The Department of English
Through the work of research, service, and teaching, The Department of English is committed to the premise that language and literature reflect and shape the world in which we live. Faculty members conduct ongoing research in an array of sub-fields and interdisciplinary contexts and contribute to academic conversations occurring among humanities scholars on national and international levels. The nationally renowned Writers Conference brings great authors and opportunities for literary discussion to the larger community. Teaching at a wide range of levels, from first-year writers to Ph.D. students, the Department demonstrates the pleasures and value of a liberal arts education by emphasizing critical and creative thinking, by helping students think thoughtfully about cultural diversity, and by teaching strong written communication skills. In the Department of English, students at all levels of the curriculum are prepared for lives of public citizenship as they learn to analyze texts within complex cultural situations, to write and to think rhetorically, and to engage with diverse perspectives.
As long as any of us can remember, there has been an old parka in the glass case in Merrifield Hall, at the south end of the English Department. The little plaque reads: "This caribou coat, made by an Eskimo woman, was worn by Ben Eielson, an alumnus of the University of North Dakota and noted Arctic explorer, on his epochmaking flights in the north country (Produced and presented by the Blue Key Society)."
None of us still uses the term "Eskimo," and we are not sure who the Blue Key Society was, or why the parka is on display in Merrifield Hall, but forgive us for thinking that it sums up something about us--not just because, metonymically, it reminds us there is something north of Grand Forks (Winnipeg, Churchill, Hudson's Bay--indeed almost all of Canada is north of us). It also characterizes (metaphorically) the way we have evolved as a department, and the way we are sometimes a mystery to ourselves. The word "diversity" doesn't quite say it.
Our department is often characterized by particular specialties: a successful creative writing program and the Summer Institute of Linguistics. We are affiliated with two literary magazines: the North Dakota Quarterly, which is edited here, and Middle Eastern Literatures (formerly Edebiyât) , one of whose co-editors is on our faculty.