Department of English and Modern Languages

Join a Nationally Ranked Program.

The UIS Department of English and Modern Languages offers majors in English on campus and in English online with minors in English and Spanish. We also offer a professionalized M.A. in English with two concentrations: digital pedagogy and digital publishing.


Dr. Sarah Cordell and online undergraduate student Tammy Hollo discuss online learning in the UIS English department:


What’s New:

Lan Dong

Dr. Lan Dong, literature professor and department chair, has just been recognized as the Louise Hartman Schewe and Karl Schewe Professor in Liberal Arts and Sciences. “My students inspire me. I like to write about the texts I teach and teach the texts I write about,” Dong said.

Read more about the endowed professorship.


UIS composition and literature instructor Jennifer Whalen was recently named a finalist for the Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowships for her poetry collection “Eveningful.”
Read more about Whalen’s collection.


Fall 2017 marks the third year for our newly designed Master of Arts in English. The new curriculum emphasizes digital literacies and digital humanities research and facilitates students’ mastery of analytic research skills. M.A. students at UIS tailor their learning experience by specializing in digital publishing or digital pedagogy.

Meet the graduate students.


The Alchemist ReviewUIS’s student-run literary journal, just celebrated its 40th year as a literary tradition. First published in 1977 when UIS was still called Sangamon State, the journal comprises a rich history of poetry, art, and literature.

Upcoming Events:

February 12

Graduate Showcase

Interested in graduate school in English studies at UIS? We’re hosting a graduate showcase and meet-and-greet on Monday, February 12. Stay tuned for more details.


Past Events:

Kaveh Akbar, author of Calling a Wolf a Wolf and Portrait of an Alcoholic, visited UIS for the Shelterbelt Reading Series on Monday, November 6. “The job of the poet is to defamiliarize experience,” Akbar said. Watch a video clip from the reading.Kaveh Akbar


On October 17, 2017, UIS welcomed YesYes Books authors Raena Shirali, Lynn Melnick, Brandon Courtney, and KMA Sullivan for the first Shelterbelt Reading Series event of the fall semester. The poets read from recently published and forthcoming works and engaged in dialogue about craft and technique.

YesYes Books authors


Competitive Degree Programs

Student presents research at STARS SymposiumOur department prioritizes a personalized education experience for English and Modern Languages students. We offer small class sizes to encourage one-on-one communication between students and faculty. Currently we offer a Bachelor of Arts in English on-campus and online; a Master of Arts in English with an emphasis in digital publishing or digital pedagogy; a graduate certificate in teaching English; and a minor in English or Spanish. Our program facilitates strong written and verbal communication while emphasizing communication, genre writing, literary analysis, and emergent digital technologies.


Student Involvement Opportunities

The English and Modern Languages Department at UIS offers a number of hands-on community engagement opportunities that extend student learning beyond the classroom.

Undergraduate students can gain publishing experience through The Alchemist Review, a student run journal of fiction, poetry, and visual arts, or present their own research at STARS: the Student Technology, Arts, and Research Symposium.

The Shelterbelt Press and Reading Series offers students a unique opportunity to meet nationally-known authors and participate in the publishing process, while digital publishing graduate students manage Uproot, a literary journal dedicated to publishing quality work about experiences of place and movement.

Learn more about our student clubs and organizations.


Online English student Cheryl Sabas presents at research conference

Cover Art- Tess of the d'Urbervilles
Taken from goodreads.com

UIS online undergraduate English student Cheryl Sabas recently presented her paper, “Purity and Passion in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles,” at an Illinois English research conference.

Hosted by the English Graduate Organization (EGO) and the Sigma Tau Delta (ΣΤΔ) Phi Delta chapter of Western Illinois University, the conference explored the role of empathy and anger in literature and contemporary literary theory.

Sabas initially wrote “Purity and Passion” for Dr. Sara Cordell’s ENG 311: Literary Study and Research, a course that introduces English majors to discipline-specific theories and practices.

Although Sabas, a recent inductee to the UIS chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, thought her paper did not meet the conference criteria, she submitted a paper. She said, “I’ve got nothing to lose by submitting a paper just to learn more about the process.” To her surprise, Sabas was accepted to present her paper.

Reflecting on the experience, Sabas said, “I was impressed by the friendly welcome I received from students and faculty . . . this open and welcoming atmosphere meant a lot to me.”

The conference provided an excellent networking opportunity, Sabas said, and she has remained in contact with fellow conference presenters.

After the conference, Sabas said that the experience taught her “about new areas in the field of English literature.”


English students experience knighthood and weaponry at Chicago’s Deering Family Galleries

lunch with students
Lauren McPherson, Cheryl Sabas, Angela D’Onofrio, and Dr. Donna Bussell

In the UIS English and Modern Languages department, English Studies extend beyond the classroom.

To augment traditional literary studies, students in Dr. Donna Bussell’s Arthurian Literature class recently attended a gallery talk about medieval weaponry and armor. Through ceremonial armor exhibits, students learned about pageantry, knighthood, and chivalry.

The talk, held at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Deering Family Galleries of Medieval and Renaissance Art, Arms, and Armor, featured a museum educator presentation. Attendants immersed themselves in the gallery’s interactive technologies and themed exhibits.

Two swords from exhibit
Viking sword (950-1000)

Lauren McPherson, an English pedagogy graduate student, especially enjoyed a particular Viking sword display. The sword contained traces of foreign metals, causing researchers to speculate its exposure to ceremonial fire.

McPherson found it “powerful to see how history and very human ritualism is uncovered in the things left behind.”

After the talk, Dr. Bussell and students shared lunch and dialogue about Medieval craft.

Through gallery talks and other extracurricular opportunities, UIS English students consistently meld English studies and materiality, expanding learning beyond written texts.


Professor Jennifer Whalen new to UIS campus; named finalist for poetry fellowship

College Writing and Civic Engagement (ENG 102) class taught by Jennifer Whalen

UIS composition instructor Jennifer Whalen’s short story collection “Eveningful” was recently named a finalist for the 2017 Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowships.

Through imagery the collection navigates “the transition between day and night” and the speaker’s reflections, all while negotiating a relationship to the reader as the “destination of the writing.”

Whalen was nominated by Brenda Shaughnessy, author of Interior with Sudden Joy (1999), Human Dark with Sugar (2008), Our Andromeda (2012), and So Much Synth (2016). The Poetry Society of America offers the chapbook fellowship to support emerging authors and broaden poetry’s audience.


Professor Meagan Cass wins Katherine Anne Porter Prize for her fiction

UIS Creative Writing professor Meagan Cass has just won the Katherine Anne Porter Prize for her short story

Dr. Meagan Cass

collection “ActivAmerica,” which will be published in November of 2017 by University of North Texas Press.

Dr. Cass teaches a range of classes at UIS, from women’s literature and feminist theory to creative writing and publishing. Her short fiction has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Pinch, DIAGRAM, Joyland, and Puerto del Sol, among other places. She also won the UIS College of Liberal Arts and Sciences teaching award for 2015-16.

You can read more about Dr. Cass’s accomplishments and forthcoming book at UIS’s blog.


New Addition to Campus: The Shakespeare Garden

UIS unveiled the Shakespeare Garden on September 29, 2016, marking the 400th anniversary of the poet and playwright’s death. The garden features a life-size bronze sculpture of Shakespeare on a bench admiring his surroundings. Located in the Patton Park area of campus, the garden is just north of Brookens Library. Read more about the unveiling, or see more pictures.

Dr. Tena Helton speaks at the unveiling
Dr. Tena Helton speaks at the unveiling
Students and faculty enjoying the Shakespeare Garden
Students and faculty enjoying the Shakespeare Garden

To learn more about our department, our mission, and what we offer our students, check out our About section.