Letter from the Chair

A year ago, I would have been shocked if you had told me that I would be writing the “Letter from the Chair” for The Mirror and the Lamp this spring. But, then again, I think most of us have been surprised and changed by this unprecedented year. So, here I am, writing from the Chair’s desk in English. For those of you who don’t know me, I have been at WIU for a very long time, happily teaching everything from the British Novel to Nonwestern Literature to Women and Literature to Ethnic Literature. I tend to gravitate to where different power structures bump up against each other, and this has served me well this year.

This has been a heartbreaking and challenging year, but I’ve been inspired by the creativity and resilience of the students and faculty in English. We adapted to Zoom, held classes, readings, and continued to learn about and celebrate the authors we love and the readers and writers we are. As the vaccine rolls out and the temperatures rise, many of us are adopting a more hopeful stance—we can now hope the sun will be out soon. 

What I don’t think, though, is that we are, nor that we should be, trying to “get back to normal.” Our hope is to learn from this year and make a better department. The department of English has tried to practice this throughout COVID-19’s challenges. Even as COVID changed the university, faculty spent the year thinking about the future of the English major. I’m pleased to announce that we are revising our current major and creating two new major options. Students will now be able to choose to major in our revised programs in English Literature or English Education, or they can chose one of our new options in Professional Writing or Creative Writing. All four options will build upon a common core: our belief in reading, writing, and the power of storytellers to change the world for the better.

So, as we look towards brighter times with less trauma, let’s remember to keep imagining, keep dreaming, keep reading, and keep writing for a better (not normal) world.