We tell stories, and stories make us human. We use them to tell us what should be, what could be, and the human truth of what now is. We collect them over centuries, tell them to our children, and they define us as cultures. We change our stories, start new ones, rethink old ones and experiment as we shift our sense of who we are and what we value. Take away our stories, and there is not much left of us.
Study in English is a way of knowing our stories, and at USC we approach them critically and creatively. Distinguished faculty and professional writers teach the ways of language, modes of analysis, and varieties of production. We share a core of literatures and genres through the ages, and then emphasize either Literature or Creative Writing, using each to enhance the other. Our innovative Narrative Studies major is interdisciplinary across the entire university. Such studies all take time. “Everyone can read!”—but not everyone can see what is really there or explain why it is there. “Everyone can write!”—but not everyone can write in ways that change lives.
English specializes in thinking clearly and writing well, in contexts that are culturally broad and historically deep. Job skills through stories?—yes. We analyze and organize complex ideas, evaluate qualitative information, anticipate how real audiences respond to language, and study behaviors of complex characters leading uncertain lives with competing values, weighing human costs and human benefits. All writing is creative—fiction or fact, prose or poetry, with sight or sound—and words matter. We develop critical abilities for a successful life, but our stories tell us why life is worth living.
If you have found your way to this “page” you already know about the excitement of Los Angeles, and USC’s engagement with our cultures, arts, and sciences. For a richer sense of what we offer undergraduates, see what we say about Learning Objectives in English. Those who wish to train for a place in our profession should look to our Graduate Program. Specialists can turn toward our Faculty Profiles for our research, our teaching, and our range of interests. And our Courses will describe what we really are doing in any semester.
Check out this video from the 28th Annual Magill Poetry Reading featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa.
Take a look at Dornsife students during the Writing on the Rez Maymester program led by English Professor David Treuer.