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In its Mission Statement, St. Thomas University identifies itself as a university “primarily concerned with people, ideas, and values,” and affirms that we are united in the belief that women and men of divergent backgrounds and abilities should have an opportunity to learn and practice critical thought and to realize their intellectual potential in an academic setting that is both responsive and stimulating. The English department shares this commitment to helping students understand that human knowledge and values arise out of striving for excellence in contexts that treasure diversity and inclusiveness. The department seeks to attain these goals by engaging students with expressions of human consciousness represented primarily in literary texts.

Like all other departments within the university, the English department provides students with opportunities designed to develop an appreciation of the origins, complexity, and functions of human knowledge. In particular, the department engages students in processes of critical inquiry and sustained argument based primarily on textual evidence. Reading, writing, listening, and speaking are integral parts of a process that we hope students will see as valid and essential modes for individual and communal fullness of life. The aim is the ultimate aim of liberal education: to enable students to participate in the conversations of humankind.

What distinguishes literary study is that it encourages appreciation of the affective and aesthetic dimensions of human lives. Like the rational and the spiritual, the aesthetic is a unique way of experiencing, knowing, and being in the world. For the student of literature and language, reading is more than taking in content. Reading an imaginative text is a lived-through engagement with the ethical and political world it evokes, so that we experience the best and worst of human motives, aspirations, and relationships. Literary experience and literary study are modes of liberal inquiry that provide us with a means for exploring, knowing, and understanding ourselves and our worlds. We see literature as integral to our culture, past and present; and, because it is founded on an assumption that all discourse is situated in human conduct and purpose, the discipline of literary study is an ongoing quest to understand relationships and meanings created when authors, texts, and readers come together in textual community. What further distinguishes literary study is that we seek to provide students with opportunities to study closely the medium of literary discourse. Literary study assumes that readers must look not only through text, but at it – its language, functions, and effects.