Welcome to the new website of the English Department at the Hebrew University. If you are interested in studying literature in English, this is the place for you. I hope by this brief introductory letter to give you a sense of what the department has to offer...
--Why study literature?
Let me begin by saying a few words about the programme: we are a literature department and our main goal is the study of literature written in English. We want to understand how literary texts work, and to root that understanding in a strong knowledge of English, American and other Anglophone literary traditions.
The study of literature is the pursuit of a passion. There is no better reason to choose a degree in literature than to invest in one's love of reading. At the same time, literary analysis has a unique power to enter into dialogue with other discourses; it informs, and in turn is enriched by the rhetoric of law, politics, psychoanalysis, philosophy, opening up each of these fields to interdisciplinary critique.
Accordingly, our students come to the Department with a broad range of interests and aspirations; some view academia as their calling while others complement studies in law, psychology or international relations with the development of language and writing skills, and an education in the humanities, which greatly contribute to their personal and professional development.
You will notice that teachers in our Department ascribe to different methods of teaching—these methods reflect diverse views on how to read a literary work, and sometimes conflicting notions of what makes a book great. Methodological variety is something we try to foster. One of the most important challenges facing the humanities (and especially literature departments) is to come up with new approaches, new ways of thinking about timeless questions. Our aim is to do justice to the singularity of every text, to attune the ear to stylistic specificities. I encourage you to pay attention to the different thought processes that your teachers display, and to the signature ways in which they approach a literary work. And I hope you will feel strongly about some of these approaches.
--Why study literature in English?
English is not one national literature amongst many. It is a vast discipline that includes American Studies, Irish literature, South African literature, and that spans worlds as far apart as Medieval England and contemporary America: we study the works of Chaucer and Marlowe, Shakespeare and Milton, Austen and Dickens, Emily and Charlotte Bronte, Melville and Twain, Hawthorne and Poe, Henry James and T.S. Eliot; the enduring influence of Victorian attitudes and the global reach of Hollywood culture.
Moreover, English is the language of the scientific community--the language of international literary conferences and, crucially, the privileged idiom of prestigious academic journals worldwide. The English Department offers courses in academic writing, and provides literary scholars with training to write, read and think critically in English.
I should like to conclude by saying a few words about the extra-curricular frameworks in our Department. These provide opportunities for you to participate in the life of the Department outside the classroom. We encourage you to organize reading groups or to join existing ones. We have a Film club, and on occasion we also organize informal public lectures (in the past we have had public lectures on Wuthering Heights, Romeo and Juliet, Alice in Wonderland, and the Harry Potter books). Visit the community page on our website for details.