About Us

ETSU faculty 1918

ETSU Faculty 1919

East Tennessee State University Faculty, 1918-1919 (photo from A History of the Department of English: 1911-1994)

Former English Department faculty members Ambrose N. and Mary D. Manning begin their A History of the Department of English: 1911-1994 with a note that in the school's first year, "the following courses were required of all students: first year--English Grammar (6 credits) and Composition and Literature (6 credits); second year--Rhetoric and Literature (6 credits); third year--Literature (6 credits); and fourth year--Literature (6 credits)." Elective courses included courses in rhetoric, criticism, grammar, and literature, with a special course in "Literature for Rural Schools" The Mannings speculate that English and Literature were two distinct departments at the time, each with one professor (1).

Since that time, the English Department has expanded in many ways. The growth of our institution from a "normal school" intended to train public school teachers to a full-fledged university has led to expansion of curricula; while a considerable portion of our English majors aspire to teach in secondary schools, others hope to pursue their interest in English language in other areas, from law, medicine, and industry to creative writing, performance, and literary scholarship. Our course offerings have adapted to meet those needs; one wonders if the first instructors in our department would have imagined courses dedicated to the study of film, the implementation of computers to communication, or even the focus of literary studies to such areas as literature written only by women, only by people of specific ethnicities, or even literature written only by Southerners and Southern Appalachians.

On July 1, 2010, a new academic unit, the Department of Literature and Language, was introduced at East Tennessee State University, representing a merger of the Departments of English and Foreign Languages as well as the Women’s Studies program.

“This move unites common academic interests among many of our English and language faculty, particularly in the areas of linguistics and comparative literature,” said Dr. Judith Slagle. “As a result, this shared expertise will open new doors for ways our current offerings can be enhanced and also allow for the development of additional classes and programs of study.”

In 1994, Ambrose Manning interviewed former department chair Jack Ellery, who confided, "I have taught and served as administrator in several schools, but the most professional department I ever worked with was the English Department at East Tennessee State" (23). Our department works to sustain that high standard with dedication to our students and our field of study, adapting to the needs of the times while respecting the disciplines of composition, linguistics, and literary criticism.

Citations on this page refer to A History of the Department of English: 1911-1994, a monograph written by Ambrose N. and Mary D. Manning and published by the ETSU English Department