How do I declare a literature major?

You may have indicated that you intended to major in literature when you entered the university, but you may still need to declare that major formally. To do so, you will need to pick up a Declaration of Major form at Student Records. Stacks of this form are usually available in the Campus Center, Suite 203. The form requires you to choose a major and a track (or concentration) within that major. (Clicking on “Program Tracks” in the nav bar will take you to a list of the tracks offered in Literature. Clicking on each track title will take you to a complete description of that track’s requirements.) Should you be unsure about which track you wish to pursue, you should contact one of the literature program faculty. Any of us will sit down with you to discuss which track is the best choice for you. Once you have decided on a track, and you and a program faculty member have signed the form, return it to the Center for Academic Advising. Once they have processed the form, you’re a literature major.

If you have not already been assigned a literature preceptor, you should do so when you declare the major. (It’s a good time to do it, since you can choose a preceptor via the same form.) Reasons for doing so, as well as a list of program faculty and other information you may need about the precepting process, appear below.

What do I need to know about precepting?

Precepting is Stockton’s term for advising. When you enter the university, you are assigned a specific faculty or administrator to act as your advisor throughout your Stockton career. You should contact this person with any questions you have about any aspect of your university career. If she does not know the answer to your question, she will direct you to someone who does. While you may schedule individual appointments throughout the year with your preceptor, each semester the university sets aside two days–one on a Tuesday or Thursday, the other on a Wednesday–when classes are cancelled for all students to meet with their preceptors. Take advantage of this set-up and meet with your preceptor. While you are ultimately responsible for making sure you meet the university’s graduation requirements, meeting with a preceptor may prevent you from taking courses you don’t need or some other scheduling blunder that costs you and your loved ones time and money.

As a literature major, you need to make sure that your preceptor is a member of the literature program faculty even if you were not initially assigned to one. The literature program faculty know the program requirements best, can answer questions about those requirements best. (By the same logic, should you decide to change your major to business, we would recommend that you find a faculty member in that program to precept you.)

If you were not assigned a literature program preceptor when you entered the university, you will need to pick up a Change of Preceptor form from Student Records. These forms can be found in the Campus Center, Suite 203. If you have not already done so, simply go to the program member’s office hours, ask in class, or email him with your request. Once he has said okay, you just get the signature and return the form to the Center for Academic Advising. You do not need a signature from the preceptor you are leaving, though you might speed the process along by getting in touch with that person and collecting your file from her and delivering it to your new preceptor.

How do I figure out which English courses from my community college count for program credit?

If you have indicated that you wish to major in literature when you entered Stockton, the folks in academic advising did an initial allocation based on this information. They will have put many courses at-some-distance, designated certain courses as G’s and put others in your program/cognate area. You should then meet with a LITT preceptor (the process of getting one is described above) and have her go over your transfer transcript again to be sure that the program/cognate allocation is correct. You may have taken a number of English courses at a community college, but not all will count for program credit or for the sorts of program credit you might have supposed they would.

Composition courses, for instance, go at-some-distance, even if they have an ENG or ENGL acronym. Any other literature course will generally net you program credit. As most students need many additional credits in program/cognate courses beyond the specific course requirements, these courses go toward meeting those credit requirements. We also allow transfer students to substitute 200-level literature coursework from a community college for our 2000-level course requirements in specific tracks. However, no literature coursework from a community college will meet our 3000-level requirements, even if the course titles or subject matter are similar to those you might find in the Stockton catalogue or course schedules. We don’t accept 1000- and 2000-level courses as replacements for our 3000–junior and senior–level requirements. As indicated above, we do accept them for credit, just not as credit for specific upper-level coursework.

How do I figure out which English courses from another four-year college count for program credit?

The same procedure described in the question above about community college credit also applies here–with one difference. While no community college course may substitute for junior- or senior-level (3000 and 4000-level) literature program requirements, junior- and senior-level courses from a four-year college may very well substitute. The question of whether or not they will do so may be settled by describing the content of the course or providing a syllabus. Sometimes your literature preceptor may be able to make the call; sometimes the program needs to be consulted. If you are meeting with your preceptor to discuss literature course allocation, it’s always a good idea to have as much information about the courses you want to substitute for upper-level program requirements as possible. If you no longer have a syllabus, you need to be able to describe the course’s content, what you read, what you wrote, special projects, etc. If the substitution is very straightforward, you may not be called on to provide this information, but it never hurts to be prepared to do so.

What courses work as cognates for literature?

Any course offered by a program in the Division of Arts and Humanities counts as a literature program cognate. These include courses in Visual Arts (ARTV), Performing Arts (ARTP), Communications (COMM), Languages & Culture Studies (LANG), History (HIST), and Philosophy (PHIL).

Please note that G courses do not count as cognates even if they include content in one of these subject areas.

What sort of work will I do in the major?

 As a Literature major, you will do a significant amount of reading, analyzing, and writing about texts. Most of your courses will be discussion-based, allowing you to dig deeply into the meanings and histories of the texts under study. The skills you learn will be portable, meaning you can apply them to countless other contexts. In other words, you will learn how to use the tools of literary analysis in service of broader cultural critique. On a practical level, you will learn several tangible skills that will help you excel at a variety of professions.

 Your first core course, Literary Interpretation, introduces you to the study of literature. You’ll learn terminology and strategies for approaching and analyzing various kinds of texts, and—as a W1 course—you’ll learn the fundamentals of writing a strong, persuasive literary analysis paper at the college level.  In the companion core course Literary Research, you will learn research methods that are fundamental to the discipline of literary study. Through several linked assignments that span the semester, you will learn to locate, understand, and incorporate secondary sources into your literary analyses, preparing you to undertake a significant research project grounded in a primary literary text by the semester’s conclusion. The senior seminar, your capstone course in the program, generally requires a 20- to 25-page research paper with an annotated bibliography, as well as an oral presentation on your research.

 During your 2000-level coursework, expect classes to require on average about 75 pages of reading a week, an exam or two over the course of the semester, perhaps a group project or presentation, and 2 or 3 shorter papers. In your advanced coursework, expect on average about 125 pages of reading a week and 20-30 pages of written work over the semester, including formal papers that require the use of secondary sources; you will likely take exams and give presentations in these courses as well.  Students in the creative writing concentration will continue the practice of close reading and analysis with an eye toward craft and literary technique, and you will have the opportunity to experiment writing your own poetry, short fiction, creative nonfiction and plays.

 In short, the work you do as a Literature major will help you turn your love of reading and writing into a marketable set of professional skills that employers consistently desire—skills such as clear and persuasive writing, problem solving, critical thinking, advanced research methods, organization, project management, public speaking, and teaching. It will also enrich your life by deepening the quality of your engagement with books, films, advertisements, visual art, and other cultural “texts.” The major prepares you for exciting career prospects and for a rewarding life of ongoing learning.

What is the recommended courseload?

Taking the 16-credit courseload (four 4-credit courses) as the norm, we recommend that you avoid taking more than two 3000-level courses at a time–or one 3000-level course and the Senior Seminar–and not more than three literature courses total. The amount of reading and writing involved in literature courses at all levels, but particularly at the junior- and senior- level, not to mention presentations and various projects involving technology can swamp even the best student. (See the question above for a more specific account of the work involved in typical courses at all levels.) We want to work you hard, but we don’t want to kill you.

One of the reasons that we advise transfer students to meet with a program preceptor as soon as possible after being admitted to the university is to insure that they work out schedules that won’t be too much for them. Often transfer students come in with few courses to take beyond program requirements. This can mean a heavier workload than we may advise. In such cases, we will look at both the timeline and requirements and try to plot the least painful schedule we can manage over time.

Do I need to get particular grades in my literature courses to advance through the program?

You must earn an overall grade of C or better in all program and cognate courses in order to receive credit for those courses in your major (you will not receive credit for a C-).

Thus, if you receive a D in a program course, even though that grade is technically passing, it will not net you program credit for that course. Additionally, if you fail to get a C or better in Literary Research, a prerequisites for other courses, you will not be able to advance to those other courses. Less than a C in Research means you can’t advance to 3000-level courses. You will be required to repeat the course until you earn a C or better. You would also be required to repeat courses that are specifically required for your track.

Should you not receive a C or better in a course that fulfilled a more general 2000-level or 3000-level requirement, you would not have to repeat that particular course, but would need to take another course to fulfill the requirement.

What is the process for getting a letter of recommendation from one of my literature professors?

There is no formal process, but we will recommend a few guidelines. You need to think about who could recommend you and why; you need to be polite and you need to provide a reasonable timeframe for your request.

We are happy to write recommendations; we regard it as both a pleasure and a duty. Don’t be afraid to ask for a recommendation because you don’t want to bother us.

At the same time, there are bad reasons for asking for recommendations. If you’ve done lackluster work in a class, but figure you’ll ask your professor for a recommendation because you’ve done worse in other classes, rethink that request. If you’re frequently absent from a class or missing work, don’t ask for a recommendation from your professor in that class. Most of us will try to make you look as good as we can in letters of recommendation, but if you’ve shown us that you don’t take our classes seriously, we’re not going to be eager to write for you or to make you look good. So look at your own performance in our courses before asking us to recommend you.

If you feel you can reasonably ask us for a recommendation, we would advise you to ask in person. Yet we also realize that because of scheduling conflicts this is not always possible. E-mail and phone requests are fine in such cases–as long as you’re not demanding that the faculty member get back to you ASAP. And make every effort, if you’re phoning, to reach the person yourself. After all, you need the favor. E-mail, indeed, may be a better route than phoning for this reason. If you make a request and don’t hear anything back in a week, a polite follow-up is probably a good idea. Indicate what the recommendation is for, have the appropriate forms and any additional material the faculty member may need ready. Should he ask for materials you hadn’t thought of, try to get them to him in a timely fashion. Also be very clear about the date the recommendation is due. And provide a stamped and addressed envelope for the recommendation, whether it is going back to you or to a third party. You should have read all of the instructions for the recommendations carefully and have done all the legwork. You should be paying for the postage. That’s just good manners. Do not forget to sign forms where appropriate (there is usually a spot for you to sign and another spot for the faculty member to sign).

Asking for a recommendation three days before it is due is not good manners; sliding forms under someone’s door with a request and a short due date is not good manners. We recommend that you try to give us three weeks to a month lead time for recommendations. We know that sometimes this is not possible, but two weeks is probably a minimum. A week may seem long enough to you, but some of our work weeks are heavier than others, particularly during the semester, and we may not be able to squeeze your letter into a particularly heavy one.

Once you’ve got an okay and provided all the information required, we ask that about a week before the recommendation is due, if you have not heard anything from your recommender, send her a little reminder. We know that these letters are important, but we’re only human. The reminder lets you relieve a little anxiety if you’re wondering about the letter and it gets us on the ball if we’ve not done it yet.

If you follow these guidelines, you may rest assured you’ll get the sort of recommendation you’ll want from us.