Statement on Anti-Racism
April 22, 2021
The Faculty of the English department at Bates College are committed to the practice of anti-racism in our teaching, research, and self-governance. In the context of ongoing state violence against the Black community, and in the context of class, caste, and institutional systems that exclude, marginalize, and perpetuate violence against women, BIPOC, LGBTQIA2+, disabled, and undocumented communities, including on our own campus, our students have called us to rethink our curricula to address and dismantle structural violence. We take this call seriously, and we write in solidarity with our students’ call. We recognize that the undoing of white supremacy, colonialism, ableism, transphobia, heterosexism, and all exclusionary modes of power must be active, continuous, and conscious labor. To ensure that our commitment to anti-racism is matched by our praxis, the English department is undertaking a review of our curriculum as well as of our research, teaching, mentoring, and hiring practices. Even as we must recognize that writers and critics have used the discipline of English to violent and exclusionary ends, together we share the belief that language, that art, and that creative and critical inquiry are all vital tools for understanding, describing, and challenging injustice. We actively commit, therefore, to listening to and working with other experts, our students, and each other to apply this belief to our own systems and structures. We commit to the work that will enable and empower our students, ourselves, and our wider community to champion equity, resist practices of exclusion, and together imagine and build a more just world.
Through a wide range of course offerings the Department of English seeks to develop each student’s capacity for reading — the intense, concerned involvement with textual expression.
All courses are intended to foster critical reading, writing, and thinking, in which “criticism” is at once passionate appreciation, historical understanding, and the perpetual rethinking of values. More specifically, the English major prepares students for careers such as teaching, publishing, and writing, for graduate study in literature, and for graduate programs leading to the study or practice of medicine or law.
Though the department embodies a variety of teaching styles and interests, the faculty all believe in the art of patient, engaged reading as both knowledge and pleasure. Departmental offerings are intended to be taken in sequence. Courses at the 100 level are open to all students. Courses at the 200 level are more difficult in both the amount of material covered and the level of inquiry; they also address questions of theory and methodology in more self-conscious ways. Most 200-level courses have prerequisites. Seminars at the 300 level are generally for juniors and seniors who have completed several English courses (the latter requirement may be waived at the discretion of the instructor for certain interdisciplinary majors).