Most students pursue English as a second option. The emphasis on writing and on critical reading helps students develop communication skills that can enhance their careers as scientists, engineers, and medical professionals. The English option also provides excellent preparation for those seeking careers in law, business, and administration, and in any field that involves extensive communication.
During the senior year, and typically in the first two terms, English option students enroll in En 99 ab (Senior Tutorial for English Majors) with a faculty member chosen by mutual agreement. The Senior Tutorial introduces students to advanced methods in literary research and analysis and provides an important means for assessing the progress of English option students in the rigorous study of literary texts and contexts. Students research, write, and revise a 25-to-30-page paper on a topic of their choosing in consultation with their faculty mentor.
The English minor is designed for students who want to pursue concentrated study in English and/or American literature, without the extensive course work and the senior thesis required by the English option. Courses used to complete the English minor may not be used to satisfy the requirements of another option or minor. However, these courses may be used to satisfy core Institute requirements in the humanities.
One of the most dramatic differences between Caltech and more traditional research universities, however, is the fact that those of us in the humanities belong to a department combining English, history, and philosophy. The interdisciplinary collaboration that many universities hold as a desideratum, we practice on a day-to-day basis. This proximity to other methods and types of training shapes how we think about the boundaries of our respective fields.
En 100. Artificial Life: Literary Automata. Well before the advent of the Machine Age, literary texts have been populated by various kinds of ingenious automata, often in animal or human form. This course surveys the role of the automaton in literary texts in order to consider how the notion of "artificial life" changes over time, with a focus on the special case of the human machine. Readings from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to include texts by la Mettrie, Hoffmann, Kleist, Shelley, Poe, and de l'Isle-Adam. We will conclude with a classic text from the twentieth century: Isaac Asimov's "I, Robot".