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English as a university subject covers a very wide range of topics, with variation around the world both in scope and in how programmes are organized. Work in English is often more or less formally divided into sub-disciplines. In the UK, language, literature, and creative writing are the three most common subdivisions. In Europe, different divisions are made and students on English programmes often look at two or more of these areas. In the USA, divisions are stronger, with very little work in universities that combines or connects linguistic and literary perspectives. This chapter focuses on undergraduate research on language, literature and creative writing, without presupposing that this encompasses all that can be covered by English or that these areas should be sharply distinguished. It highlights higher education in the UK, partly because there is little data on international practice and anecdotal evidence often relates to particular institutions.
This chapter discusses the origins, activities so far, and future plans of the Integrating English project (http://integratingenglish.org). This project has aims that are very much in line with those of the English: Shared Futures project, since it seeks to celebrate the diversity of the discipline while also seeing the diverse range of activities it encompasses as unified. They are unified by their focus on how texts are produced, understood, circulated and evaluated. In this essay, we present a brief account of the origins and development of Integrating English, explain the project's approach to the nature of English as a diverse academic discipline and describe some of the activities we have carried out so far. We also highlight connections with English: Shared Futures, including some reflection on activities at the conference in Newcastle in 2017, and conclude with thoughts about how we see the future direction of the project. The main conclusions are that the view of English advocated by our project is timely, beneficial and suggests reasons for optimism about the futures of English.
Origins and Development
The project began in response to informal discussions with undergraduate students and university staff. Students approached more than one member of the project team asking about ‘lang-lit’ work. Some of these students had taken A-Level Language and Literature and moved on to BA programmes with titles such as ‘English’ or ‘English Language and Literature’. They had noticed that the modules they were now taking each focused either on aspects of language or on aspects of literature. Very few, if any, genuinely involved ‘lang-lit’ work understood as work that included integrated linguistic and literary study. These conversations suggested that students were used to doing integrated linguistic and literary work at AS and A-Level. We later discovered that this was not an accurate impression. At this stage, we discussed these comments with colleagues in other HE institutions who pointed out that many of their programmes were combinations or had ‘joint honours’ structures. Here too, there appeared to be no more connection between work on language and on literature than there would have been if they had combined one of these with any other subject.
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