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Prospective Students

Message from the Director of Undergraduate Studies
Margaret Loose

Professor Margaret Loose

Dear Prospective Student,

I want to welcome you to UCSD and the Undergraduate Program in Literature.  I came to literature later in life, after an undergraduate degree in Biology and some years working in a cardiology lab after quitting medical school.  And why did I switch paths from science to literature?  In short, because every poem, novel, short story, and play I read seemed urgently relevant to me, my questions and problems and crises as a person struggling to find myself and my place in my early 20s.  Books changed me, changed how I treated my mom, how I saw social justice issues and politics and religion, changed how I argued with people, and I liked the person I was becoming under their influence.  I liked that person so much that I quit my job and went back to school full time to study Literature.  I wanted to commit to seeing the world in this new, more nuanced, more honest, more humble, and yes, more accurate way.  I wanted to hone my ability to see a question from many angles, to have a mind large enough to take in multiple possibilities, tensions, and interpretations, so that I could engage with the world as it really is: people and politics and law and medicine are not simple formulas, one-dimensional or flat entities you can arrogantly pick up in a sound bite or a single article on your favorite web site.  Reality is complex, multi-layered, full of competing interests and legitimate possibilities, and if you lack the ability to hold all those messy facts in your hands or mind at the same time—an ability that literary studies more than any other major will give you—then you’re short-changing yourself and everyone around you.  You’re not actually dealing with reality, as it fundamentally is.  The habits of mind that literary studies instill in you are precisely the habits of mind that make you grasp the world as it truly is, not as some simplistic cartoon that others might have you believe it is.

The Department of Literature is a place where the study of history and culture takes place through our analytical and creative engagement with various kinds of texts, i.e., literature (poetry, fiction, drama), literary theories and philosophy, films and other visual and multimedia productions (TV dramas, musical videos, graffiti, photography among others).   We offer a wide range of courses that you can tailor into the right clusters for you, such as

• Language Studies (e.g. American Sign Language, Ancient Greek, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Korean, Latin, Russian, Spanish)
• Literary Studies (e.g. "Vampires in Literature," "Kafka," Asian American literature, South Asian Literatures in English)
• Film Studies (e.g. "Akira Kurosawa," Italian Cinema, "Woody Allen from Manhattan to Paris," "New European Cinema")
• Cultural Studies and Popular Culture Studies (e.g. "Urban Scenes in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan," "Reading American Television," "Bob Dylan," "Queer Subcultures")
• Creative Writing (in English and Spanish)
• Translation Studies (See Alchemy: Journal of Translation)
• National Histories and Cultures (e.g. The Harlem Renaissance, Philippine Literature, Russian-American Fiction, British Poetry)
• "Transnational/Trans-regional/Trans-continental Histories and Culture Studies and Globalization Studies (e.g. "South Asian Traditions: Buddhism and Hinduism," European Modernism, Modern African Film and Literature, Latino/a American Studies and Latin American Literatures Major, Globalization and Culture, "Health, Global Warming and Public Education")

We ground our educational program in historical knowledge, in the diverse cultures and cultural productions of the world and in our faculty’s concrete expertise on the fast changing globe. What does it mean to be a CRITICAL global citizen of the 21st Century for you?

All of our majors teach foundational skills, i.e., critical reading, thinking and writing. Critical thinking can be best acquired, we believe, by learning to "close read" texts, by developing your ideas through moderated discussion of texts with your peers, and by learning to think through writing.   These critical reading, writing, and thinking skills perform foundational roles for a wide range of careers, from creative writing to law, business to medical humanities to public relations, from politics to education, translating to publishing and editing. These are the most general ideas, and we can help you dig in to find out the details on them and many more. Also check out our link to Careers in Literature.  Whatever you do, enjoy your education and trust yourself and your creativity to make it a foundation for your future life.

During our office hours, you can visit any faculty members whose courses you are interested in taking, or visit me (Margaret Loose, Director of Undergraduate Studies) or our Undergraduate Advisor. Bring us your concerns and questions, your curiosities and interests. We are here to listen to you and to help you imagine, create, plan and execute the most rewarding and fun educational experience at UC, San Diego for yourself.

You can also subscribe yourself to the litnotices-l mailing list, where you will receive notices on lectures and events including those that are directly relevant to the undergraduate program.

On behalf of all of us, welcome to Literature!


Literatures in English

To study Literatures in English at UCSD is to become acquainted with the wide range of Anglophone writing both here at home and in the rest of the world. Our major gives students the opportunity to read English-language literature written by writers located in the United States, the British Isles, and many other locations worldwide, such as India, South Africa, and the Caribbean. We offer courses on a wide and varied range of topics, including the British novel, African-American Prose, Contemporary Caribbean Literature, the American Renaissance, Chaucer, Chicano Literature, New American Poetry, Asian American Literature, Victorian Poetry, Animals in Literature, Literature of the U.S. West, Science Fiction, and many more. The LTEN major introduces you to the history of literature and writing, acquaints you with a variety of historical periods and geographical and cultural regions of English language and writing, creates an awareness of methods and theories of literary and cultural analysis, and provides continued training in critical writing.

You can view the official major requirements for Literatures in English in the UCSD General Catalog. We also have more detailed information on our current students' Literatures in English major page.

Spanish Literature

Students majoring in Spanish can choose to concentrate on either Spanish or Latin American literature. All students, however, are encouraged to take courses in the various national literatures as well as in Chicano literature for a broad background in Spanish language literatures.

You can view the official major requirements for Spanish Literature in the UCSD General Catalog. We also have more detailed information on our current students' Spanish Literature major page.

World Literature and Culture

World Literature and Culture allows students to design an intellectually rigorous plan of courses with the flexibility to explore multiple areas of interest. Four broad options are possible: 1) focus on a single non-Anglophone language, literature, and culture; 2) focus on literature and culture of a historical period prior to 1800; 3) focus on the literature and culture of a geographical region (Europe, the Americas, East Asia, Africa, or the Mediterranean); 4) focus on cultural production in a variety of media, including courses on film and television, digital media, and music, as well as courses on the history of the book and translation.

In all of its variants, the World Literature and Culture major aims to provide students with broad cultural literacy and critical thinking skills—in language, literature, visual media, social practices, and theories of interpretation—which are basic, necessary cornerstones of a humanities education. The undergraduate major in World Literature and Culture seeks to develop literacy in a range of traditional and modern cultural forms (literature, film, and the visual arts) and methods for interpreting these cultural forms in a way that will prepare students to engage with a society whose literature and culture is, and will become increasingly, diverse, international, and multilingual.

You can view the official major requirements for World Literature and Culture in the UCSD General Catalog. We also have more detailed information on our current students' World Literature and Culture major page.


When Professor Rae Armantrout (recipient of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry) asked a former student about her time at UCSD this is what she had to say"

"The thing I love about UCSD's literature/writing major is that the program gives you a lot of space to figure out your interests. There are so many genres available for you to explore. You can take a class in experiemental cross genre work or science fiction and fantasy. You can write epic poems. You can do whatever you need to do to grow as a writer.  The program is also situated within a larger literature department, so there's an understanding of the connection between reading deeply and writing deeply and you have access to all these amazing literature classes while you're taking writing workshops. For instance, I was able to take a world mythology class which gave me a deeper understanding of the archetypes I was using in my poems when I made mythological references. Also, the teachers are working writers passionate about their craft and that shows in the way they teach. I really enjoyed my time in the program."

-Keely Hyslop
BA in Literature/Writing, UCSD, 2006

Keely's book manuscript "Things I Say to Pirates on Nights when I miss you" was recently chosen by the SFSU's Michael Rubin Book Award and will be published this October.

You can view the official major requirements for Literature/Writing in the UCSD General Catalog. We also have more detailed information on our current students' Literature/Writing major page.

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