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.
CoursesENGLISH, RHETORIC, AND HUMANISTIC STUDIES
Department of English, Rhetoric, and Humanistic Studies
Department Head: Colonel Miller
Requirements for a major in English are specified in English, Rhetoric, and Humanistic Studies .
Note: A minimum grade of C in ERH 101 , WR 101, or EN 101 is a prerequisite for ERH 102 , and a minimum grade of C in ERH 102 , WR 102, or EN 102 is a prerequisite for all 200- and 300-level English, Rhetoric, and Humanistic Studies courses. All 400-level courses have additional prerequisites, which are listed in the course descriptions or provided in registration materials. These prerequisites may be waived by the department head if there is evidence that the cadet is well prepared for the 400-level course.
200-level courses: These courses build on research-informed writing skills developed in ERH 102 - Writing and Rhetoric II . Major writing assignments are typically 1000 words each, totaling at least 2000 words, and emphasizing close reading, synthesis of ideas, and guided use of sources.
300-level courses: Intermediate courses stressing critical reading of more complex works and research-informed writing. Major writing assignments are typically 1500 words each, totaling at least 3000 words, and emphasizing analysis. Assignments require cadets to demonstrate some originality of thought.
400-level courses: Advanced courses requiring more independent work, substantial reading assignments, writing totaling 400 words, and typically a major course project.