Department of English

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"The Department of English is dedicated to promoting an understanding and appreciation of the ways in which men and women have represented their worlds, real or imagined, in literature. As a lively community of teaching scholars, we are committed to engaging our students in the richness and variety of English poetry, drama and prose fiction, from the canon of traditional English literature to marginalized, avant-garde and experimental literary works. The diversity of our program encourages students to explore the aesthetic, rhetorical, historical, philosophical, cultural and ideological dimensions of English literature, to discover the power of literary art."[1]

English became an official department in 1888 known as Department of English and History. Professor J. Lesslie Hall directed the organization of the department. Dr. Hall served as department chair for over forty years, stepping down in 1928. Under Dr. Hall, the instruction of English grew from grammar and writing to literature. (Jackson) Former President of the College, Dr. J.A.C. Chandler taught in the English department.

Currently, the English department sponsors several programs such as the Donaldson Writers in Residence and the Patrick Hayes Writers Series. The Donaldson Writers in Residence program was established in 1971 and supported by an endowment created by professor emeritus Scott Donaldson and his wife Vivian. The Patrick Hayes Writers Series, created in 1991, is a festival for writers. Some of the writers sponsored by the series include Edward P. Jones, Ian Caldwell, and Ava Coibion.

Heads of the Department of English

  • J. Lesslie Hall (1988 - 1928)
  • Edward Moseley Gwathmey (1928 - 1930) (Note: Though he is not stated to be the head of the Department in the applicable Bulletins of the College, he is listed first, against correct alphabetization, in the list of English faculty, a spot which is taken by Jackson once he becomes head of the department.)
  • Jess Hamilton Jackson (1930 - 1956)
  • Graves Glenwood Clark (acting head from 1956 - 1957, head from 1958 - 1964)
  • Fraser Neiman (1964 - 1970)
  • Carl R. Dolmetsch (1970 - 1976) (Note: from this point on, the title is "Chair of the Department", not "Head of the Department".)
  • Leroy W. Smith (1976 - 1979)
  • J. Scott Donaldson (1979 - 1980)
  • Robert P. Maccubbin (1980 - 1982)
  • John W. Conlee (1982 -1985)
  • John H. Willis (1985 - 1990)
  • John W. Conlee (1990 - 1992)
  • Anne M. Reed (1992 - 1995)
  • Terry L. Meyers (1995 - 2001)
  • Christopher J. MacGowan (2001 - 2006)
  • Jack B. Martin (2006 - 2010)
  • Vacant (?) (2010 - 2011)
  • Susan Donaldson (2011 - Present)

Associate Chairs of the Department

  • Jacquelyn Y. McLendon, Associate Chair (1995 - 2001)
  • Anne M. Reed, Associate Chair (2001 - 2003)
  • Wheatley, Associate Chair(2003 - 2006)
  • Meyers, Associate Chair (2006 - 2007)
  • Simon Joyce, Associate Chair (2011 - Present)


  • Jess Hamilton Jackson, "English at William and Mary," Alumni Gazette 8.3 (1941): 8-9, 30-32. University Archives Subject File, Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, College of William and Mary.
  • W&M Digital Archive, Catalogs Collection from 1829 - Present [2]