Department of English
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 (Toni Morrison visited in 1987 and read from an unpublished novel titled Beloved).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 language.
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.
Experiential Learning in Editing, Journalism, Printing, Publishing, Scholarship, Writing
We support numerous Internships in career fields where English majors, creative writers, and journalists and editors are in very high demand. You can receive up to four academic credits for an academic internship. If you are interested in doing an internship for credit, contact Dr. Elizabeth O’Connor, the department’s internship coordinator, to discuss your plans and options.
Apply for the Sophie Kerr Promise Grants, a program that gives students funding to support experiemental learning and professional opportunities. Learn more by visiting the Sophie Kerr Promise Grants page.Learn More about Internships
While studying on campus, you can submit your work to several entirely student-led and award-winning publicationsincluding The Collegian (literary magazine), The Elm(newspaper), The Pegasus (yearbook), and The Washington College Review (journal of the liberal arts and sciences). You might also become an editor of one of these publications with a paid internship.
In addition to the big one, the $78,280 Sophie Kerr Prize, there are other opportunities for Washington College writers to make their mark, and make a few bucks. The English department each year awards the Lamond Senior Capstone Award, a $500 cash-prize, for the best SCE in English.
English majors and minors fluent in a language taught at Washington College, such as French, German, Spanish, Italian, or Japanese, may be applicable for certain non-English-language exchange programs that may offer courses on English-language literature.
For students not fluent in another language, the Washington College exchange programs listed below have been known to offer English-language courses suited to English majors and minors (course availability may vary from semester to semester). Please check with Washington College’s Office of International Programs for availability.
Some of the most popular destinations for English Majors are Royal Holloway, University of London; University College Cork, Ireland; University of St Andrews, Scotland; Bond University, Australia; and Yonsei University, South Korea.
Sigma Tau Delta is an international English Honor Society for students who excel in the study of English language and literature.
The Sophie Kerr Legacy
Who was Sophie Kerr?
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 stands as the nation's largest undergraduate literary prize. Each year, Kerr's gift is awarded to a graduating senior who submits a portfolio of their work that is then reviewed by a committee.
Impact of the Endowment on Washington College Experience
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 upcoming literary events sponsored by Sophie Kerr and the Rose O'Neill Literary House. The Sophie Kerr endowment also supports the nation’s largest undergraduate literary prize (large as in $78,820, larger than the Pulitzer Prize).
Sophie Kerr Promise Grants
WC students who are declared English majors may apply for financial support for eligible projects and expenses, up to a total of $3,000 over the course of their time at the College. Individual grants typically range from $500 to $1,500. Students may apply for multiple grants while enrolled, and can use the funds for multiple purposes.
What's Different Here? Let Us Count the Ways
The amount English major Eylie Sasajima received in 2023 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: Guilt in Circe in Homer, Ovid, and Madeline Miller; gender roles in Susanna Rowson's Charlotte Temple; connection between Austen's Pride and Predjudice and Julia The Viscount who Loved Me; social control in Jane Eyre; gender and empire in Frank Herbert's Dune series; Buddhism and the flight motif in Morrison's Song of Solomon; and trauma in Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye.
Sophie Foster's PlanClass of 2024 • Reisterstown, MD • English Major + Creative Writing & Journalism, Editing, and Publishing Minors
Year 1First-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 2Learning 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 3Continuing 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 4Senior 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 PlanClass of 2024 • Perry Hall, MD • English & Psychology Majors +Creative Writing, Gender Studies, and Medieval and Early Modern Studies Minors
Year 1First-Year Experience Becoming 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 2Learning 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 3Continuing 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 4Senior 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 PlanClass of 2024 •Reisterstown, MD • English Major + Education Studies, Creative Writing & Journalism, Editing, and Publishing Minors
Year 1First-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 2Learning 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 3Continuing 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 4Senior 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 PlanClass of 2024 • Bel Air, MD • English Major + Journalism, Editing, and Publishing, Communications and Media Studies, and Theater Minors
Year 1First-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 2Learning 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 3Continuing 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 4Senior 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!