The English faculty at Ouachita believes that through your diligent study of the English language and literature, you will gain practical skills. You will learn to read carefully and analytically, looking for ways the parts relate to the whole. You will wrestle with complex ideas, ambiguity and multiple interpretations. You will learn more words, and you will learn more about words–their histories, complexities and mysteries. In short, you will learn to read complex texts and you will learn to write more clearly. Whether your future holds law school, Sunday school, high school, or homeschool, your diligent studies in English will enrich your work for God’s kingdom.
To these very useful skills of analysis, synthesis, and verbal expression, studying English will increase your appreciation for beauty and design. You will study the forms of literature in a way that will allow you to move beyond impulsive reactions to works of art; you will gain an appreciation for whatever is truly lovely, and you will discriminate between the tawdry and the genuine, the false and the true, the mediocre and the excellent.
Because literature by its very nature explores what it means to be a human being, it confronts the questions that humans have always faced, questions about fate and free will, about our place in the cosmos, about our relationships with each other. Literature does not merely tell us about these questions; rather, literature presents human experiences in a concrete form. Thus, if we as readers will submit ourselves momentarily to the premises and demands of the work before us, then we can safely encounter a limitless number of human stories. We agree with C.S. Lewis, who describes the expansive effects of reading by saying “I become a thousand men and yet remain myself.”
Above all, while there are many skills we gain from studying language and literature, we believe that such study changes us; we study literature not merely for what it will do for us, but for the great good it does to us.
On behalf of the English Department faculty, I hope you will be enriched and challenged by your studies in English. God be with you.
Dr. Doug Sonheim
Professor of English