Students concentrating in literary studies choose coursework from a wide range of periods and genres. Courses within a given time period may be taken more than once; they focus on a different topic each time they are offered. Faculty bring their research into the classroom, involving students in cutting-edge conversations about literary texts and theoretical concerns.
The literary studies study plan spells out requirements. Electives allow students to take classes in other concentrations as well. The Graduate Program offers interdisciplinary literary study through affiliated programs in British Studies, Film Studies, and Women's Studies. Our relationship with the famous Newberry Library in Chicago allows students to participate in workshops and attend lectures there. Graduate students also have access to the University of Illinois library's massive collection.
Students concentrating in literary studies with creative writing emphasis choose coursework from various genres: workshops are offered in writing creative nonfiction, fiction, drama, and poetry. All creative writing classes follow a workshop format and may be taken more than once.
The creative writing study plan spells out requirements, which include both literature and creative writing classes, as well as a one-hour course in creative writing as a profession, covering such topics as publishing and presenting in public venues. Creative writing faculty, who publish and present widely, introduce their students to contemporary writers, texts, and publishing venues through classes and readings. In their final semester, students write a thesis in their chosen genre.
Creative writing students have the opportunity to work with faculty who are actively engaged in writing and publishing their own work as well as editing that of others. Two literary journals are housed at Eastern:Vehicle and Bluestem. The Winnie Davis Neely and James Johnson Creative Writing awards recognize outstanding student work. Students have the opportunity to present their work both on and off campus, and to hear the many outside speakers. The Emerging Artists series, for example, brings young writers to campus to read their work; the Alan Neff reading features a well-known poet. Recent Neff readers have included Ann Waldman, Rosemarie and Keith Waldrop, Jerome Rothenberg, Kwami Dass, Bruce Guernsey, and John Kinsella.
Students concentrating in professional writing take courses that prepare them for careers in such fields as grant writing, public relations, technical writing, and publishing. Required classes include Professional Editing and the professional writing internship. The newly developed ENG/COMM 5260, Communication in Science and Technical Communications allows writing students to work with graduate students enrolled in our new MS in Sustainable Energy, dealing with writing and communication issues in the real-world context of EIU's new Renewable Energy Center. Co-taught by faculty in English and Communication Studies, the course addresses such issues as corporate ethics, crisis management, and environmental activism. In addition, special topics and independent studies offer professional writing students the opportunity for in-depth exploration of a specific issue or skill.
The professional writing study plan spells out requirements, which leave ample room for electives. These electives might include literature or creative writing classes, or a graduate-level class offered by another department.
Professional writing classes meet in computer labs, where students learn to use a wide range of software programs. Recent interns have worked at Sarah Bush Lincoln Hospital, Lake Land College, Carle Hospital, Catholic Charities, and Soup Stop. Professional writing faculty share their experience in a wide range of venues and media. In their final semester, students may write a thesis on a relevant issue, take an exam, or work with an actual client to produce the kind of project they might pursue in their professional life. Recent projects have included brochures and training manuals for non-profit institutions.
The composition and rhetoric study plan spells out requirements, which include a course in composition pedagogy as well as a special topics course—a course that deals with a different topic each time it is offered. Recent courses have focused on developmental writing, creative writing pedagogy, genre theory, and the evaluation of writing.
Many K–12 teachers select this concentration, bringing their hands-on perspective to the classroom. Students learn about successful classroom practices from each other as well as from faculty with a wide range of teaching experiences. Students concentrating in Composition/Rhetoric may take a class in mentored composition teaching — which places them in a writing classroom, working with the instructor to plan and teach the class — and, if they are graduate assistants, may apply to teach a first-year writing class on their own during their second year in the program.
Full time teachers with a year of experience may earn an 18-hour Certificate in the Teaching of Writing. Interested teachers should start by applying to the Eastern Illinois Writing Project; completion of that summer program provides 6 hours of graduate credit toward the certificate (18 total credits) and/or toward the MA in English (30 total credits plus a thesis).
Recent graduates in Composition and Rhetoric have gone on to Ph.D. programs, such as at Illinois State University and the University of Washington, and to teaching positions at a range of two-year colleges, including Rock Valley College, Parkland College, and Lake Land College.