared me for the requirements of college essays, and solidified my desire to be an English major.

Year 2

Learning By DoingInvolvement 

During my sophomore year, I became the Recording Secretary for my sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha, as well as the Social Media Editor for Washington College's Yearbook, The Pegasus. These roles improved my written communication, note taking, and description skills.

Year 3

Continuing to Be InvolvedInternships and On Campus

In my junior year, I worked as an intern for Prestwick House, an English Language Arts publisher out of Delaware, and as the President of Zeta Tau Alpha. Additionally, I was initiated into Omicron Delta Kappa, a national leadership honor society, and Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society. 

Year 4

Senior Capstone Experience and BeyondWide Sargasso Sea, Jane Eyre, and Publications

For my SCE, I am writing about Antoinette (Bertha) from Wide Sargasso Sea and Jane Eyre, and how these works influence reader's perception of her and her voice. I am looking forward to working on two Washington College publications as a  copyeditor for The Elm and as the Editor-in-Chief of The Pegasus. Right now, I am considering going to graduate school following my graduation from Washington College. 


Grace Apostol's Plan

Class of 2024 • Bel Air, MD • English Major + Journalism, Editing, and Publishing, Communications and Media Studies, and Theater Minors

Year 1

First-Year ExperienceFirst Year Seminar

I took Fear Terror and Paranoia with Dr. Clayton Black! It was about conspiracy theories and looking beyond. The class really helped to shape me as a writer, and also prepare me for the world outside this class.

Year 2

Learning By DoingGetting Involved

With sophomore year being the first time I was in person at Washington College, I wanted to try out as many different opprotunities as possible. I ran for class president once again and was elected for the second time which really taught me so much about my classmates and being in a leadership position! I also was involved being in the musicals, joining our A Capella club on campus, starting as a staff writer for The Elm, working a tour guide, and joining a wonderful group of students as a communication intern for the English Department. 

Year 3

Continuing OnExperience 

The summer into my junior year, I was able to intern as a movie critic for a horror content website. It really taught me a different light to journalism, and that was super impactful. Also that summer, I was a Cherry Tree Young Literary Conference Intern, where I was able to help mentor high shcool writers in a week long conference at WC! During junior year, I continued with all my previous jobs and internships from sophomore year, and also began working in the Writing Center as a tutor, News Co-Editor of The Elm, as well as a poetry screener for Cherry Tree! I also had the honoor of being inducted into Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honor Society, as well as the Cater Society. 

Year 4

Senior Capstone Experience"The Yellow Wallpaper"

Senior Year I am working on my Senior Capstone Thesis, which is about Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper", and how the "rest cure" for mentally ill women did more damage than any good during the 19th and 20th centuries. I am contiuing with all my extracurriculars, as well as taking on the role of President of our chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, and also applying to graduate schools for Investigative and Broadcast Journalism!