Reading literature encourages the mind to enter new, and sometimes improbable, spheres of experience. Some literary texts inspire us to feel admiration and compassion for unlikely heroes or heroines: a son overwhelmed by the sudden death of his father and his mother's quick remarriage to his despicable uncle, a woman who loses her social standing and whose subsequent humiliation and poverty drive her to suicide, a wife trapped in a loveless marriage, or a daughter who accidentally encounters her birth parents. Others confront us with perplexing concepts: the "ineluctable modality of the visible," "fearful symmetry," and that it can "be very, very dangerous to live even one day." Still others ask us to consider the wondrous properties of the very, very small (a grain of sand, leaves of grass) or the very, very large (a white whale, the Congo); or to observe the world from a multitude of perspectives, from above or below, earlier or later, male or female, east or west, black or white, all at the same time. Literature, too, grants access to scenes or sights that can be neither diagrammed nor charted nor otherwise pictured. How are two lovers like a pair of compasses? How is life like a loaded gun, or love without hope like a hat full of larks? Magnificent new microscopes and telescopes have brought human beings, standing somewhere between the stars and sub-atomic particles, a little closer to both. Literature transports the cosmos into our most private and personal reflections; yet it also shows us how everyday things, the objects and scenery we hardly notice as we trudge through our routines, can be made radiant with a strange beauty. "Poetry," a poet wrote, "purges from our inward sight the film of familiarity which obscures from us the wonder of our being." Literature is not a physical instrument; it is a purely intellectual one. But, like an unfamiliar piece of computer technology, we need to learn how to use it—or we will be left behind; our lives will be seriously diminished. How literature works is what the English major can teach you.
English Literature B.A.
What is English literature?
English literature is the study of literature written in the English language. In this degree program, you’ll become a skilled reader and interpreter of literary works, films, media creations and cultural phenomena. Understanding literature is multidimensional, and includes the consideration of the artistic, historical, cultural and theoretical contexts that inform imaginative creations. The literature major is well suited for students interested in graduate studies in English or law school.
Why study English literature at UNH?
Our small class sizes allow you to work closely with faculty while exploring English literature in depth. We also offer a variety of special programs, including opportunities abroad studying literature at Cambridge University and travel writing in London. In our Writers and Speakers Series, you’ll hear published writers and prominent literary scholars from around the country talk about their work. Our 3+3 program offers the possibility of earning both a bachelor's degree and a law degree in six – rather than seven – years of study.
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