English and Creative Writing

Academic Department Introduction

We believe literary study to be creative and critical in equal measure. Our courses range from introductory writing to in-depth studies of influential writers, genres, historical periods, theories, and themes in English, American, and world literatures in English. Critical courses span a broad range of topics and approaches, from Shakespeare to the Harlem Renaissance to speculative fiction. Numerous courses in creative writing include poetry, creative nonfiction, writing for children, and writing for film, television, and video games. Our creative writing and critical courses are not separated from each other but closely intertwined and mutually supportive. In all courses, we foster and develop a deep, complex, passionate response to literary language.

Learning goals

  • Acquire a knowledge of English literary history, including canonical and contemporary works from diverse traditions.
  • Recognize and demonstrate an ability to work with critical methodologies employed in the discipline of literary studies.
  • Read literature with deep attention and responsiveness to content, language, and form.

Programs of study

English major and minor

Students form and develop the skills of analysis, interpretation, and argument through the intensive study of writers and their works in literary, cultural, and historical contexts.

English and creative writing major

In addition to acquiring the skills of analysis, interpretation, and argument, students develop a distinctive literary voice and study the history and cross-cultural diversity of the genres, traditions, and styles in which they are working.

Course Highlights

  • The term “speculative fiction” has emerged as an inclusive gesture towards the most exciting fiction being written right now. Under its umbrella thrive fiction categories like Gothic, horror, science fiction, fantasy, magical realism, dystopian, and environmental fiction (plus heady blends of all these).Writers of color, Indigenous writers, LGBTQIA+ writers have figured prominently in the contemporary (post 2000) explosion of speculative fiction—writing about “what if” in the future or in the past has proved liberating as a critique of colonial legacies, an exploration of transcultural and transnational experiences in the lives of immigrants, and a re-imagining of gender.Entering the world of Anglophone speculative fiction requires, too, reflecting on the particular historical and cultural contexts of these texts and exploring the speculative fiction genre through scholarly essays and online literary magazines. Among the authors: Helen Oyeyemi, Vandana Singh, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, Larissa Lai, and Claire Colman. (CPLT 319 and ENG 319 are cross-listed courses.)
  • Christopher Isherwood’s autofictional Berlin Stories (1945)—featuring Sally Bowles, immortalized by Liza Minelli—inspired John Van Druten’s play I Am a Camera and, later, the film adaptation (1951, 1952). These, in turn, inspired the musical Cabaret (1966). The legendary Bob Fosse directed and choreographed Cabaret for the screen (1972); the rest is cinematic history. On stage or screen, Cabaret departs from novel and play. The famed musical transforms the ‘original,’ taking the Cabaret as motif and theme, a seedy nightclub run by a sinister Master of Ceremonies. Joel Grey was the original Emcee, while Alan Cumming reinterpreted the role in Sam Mendes’ West End and Broadway productions (1998, 2014). Amid these adaptations and revivals, Isherwood published Christopher and His Kind, shedding further light on his nocturnal Berlin years (1976). This memoir was dramatized for the screen, which at last reveals the ‘real’ Sally Bowles, Jean Ross (2011). An intertextual mesh of media, stories, genres, authors, characters, and agendas, the history of Cabaret is an exciting story in itself. In this course, we will analyze most of the works mentioned, while tracing the intertextuality and history of Cabaret. That history includes the ‘divine decadence’ of the Weimar Republic, the rise of Nazism, and the beginnings of the Second World War. But the lives and afterlives of Cabaret also trace a complex queer genealogy, before and after Stonewall, which continues to this day. Fulfills the Diversity of Literatures in English requirement. (CPLT 283 and ENG 283 are cross-listed courses.)

Research highlights

  • Yoon Sun Lee stands in front of the classroom. A screen behind her shows a colorful array of butterflies.

    In her most recent book, The Natural Laws of Plot (Penn Press, 2022), Professor Yoon Sun Lee argues that plot cannot be considered merely as an abstract shape or form. In realist novels, plot is interested not only in human aims but in non-human forces, laws, and structures that operate at various scales independently of any character’s intention or desire. Emerging together with natural philosophy, the plots of realist novels helped envision a unified, objective world within and against which any action unfolds.

  • Cord Whitaker leads a discussion ast a table with seven students sitting and watching him.

    Professor Cord Whitaker’s research asks how the Middle Ages matter to the modern study of race and racism. His book, Black Metaphors (Penn Press, 2019), uses rhetoric, theology, and literature to establish the variety of medieval treatments of color and difference. Black Metaphors illuminates the process by which one interpretation among many became established as the truth, and demonstrates how modern movements—from Black Lives Matter to the alt-right—are animated by the medieval origins of the black-white divide.

  • Tavi González reads a book to an audience.

    Limerence (Rebel Satori Press, 2023), a poetry collection by Professor Tavi González, probes the inextricable tension, pain, pleasure, and danger in relationships between men. González’s experiences of love, sexual desire, and romance are not sentimental, as they are often intertwined with questions of consent and violence. Poignant and searing, the poems ask readers to appreciate and reexamine the meaning of love, trust, and safety.


  • Internships

    The Writing Program and the Department of English and Creative Writing jointly sponsor funded summer internships at Slate, W.W. Norton & Company, Maven Screen Media, Calligraph, and Speculum.

  • Special Collections

    The College owns first and early editions of many novels and poetry collections, illuminated manuscripts, and 573 love letters between the Victorian poets Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning, which students are invited to view.

Beyond Wellesley

Beyond Wellesley

Many of our alums work in publishing, journalism, media, education, and the tech industry. They hold positions as writers, editors, and teachers, among other professions. Recent employers include Scholastic, Google, Hachette Book Group, and MIT.

Department of English & Creative Writing

Founders Hall
106 Central Street
Wellesley, MA 02481
Yoon Lee
Department Chair