The study of literature at Hampshire College encompasses a diverse range of topics. Courses often center not only on time periods or specific authors, but also on genres, social and artistic movements, and theoretical or thematic questions.

Researching the historical and social impact of literature as well as the ways in which historical circumstances shape artists' creative work and literary movements is encouraged, and many courses promote the reading of literature in the original language.

Students can focus on a specific national or language-literature (for example, English, French, Russian) or alternately pursue a more comparative or multi-cultural approach (literature of the African Diaspora, Hispano-American literature, European comparative literature, post-colonial literature).

Students often design interdisciplinary concentrations that combine the study of literature with other areas of the arts or humanities (for example, art history, film, philosophy, religion) or develop interdisciplinary fields such as literature and environmental studies or literature and law.

Student Project Titles

  • Copy-Clerks in Nineteenth-Century Fiction: Melville, Gogol, Flaubert
  • Translating Borges
  • Chick Lit: Popular Fiction for Women
  • "The Problem is the Englishness:" Bodily Rapture and Post-Colonial Fiction
  • Laughter and Solitude: Subject and Society in the Modern Historical Novel
  • Shamens and Poets: Connecting North Mythology and the Kalevala
  • A Study of Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire
  • "The Whole South is Cursed:" Memory, Heredity and the Other in Five Works by Faulkner

Sample First-Year Course

Literature and Culture in the Jazz Age

This tutorial will introduce students to the interdisciplinary study of U.S. culture by looking at literature (by Fitzgerald, Toomer, Yezierska, and Dos Passos as well as less canonical writers), music (jazz, ragtime, blues), and visual art and film (The Gold Rush, The Big Parade) released in a single year: 1925. We will explore themes of the Jazz Age such as modernism, urbanization, migration, race, class, and gender. Students will develop critical reading, viewing, and listening capabilities by tackling short writing assignments, and will dive into the historical archive to build strong research skills. Students will design and complete a guided independent research project, which will include a class presentation and a final paper.

Sample Courses at Hampshire

  • Ancient Epic
  • Atrocity and War in the Graphic Novel
  • Disruptive Geographies: Magical Realism as Genre
  • The English Bible
  • Faulkner and Morrison: Fictions of Identity, Family, and History
  • The Idea of Europe: The Contemporary European Novel
  • Latin American Literature: Lost at Sea
  • Literature and Psychoanalysis
  • Literature of Crime and Detection
  • Renaissance, Resistance, and Revolution: 20th Century African American Literature
  • The Rise of Secular Jewish Culture
  • Shakespeare and Woolf
  • Through the Twisted Mirror: Gogol, Nabokov, and other Eccentrics
  • Victorian Childhood: Self and Society in the Nineteenth Century
  • Woman and Poet

Through the Consortium

  • American Literature before 1865 (SC)
  • Arthur and the Grail (MHC)
  • British Romanticism (MHC)
  • Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (UMASS)
  • Childhood in African and Caribbean Literature (AC)
  • The Continental Novel: Sexuality and History (AC)
  • Introduction of Asian American Literature (MHC)
  • Modern Japanese Literature (SC)

Facilities and Resources

The Center for the Book
Founded in 1998, the Center for the Book is a Hampshire program that fosters the study of technologies of the word from antiquity to the electronic age. Textual communication is explored as a technical, social, and aesthetic endeavor across the liberal-arts curriculum. Scholars, as well as practitioners of the book trade and book arts, are brought to Hampshire in order to reflect upon the material forms of the text; the history and future of reading and writing; the institutions and movements of textual culture; and freedom of expression.

Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
The Hampshire College campus is also home to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, the first full-scale museum devoted to national and international picture book art.