English The first professor of English at Smith was L. Clark Seelye, who was also the college’s first President. Seelye’s early curriculum emphasized elocution and foreign languages as tools for better understanding English. His dual responsibilities as professor and President led him to share teaching duties with Heloise Hersey in 1878. In its early days, the English department had trouble attracting and keeping a full staff, and as a result was quite transitory and disorganized. Many instructors were young women who taught only a few years before resigning their positions to get married. The most prominent and influential English professor was Mary Augusta Jordan, who taught from 1884 to 1921. Kate Sanborn (1880-83) was also well-known. Early areas of study in the department included Rhetoric, Old English, Composition, and Literature, and writing requirements tried to guarantee that every student be able to competently express herself in written English. In 1893, student demands for a college magazine resulted in the creation of the Smith College Monthly. Beginning in 1904, the faculty adopted an official course of study that required students to write four long papers, one each year. This requirement continued, despite students’ unhappiness, until 1916, when the college adopted the major-minor system, with distributed electives and no yearly papers. The Committee on Special Assistance in Written English was created in 1921 to provide one-on-one instruction to those students deficient in writing. The professors believed that “no girl should be able to graduate from Smith without the ability to write a clear, grammatical English sentence, properly punctuated and spelled.” In the 1930s, course offerings were divided into Composition, Language, Literature, and Types; in the 1940s, areas were consolidated into two sections: Language and Literature, and Composition. In the 1950s English 11 became a requirement for first-year students. Important professors during these years include Mary Ellen Chase (1926-1954) and Elizabeth Drew (1946-1961). The school year 1970/1971 brought the introduction of the ENG 120 course, composed of various colloquia in literature. In 1975-1976 course offerings were rearranged into 100 level (introductory classes), 200 level (intermediate classes), and 300 level (advanced seminars). In 1996-1997 a college-wide requirement was instituted, requiring that every student take a writing intensive course within her first year. Many English courses (especially 120 colloquia) were subsequently designated as fulfilling the “writing intensive” requirement. September 1997 marked the opening of the Poetry Center, which brings many prominent poets to campus each year to give readings.
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