The Literature Major at PLU

Mission Statement

Through the study of literature in PLU’s English Department, we educate students to lead engaged and meaningful lives—understanding literature as a way of knowing that opens us to the richness and diversity of cultures, cultivates critical inquiry, locates us in the natural world, explores the possibilities of transformation, and reveals the necessity of wonder.

Why Study Literature?

In the values below, we expand on and clarify our Mission Statement. Literature is an essential human art, because it gives us the tools—in story and metaphor and in language itself—to make our lives meaningful and intentional. We understand literature as the creative and strategic use of language, in the process of making meaning.

The study of literature gives us a sense of history and change, as well as crucial perspectives for understanding our own times. It equips us with practical skills in the use and interpretation of language, and strengthens our critical capacities. It enlarges our powers of imagination and inspires us with beauty and wonder.

We believe that literature is a way of knowing. Central to literature are stories and characters, metaphors and images, and taken together, these may be the original forms of making meaning. In a digital age of facts, statistics and information, literature speaks to a hunger to make sense of things, to know what they mean.

We believe that literature is a vehicle for our engagement with the world. An understanding of the stories, myths, and images that are foundational to various cultures and societies enables us to make connections to others and to cultivate lives of meaningful involvement in the world.

We believe that literature is a powerful vehicle for understanding difference and otherness, creating social change, and becoming global citizens. Literature is produced within structures of power, and can be used both to uphold power and as a tool of resistance. It offers stories that help us explore both who we are and how we relate to others—other parts of ourselves, other people, other cultures, other creatures and our fragile planet. It engages issues like race and gender, poverty and justice, the loss of species, and our lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

We believe that literature can lead us to wonder and awe. Through the beauties of language and the power of insight, it can inspire us to see the world and ourselves in new ways.

We believe that literature is transformative. Literature is not only a vehicle for understanding what we are, but more than that, it helps us to imagine what we can be. Its power to effect change depends, in part, on the ethical and transformative activity of reading itself, which models the values of engagement, responsibility, and empathy. Sensitive readers learn to use various ways of reading and critical traditions to practice the multiple ways of knowing that literature inspires.

We believe that literature—its joys and beauties and lessons—is needed more now than ever as we look for new narratives, new metaphors, new images to guide us. We live in times of social, economic, and environmental crisis. Literature is and will continue to be crucial in educating citizens with the critical intelligence, empathy, and imagination needed to address these global challenges.