By offering three distinctive programs, with the option of Honors in the Major, the Department of English allows individual students, in consultation with faculty advisers, to personalize their studies while still acquiring the breadth of knowledge and skills of the traditional English major. The curriculum provides extensive courses in the history of British and American literature, in Anglophone literatures from other countries, in literary theory, and in expository as well as creative writing. These diverse courses reflect the interests of students and faculty and the ever-widening area of English literary study.
Students use the concentration in English as a foundation for a variety of careers where the analytic, reading, and writing skills gained in the major are especially valued; as background for advanced training in professional schools (law, medicine, journalism, and business, for example); and for postgraduate work in literature. But the department also regards its goals as helping students become readers of literature and culture throughout their lives.
The Vanderbilt in England program at the University of Leeds and other overseas programs offer opportunities for study and travel that enrich a student's education. The Gertrude Vanderbilt and Harold S. Vanderbilt Visiting Writers series annually sponsors public lectures, readings, and other occasions where English majors hear and meet celebrated poets, novelists, and critics. Many majors write for and serve on the editorial boards of various campus publications including The Hustler, a biweekly newspaper, and The Vanderbilt Review, a distinguished collection of creative writing.