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Department of Literature

Undergraduate Study

The literature BA program offers students the chance to choose one of four exciting tracks, or focuses of study. In the Literary Studies track, students come to understand why literature matters: how it defines culture, the human, and our values, and how it facilitates empathy. The Cinema Studies track allows students to study literature alongside cinema and to discern the ways that cinema as a language and art shapes our society. In our new Transcultural Studies track, students focus on various cultural texts (such as literature, theater, film, television, and social media) in a global and multicultural context. Lastly, the Creative Writing track gives students the opportunity to hone their craft and improve their poetry or prose in close-knit workshops. In each of the tracks, students work with dedicated, award-winning faculty who pay close attention to the needs of each individual.

The department also offers minors in Cinema Studies, Creative Writing, Literature, and Transcultural Studies.

A combined BA/MA is also available.

Graduate Study

The department offers

Why Study in the Department of Literature?

Literature majors garner excellent writing and communication skills. They know how to learn, to analyze and comprehend other viewpoints, and to argue for ideas. Literature majors have a range of employment and internship opportunities. Ninety percent of our majors hold internships. In terms of careers, they work in publishing, public radio, law, education, advocacy, and politics.

Employers in all sectors are increasingly saying that they need employees who can write well and communicate. Lit majors find themselves well prepared for the competitive job market. They also take advantage of a wide array of study abroad opportunities. See our full list of literature course offerings in the Course Catalog.

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MFA Creative Writing Publications

Folio is a nationally recognized literary journal sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences at American University in Washington, DC. Since 1984, we have published original creative work by both new and established authors. Past issues have included work by Michael Reid Busk, Billy Collins, William Stafford, and Bruce Weigl, and interviews with Michael Cunningham, Charles Baxter, Amy Bloom, Ann Beattie, and Walter Kirn. We look for well-crafted poetry and prose that is bold and memorable.

Café MFA is the the online journal of the Creative Writing Program at American University. Produced in conjunction with Visiting Writers Series and other program events, the blog features student, faculty, and visiting author interviews and excerpts.

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Rachel Louise Snyder discussed domestic violence in an interview with The Sun.

Creative Writing MFA alum Sarah Katz wrote about the subminimum wage for people with disabilities for The Atlantic.

Creative Writing MFA student Cristi Donoso Best published a poem in [PANK] magazine, "Quiteña Etymologies."

Creative writing MFA alum Jen Coleman wrote about schools reopening from her perspective as a high school English teacher in Alabama.

David Keplinger won the 2020 Writer Magazine/Emily Dickinson Award by the Poetry Society of America for best poem inspired by the work of Emily Dickinson.

Richard Sha published an article about Hume on PSYCHE.

Richard Sha's book, Imagination and Science in Romanticism, was chosen for the NEH Open Book Award Program.

Sarah Bea Katz published an article on the Lyme disease epidemic for Al-Jazeera.

Kyle Dargan shared his poetry from the pandemic in the Washingtonian.

Melissa Scholes Young has been appointed editor of Furious Gravity.

MFA candidate Bailey Blumenstock is a featured poet in Cathexis Northwest Press.

Patricia Park wrote an essay for The New Yorker on working at her father's Brooklyn grocery store during the coronavirus pandemic.

Melissa Scholes Young discussed Furious Gravity, an edition of a literary journal she edited featuring the work of DC-area women writers, on WAMU-FM's The Kojo Nnamdi Show.

Rachel Louise Snyder won the 2020 College of Arts and Sciences Dean's Award for Exceptional Impact for her writing on domestic and gender-based violence, including No Visible Bruises.

  • Chuck Cox won the 2020 College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Award for Exceptional Impact for his work as Faculty Director of Complex Problems and University College.

    Rachel Louise Snyder was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for 2020.

  • Patricia Park analyzes the success of the film Parasite in Kirkus.
  • Dustin Friedman's book Before Queer Theory: Victorian Aestheticism and the Self was reviewed in the Los Angeles Review of Books.
  • David L. Pike's Review-Essay on Bong Joon-Ho's Parasite was featured on the website of the Bright Lights Film Journal.
  • Jeffrey Middent's video essay Memorias de C/Leo: On Auteurism and Roma was cited on the British Film Institute's list of "The Best Video Essays of 2019."
  • Rachel Louise Snyder's book No Visible Bruises was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Nonfiction.
  • Sandra Beasley's poem Say the Word was featured on Poem-A-Day.
  • Rachel Louise Snyder's book No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us was chosen by the editors of the New York Times Book Review as one of the 10 Best Books of 2019
  • Bruce Berger published the poem "On the Border" in Winamop in July 2019.
  • Bruce Berger published "Gnossienne No. 1" in the Scarlet Leaf Review.
  • MFA Creative Writing Alum Sarah Katz published an op-ed titled "Is There a Right Way to Be Deaf?" in the New York Times.
  • Prof. Dustin Friedman published his book, Before Queer Theory: Victorian Aestheticism and the Self from Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Prof. Laura Ewing published a book chapter titled "Social media strategy for the military-engaged American Red Cross" in Rhet Ops: Rhetroic and Information Warfare
  • Prof. Henry Taylor published a poem, "In the Galisteo Basin" and two articles, "Depths and Altitudes: the Poetry of Robert Wrigley" in The Hollins Critic and "Shadows Real and Artificial: Two Film Masterpieces of 1961," in Literature/Film Quarterly
  • Prof. Marnie Twigg's article, "Last Verse Same as the First? On Racial Justice and 'Covering' Allyship in Compositionist Identities," was published in CCC.
  • MFA Creative Writing Alum Sarah Katz's article "It's time to Stop Desexualizing Disabled People" was featured on the Rooted in Rights blog.  
  • Prof. Kyle Dargan was interviewed about his career for Newsy's “Dream Jobs” segment.
  • Prof. David Pike's article "Haunted Mountains, Supershelters, and the Afterlives of Cold War Infrastructure" was published in the Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture.
  • AU BA Creative Writing Alum M.A. Cowgill's poem, "Deutschkurse", has been featured as Poem of The Week on Narrative Magazine.
  • Prof. Kyle Dargan's book of poetry, Anagnorisis, has been awarded the Academy of American Poets' 2019 Lenore Marshal Prize.
  • Prof. David Keplinger's poem, "The Seven Spheres," has been featured as the poem of the week on the Missouri Review.
  • Prof. Sarah Trembath has been awarded the American Studies Association's Committee on Gender and Sexuality Studies 7th annual Gloria E. Anzaldúa Award for Independent Scholars, Contingent or Community College Faculty.
  • Prof. Dolen Perkins-Valdez appeared on the Kojo Nnamdi show to discuss the passing of Toni Morrison.
  • Prof. Lacey Wootton and Prof. Glenn Moomau published a chapter in Contingency, Exploitation, and Solidarity: Labor and Action in English Composition, which has been chosen as the Council of Writing Program Administrators Best Book of 2017. Wootton and Moomau's chapter is titled “Building Our Own Bridges: A Case Study in Contingent Faculty Self-advocacy.”
  • Prof. David Pike's article, "China Miéville’s Fantastic Slums and the Urban Abcanny," was published in Science Fiction Studies.
  • Prof. Richard Sha's book, Imagination and Science in Romanticism, has just been awarded the Barricelli Prize.
  • Prof. Melissa Scholes Young has been named a 2019 Quarry Farm Fellow at the Center for Mark Twain Studies.
  • AU MFA Alum Ines Rivera's poem has been featured in New York Times Magazine.
  • Prof. Richard Sha has been awarded a Research and Teaching Fulbright to Italy. 
  • Prof. David Keplinger's poetry collection Another City has won the 2019 UNT Rilke Prize
  • Prof. Kyle Dargan has been featured on Poetry Daily.
  • Prof. Kyle Dargan's new collection, Anagnorisis, was featured in the "New & Noteworthy" section of the New York Times Book Review.
  • Prof. Kyle Dargan's poem, "Olympic/Drive", has been featured on DATEBOOK.
  • Prof. David Keplinger has been featured with his new book on Poetry Daily.
  • Prof. Edward Comstock published his book, Connections Between Neuroscience, Rhetoric, and Writing: A Plastic Pedagogy for the Digital Age, with Routledge. The book is a part of the Routledge series on Educational Psychology.
  • Prof. Rachel Louise Snyder has been awarded the J. Anthony Lukas Work-In-Progress Award from the Columbia Journalism School.
  • Prof. David Pike published his article, "City Settings: American Urban Mysteries from Film Noir to Steampunk," in Medías19.
  • Prof. Andrew Bertaina has a poem selected to appear in The Best American Poetry 2018 anthology coming out in September.