The mission of the English major at VMI is to prepare the citizen-soldier for civic and professional life through disciplined engagement with rhetorical traditions and applications, from the classical to the contemporary. Grounded in a common interest in the varied functions of language, the major integrates multiple disciplinary approaches, including the literary, the philosophical, and the aesthetic. Cadets' command of language is developed both critically and creatively through the study of a range of humanistic works and practice in effective forms of expression.
Rhetoric is both an art and a skill in using language, a means of fostering cooperation among human beings. In this definition "language" encompasses the language of music, art, and philosophy as well as of writing and literature. Through a study of these languages, cadets learn to create and interpret a variety of texts and locate them in their cultural contexts. In the process English majors discover how authors, artists, and philosophers have shaped and been shaped by the values, beliefs, time, and place in which they lived and worked. Cadets thus gain a cultural awareness that will serve them well in today's global society. Given the necessity of digital communication in the twenty-first century, they also learn how to navigate networked writing spaces and to develop multimedia projects for the web. To extend their education beyond the classroom and prepare them to be engaged citizens and professionals, they apply what they have learned to real-world situations in both courses and required internships.
To facilitate English majors' active engagement in their learning, classes in this department are kept small and individual mentoring is emphasized. Students therefore have ample opportunities to pursue individual projects in subjects of their own choosing, and those with particularly strong records are invited to undertake an Honors project in English. Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honor Society, sponsors a range of rich and varied activities that provide opportunities to extend classroom learning and enrich cultural knowledge.
Through both curricular and extracurricular experiences, graduates with this degree are thus well prepared to pursue careers in military service, law, business, civil service, technical and professional writing, education, communications, the arts, and a wide variety of other fields.
The Department of English, Rhetoric, and Humanistic Studies offers four minors for non-majors and four concentrations for majors: Art History and Visual Culture, Literary Studies, Philosophy, and Rhetoric and Writing.
Major in English, Rhetoric, and Humanistic Studies
Concentrations in English, Rhetoric, and Humanistic Studies
Minors in English, Rhetoric, and Humanistic Studies