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Department of English

Department of English

English major Mandy Shunnarah '13 speaks at an Arc Stories
BSC English graduate Mandy Shunnarah '13 speaks to a crowd of 250-plus at an Arc Stories event in Birmingham.
Photo by Shane Etheredge

English is more than a major at Birmingham-Southern College.  It’s a path that leads students to their lifelong passion. Study the great writers, analyze and understand their works, and hone your own writing. You’ll go on an adventure of the imagination—and master the critical thinking and communication skills sought by employers today.

Being an English major goes beyond the great books:

  • Get hands-on writing experience. Contribute to Baghera (student newspaper), The Quad (literary magazine), or Compass (leadership studies journal).  Our writing minor and workshop classes allow you to focus on different specialties, including fiction, poetry, prose, creative nonfiction and journalism, as well as a media internship. 
  • Find new ways of looking at the world through the creative courses we offer. “Monsters, Monarchs, and Monastics: Legacies of Medieval Literature in Popular Culture,” “The Tranquillized Fifties: American 1950s Literature and Culture,” and “From Suffrage to Cyborgs: Twentieth Century Feminism and the Novel” are just a few examples.
  • Get creative. English majors have organized an underground poetry society that hosts poetry slams—equal parts readings and performance art. They also tutor in neighborhood schools to inspire young students to love poetry and literature.
  • Visit the places you read about. English faculty lead students to Ireland, where they read Irish literature and see William Butler Yeats’ house; to Oxford, Miss., the hometown of William Faulkner and setting of his novels; and to Italy, where they explore the great art and literature of classical and Renaissance Europe.


    The English Faculty

    Kent AndersonKent S. Andersen
    Instructor of English
    Director, Hess Center for Leadership and Service

    Office: NCC 264
    Phone: (205) 226-4679

    Kent S. Andersen is the director of the Hess Center for Leadership and Service and a long-time instructor of English. He teaches courses in science fiction, composition and writing, and literature. In addition, he teaches courses for BSC's Distinction in Leadership Studies program, as well as a course on creativity for the Harrison Honors Program. His interests include community-based learning, critical theory, and leadership.

    Degrees: B.A. (1995) Iowa State University; M.A. (1998) American University; Ed.D. (2014) Vanderbilt University.

    Jane ArcherJane Archer
    Professor of English

    Office: 324 Humanities Center
    Phone: (205) 226-7838

    Jane Archer specializes in 20th and 21st century literature, particularly international fiction. She regularly offers an E-term course on contemporary best-selling novels. Her interests include comparative literature, critical theory, feminist theory, and gender studies.

    Degrees: B.A. (1975) University of Wisconsin; Ph.D. (1984) State University of New York at Buffalo.

    Fred AsheFred Ashe
    Professor of English

    Office: 220 Humanities Center
    Phone: (205) 226-4862

    Fred Ashe specializes in 20th century American literature and postmodern theory. He brings his ongoing scholarship to his course on Ernest Hemingway. Other interests include African-American culture, protest writing, and the memoir.

    Degrees: B.A. (1983) Michigan State University; M.A. (1986), Ph.D. (1991) Vanderbilt University.Alabama.

    William Tynes Cowan

    William Tynes Cowan
    Chair, Department of English
    Associate Professor of English

    Office: 314 Humanities Center
    Phone: (205) 226-4871

    Tynes Cowan specializes in 19th century American literature, particularly literature of slavery and protest. He contributes to the Distinction program in Leadership Studies and the minor in Human Rights and Conflict Studies. Interests include the 1960s, popular culture, and folklore.

    Degrees: B.A. (1985) Birmingham-Southern College; M.A.Ed (1990) University of Alabama at Birmingham; M.A. (1992) Northeastern University; Ph.D. (2001) The College of William and Mary.

    Lucas JohnsonLucas Johnson
    Assistant Professor/Director of Writing
    Director, BSC Writing Center

    Office: 103 Humanities Center
    Phone: (205) 226-4842

    Lucas Johnson is the Director of the BSC Writing Center and Assistant Professor of English. He teaches courses in academic writing, theory and practice of persuasion, and the essay. Lucas also focuses on the politics and economics of higher education, critical theory, and inequality.

    Degrees: B.A. (2005) University of Northern Colorado; M.A. (2008) University of Northern Colorado; Ph.D. (2015) University of Illinois at Chicago.

    Michael L. MclnturffMichael L. Mclnturff
    Professor of English

    Office: 302 Humanities Center
    Phone: (205) 226-7831

    Michael L. Mclnturff specializes in literature of the English and Italian Renaissance. He regularly teaches Shakespeare and travels with students to Italy during E-term. Interests include Dante, classical mythology, and fine wine.

    Degrees: B.A. (1968) Reed College; Ph.D. (1975) Indiana University.


    Sandra L. Sprayberry Sandra L. Sprayberry
    Robert Luckie Professor of English

    Office: 306 Humanities Center
    Phone: (205) 226-7832
    Personal Web Page

    Sandra L. Sprayberry holds degrees in poetry writing and twentieth-century poetry. She is a published poet and scholar, and her dissertation work on W. B. Yeats was published as part of Macmillan of London's and the University of Iowa Press's multi-volume critical edition of original Yeats manuscripts; the work has been reviewed in The New York Review of Books, among other publications. Her teaching and research interests include 20th-century and contemporary poetry, creative writing, Native American, Irish, and African American literatures, international Human Rights, and travel-study to Ireland and South Africa. She directs BSC's minor in Human Rights and Conflict Studies. Her office houses one of the biggest unofficial Elvis shrines in academia.

    Degrees: B.A. (1979), M.F.A. (1983), University of Alabama; Ph.D. (1988) Florida State University.

    Joseph StittJoseph Stitt
    Instructor of English

    Office: 111 Humanities Center
    Phone: (205) 226-4859

    Jody Stitt teaches courses in expository writing and creative writing. In addition, he
    offers individualized study in fiction writing. His E-term courses have introduced
    students to Vladimir Nabokov, Jorge Luis Borges, humor theory, and the apocalypse.

    Degrees: B.A. (1993) M.A. (1995) University of Alabama.


    John D. TatterJohn D. Tatter
    Professor of English
    Director, BSC Writing Center

    Office: 309 Humanities Center
    Phone: (205) 226-7835

    John D. Tatter specializes in 18th century literature, Augustan satire, and Restoration drama. His first-year seminar connects literary texts with real world examples of poverty, discrimination, and racism. An interest in the aesthetics of British gardens led him to create an online interactive tour of the immense Stowe Landscape Gardens in Buckinghamshire, England.

    Degrees: B.A. (1976) Houghton College; M.A. (1979), Ph.D. (1984), Ohio University.

    Melinda Rainey Thompson
    Melinda Rainey ThompsonInstructor of English

    Office: Humanities Center 204
    Phone: (205) 226-7844

    Melinda Rainey Thompson is the author of four books: SWAG: Southern Women Aging Gracefully, The SWAG Life, I Love You--Now Hush, and I've Had It Up To Here With Teenagers. A former director of Birmingham-Southern's Writing Center, Melinda has rejoined the faculty to teach composition and creative writing courses. She is currently writing a new book and continues to travel to speaking events whenever possible. She lives in Homewood with her husband, the presiding judge of the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals, and their three teenagers, all named for relatives long dead in the proper Southern tradition.

    David W. Ullrich
    Professor of English

    Office: 221 Humanities Center
    Phone: (205) 226-4865

    David W. Ullrich specializes in 19th century British literature, particularly the Romantic and Victorian poets. He also has published extensively on F. Scott Fitzgerald and teaches a course on that author. Dr. Ullrich has taught the Grimms' Fairy Tales in the Harrison Honors program for fifteen years. He is known to his students as the professor who enjoys the pleasures of close reading a text. His other interests include creative writing, the short story as a genre, and American modernist art and literature.

    Degrees: B.A. (1975) Marquette University; M.A. (1976), Ph.D. (1986) University of Wisconsin-Madison.


    Learning outcomes

    The courses offered by the English faculty serve a twofold purpose: to teach students to formulate and articulate their thoughts clearly and effectively in both our spoken and written language, and to help students develop a critical understanding of work by writers of American, British, and world literature.

    After our foundational courses, the surveys of British and American literature and our "gateway" course, English majors encounter works of literature in five distinct ways:

    • Breadth. We offer courses that emphasize a breadth of literary study. Courses such as Satire and 20th Century British and American Poetry emphasize thematic, generic, or stylistic unity among otherwise disparate works of literature.
    • Depth. Other courses emphasize a depth of study, usually by focusing on individual authors, such as Shakespeare or Hemingway, but also with courses focusing on a collection of authors within a single literary movement, such as Romantic Prose and Poetry and Literature of the American Renaissance.
    • Difference. Recognizing that the study of literature allows one to view the world from various perspectives, we offer courses that emphasize the literature of different times, places, or cultures. These courses range from the prose, poetry, and drama of the Middle Ages to American Indian literature since the 1960s.
    • Contemporary. We study contemporary literature because, like T. S. Eliot, we believe that just as current works are a response to those written in the past, our response to older works is altered by what is being written now. Courses such as Contemporary International Fiction serve this function well.
    • Theory. Students in English courses soon learn that it matters not only what we read but how we read. We offer courses such as Performance Theory and Postmodernism to help students better understand their own habits as readers and to broaden their critical arsenal. Students are introduced to thinkers who have historically shaped our modes of interpretation, from Aristotle to Stanley Fish.

    With our Senior Capstone, English majors draw together all they've learned—represented in a single paper.

    Upon completion of the English major, students will be able to

    • analyze a literary text for form, structure, and genre,
    • form a thesis and support it with a coherent and unified essay structure,
    • formulate a sound argument based on textual and contextual evidence,
    • apply and integrate scholarly material,
    • produce prose with a clear, confident voice.

    Resources for English Studies


    Course Lists and Descriptions