The study of literature is the shared core of all English Studies at North Central College. However, the optional literature concentration may be useful to students preparing to teach Secondary Education or planning to pursue graduate study in English. With a concentration in literature, students will develop the research and analytical skills required to interpret texts as wide-ranging as plays, film, novels, poetry, and through these texts, more broadly, past and present cultures. They will learn to apply a variety of critical approaches to literary analysis, including close-reading, psychoanalysis, gender analysis, post-colonial, and other post-modern theory. Senior seminars in literature take advantage of our location amidst a plethora of research libraries to, for example, introduce students to popular nineteenth-century novels in the archives of Northern Illinois University and to works that influenced British Romantic poets in the Morton Arboretum's world-class collection of natural history. Joint faculty-student summer research projects have utilized the resources of the Newberry Library and the University of Chicago to study first editions and the reception history of rare novels.
Many literature students conduct individualized research, resulting in presentations on campus at the annual Rall Symposium, at national undergraduate conferences, and senior honors theses. Independent studies have focused on science fiction, environmental literature, John Donne and George Herbert, Holocaust literature, and applications of queer theory to early modern plays. Recent honors theses in literature interpreted early eighteenth-century Turkish travels and letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, proto-postcolonial poetry and politics of William Butler Yeats, and representations of medieval romance in the poetry of John Keats. Other students have received Richter independent study awards taking them to England and Italy to analyze Bloomsbury Aesthetics, Ireland to interview Seamus Heaney, and London for a comparative study of Richard III.
Recent graduates with literature concentrations and secondary education minors are now teaching high school and middle school in a range of school districts in the Greater Chicago area. Others are pursuing graduate study in English literature or performance studies at the University of Texas, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, New York University, and McGill University. Some choose to apply library research skills learned in the study of literary criticism to earning an M.S. in Library Science at the University of Illinois or Dominican University.