Department Profile

Mission Statement

The English department believes that "nothing matters but the kingdom of God, but because of the kingdom, everything, literally everything, matters." (Gordon Spykman, Dordt College commencement 1988, "Kingdoms in Conflict")

From that perspective, we teach students how to read poems, stories, plays, and essays. Such reading requires examining how an author uses language to create imagined worlds and to communicate meaning. It also requires that the reader examine how literature from a variety of time periods and cultures challenges or affirms our values and enriches our lives. We aim to foster life-long reading in all our students.

We also demand that students respond to specific selections they read as well as to the broader world in which they live. Thus we teach our students to write poems, stories, essays, and research papers, all of which may help them articulate their Christian understanding of literature and life.

Because we expect all of our graduates will write for publication, we aim to teach them to write clearly, concisely, and forcefully so that the ideas they express and the causes they represent will be advanced.

Program Strengths

  • A Christian perspective is integral to our teaching-not something to tack on. We create opportunities for our students to wrestle with the difficulties of figuring out what it means to live and think Christianly.
  • Faculty are engaging and challenging teachers, accessible and devoted mentors, and have a high level of quality scholarship and service.
  • We have a resident writer with a strong publishing record.
  • Our program balances a strong foundation with flexible course offerings.
  • We have a strong English education program (with a 100 percent teacher placement in 2010) and faculty with many years of high school teaching experience.
  • Our students publish and present in a variety of venues.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

  1. To write with clarity, precision, and grace in a variety of forms and for a variety of audiences.
  2. To perceive literature as a way of knowing: We should understand that fiction, while not literally true, enables us to experience truth about being human. For example, Jesus's story of the Good Samaritan enabled the Pharisee to discover who his neighbor was as no other means could.
  3. To read critically: We engage literature, discerning its truths, lies, and assumptions; we respond to its challenges and to its attempts to tell the truth.
  4. To develop the skills to interpret and the knowledge to understand literature from a variety of time periods and cultures.
  5. To apply the skills of interpretation throughout their lives not only to literature but also biblical studies, art, music, and film.
  6. To find a Reformed place to stand on language and literature. Here our starting point is that "nothing is ever so utterly wrong that it's unredeemable. And nothing is ever so completely right that it needs no reforming." (Gordon Spykman, "Kingdoms in Conflict.")
  7. To be independent learners, able to search for, assess, and integrate information on literature as well as other subjects.