English Department History

Before 1920 Before 1920
1920s 1920s
1930s and 1940s
2000s and Beyond

Before 1920

Brigham Young Academy, organized in 1875, had no English Department, although courses were offered in grammar, spelling, and rhetoric. The academy was divided into departments, but these were divisions, not academic departments, which students entered according to age and preparation. Divisions included a Primary Department, for students aged six to eight who had never been to school before; an Intermediate Department for students aged eight to eleven who knew their three R’s; and an Academic Department for students aged eleven to fourteen, ready for advanced work.

Nels Nelson

Nels Nelson

The first teacher of English in the academy was Karl G. Maeser. Milton H. Hardy, who directed the Intermediate Department, supervised the grammar class and taught penmanship on all levels. Nels L. Nelson, principal of the high school and trained in both science and philosophy, directed English studies from 1883 to 1903.

By 1898, English courses focused on the study of the “principles of invention,” the purpose being to prepare students to write essays, theses, lectures, and sermons. Students were also drilled in effective reading. Entering students who did not have high school diplomas or certificates had to take an examination on Goldsmith’s “Deserted Village,” Scott’s “Lady of the Lake,” or Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle.” Besides Nelson, others who taught English courses were Alice Louise Reynolds, Alfred Osmond, and Miriam Nelke.

Academic departments were first listed in the 1902-03 catalog, the academic year before the academy (although with some hesitation) was renamed Brigham Young University. Before that, English courses had been listed under a subtitle, “English.” The catalog for Brigham Young Academy and Latter-day Saints’ Normal School for 1901-1902 states in an introductory paragraph that English courses had “been laid out after a careful study of the needs of the young people in the inter-mountain region. They aim, first of all, to supplant the crudities in expression so prevalent in the western communities, by simple and direct but pure English. They are next designed to develop literary taste, and the taste for literature, or a feeling for the companionship of books.”  Alfred Osmond became the first chair of the newly named department of English. At this time all classes were taught on what later became known as the “lower campus,” occupying the square block between 500 and 600 North and University Avenue and 100 East (present site of the Provo Library, part of which is in the restored Academy Building).

The 1905-1906 catalog (1904-05 missing) added five courses: one in English Literature, two in Shakespeare, and two in Chaucer, but dropped History of American Literature, possibly following the lead of some other universities who felt it not worthy of study.  New faculty included Eunice Angeline Holbrook, Nellie Schofield, B. T. Higgs, and Reinhard Maeser.The 1902-1903 catalog lists ten courses in the Department of English: G. Advanced Rhetoric, H. Advanced Rhetoric, 1. Poetry, 2. Oratory, 3. Oratory, 4. History of American Literature, 5. History of English Literature, 6. History of English Literature, 7. Chaucer, and 8. English Drama. No English faculty members are listed; however, under College and High School Faculty, Nels L. Nelson appears as a professor of English, Alice L. Reynolds as an assistant professor of English, and Annie Pike as an instructor in English.

Alfred Osmond

Alfred Osmond

Alfred Osmond served as chair for thirty-two years (1903-35). Professor Osmond memorized great literature, particularly Shakespeare, and apt sayings, which he often quoted in his teaching and conversation or recited to himself while sitting in his front room alone. He wrote and published many occasional and informal poems, including for several years weekly poems in the Deseret News under the title “Vernacular Verses” and in The Utah Farmer under “Rural Rhymes for Farmin’ Folks.” He also gave recitations.

Osmond was known as an inspirational teacher who sought to help students live their lives by the highest standards. The story is told that he once assigned students to write couplets in the style of Alexander Pope, and when asked to recite his masterpiece, one student, hesitating, said, “I’m not a poet,” to which Osmond replied, pointing an accusing finger, “Young man, I want you to understand you’re not a finished product. You are still in the process of being created.” Two of Osmond’s daughters, Mary Irene Spears and Nan Grass, later taught in the English Department.

Alice Louise Reynolds

Alice Louise Reynolds

Alice Louise Reynolds, who became a much-loved faculty member, taught English as a new department, English came to life the year before George H. Brimhall (1904-21) was named the first president of Brigham Young University. Before him, Karl G. Maeser (1876-91), and after him, Benjamin Cluff, Jr. (1892-1904), served as principals (sometimes called superintendents) of Brigham Young Academy. The Department of English, like all other departments and divisions, was housed on the lower campus. Along with the rest of the university the department slowly began to grow. Until 1916, only Osmond and Reynolds taught college English classes exclusively; teacher training (the normal school) and high school classes took most of the faculty’s time.

The beginning of the new century brought severe economic trials for the university, although this was certainly nothing unusual. The Church provided some funds, but it was only through the determination and vision of men like Brimhall and the generosity of Jesse Knight, Abraham O. Smoot, and others that the university did not close. The willingness of faculty and staff to work at absolute minimum salaries also made continuing possible. In 1868, Brigham Young had called Smoot, then mayor of Salt Lake City, to move from his comfortable home to Provo to serve as president of the Utah Stake. Family tradition has it that Smoot, who had already served three missions, protested the call, however President Young said he could go to Provo or go to hell. This may not have seemed much of a choice to Smoot, but to Provo he came, to the blessing of the school, which he helped save on several occasions.

In 1906-07, the year BYU applied to be designated the official Church university, the department still did not offer a class in American literature. However, there were additions: two classes in oratory, two classes covering English literature from 1750-1800 (“Intensive studies in Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, and others”), one each in Milton and Bacon, and an additional two classes in Shakespeare.  Walter E. Cluff, assistant professor, joined the English faculty. Not until 1909-1910 did the course in American literature return to the catalog as an English course. No description is given. Other additions that year included philology and a course titled “The Epic of Mormonism—This course will take up the reading and discussion of ‘Elias,’ an epic poem by O. F. Whitney. The work involves some of the deepest problems in philosophy and theology, and also a wide acquaintance with sacred history.”

When President Brimhall took office in 1904, none of the university faculty held a master’s degree, although many held bachelor’s degrees from top eastern universities. But the quality of the faculty steadily improved, with some holding doctorates soon hired. But because of small salaries faculty members still struggled to survive and had to find additional sources of income. One faculty member wrote that in order to teach at BYU “one had to own and till a farm and to be obliged to take watering turns between classes.”

Led by the new university faculty trained at eastern universities, a controversy brewed up about this time over what was called modernism, or the teaching of evolution and higher criticism (reinterpretation and “de-mythologizing” of the Bible); however, with the exception of one professor, N. L. Nelson, who taught English but was trained in philosophy, the English Department was not significantly involved in this controversy. School and Church policy allowed discussion on virtually any topic, but advocacy was another matter.

More significant was the 1911 opening of the new Maeser Building, built at a cost of $100,000, on Temple Hill, the first building to be built on what would become the permanent or upper campus. Until the university stopped offering classes on the lower campus, students had to make a ten-minute dash between classes from one campus to the other. Temple Hill was so designated because Provo residents long believed that a temple would be built where the Maeser Building now stands. A temple was indeed included in the early planning for the upper campus, but it was never built.

The 1913-14 catalog, the first available after 1909-10, fails to list Whitney’s epic of Mormonism but adds English courses in modern drama (Ibsen, Shaw, Materlinck, Hauptmann, and others) and Anglo Saxon (based on Bright’s Anglo-Saxon Reader), which suggests that the curriculum was expanding. A new instructor in Physical Education and Oral Expression, Beatrice Camp, under the department heading.

Although new more professionally trained faculty were being added and the curriculum expanded, the university continued to have serious funding problems.  A 1914 letter from President Brimhall to Abraham O. Smoot suggests the determination to keep the university going: “I could stand to lose my own home, go out and live in a tent better than I could stand to see the youth of Israel . . . meet when they come here closed doors or a poor bill of fare. It cannot be! Surely, the school is an institution of destiny.”  In this same year Osmond and Reynolds were among the six faculty members authorized to teach exclusively college classes. In 1916, thirty-three students graduated with bachelor’s degrees, two of them in English. In 1918, the Church assumed the university’s accumulated debts, which both eased the financial crisis and created a closer bond between the school and the Church.

With the coming of World War I, BYU established a Student Army Training Corps. In 1918, a second building was built on the upper campus, the Mechanical Arts Building, which later became known as the Brimhall Building. The 1918 flu epidemic, in which more Americans died than were killed in the war, closed the university for nearly four months. The department offered three new courses: The Short Story, Analytical Grammar, and Love and Light—O. F. Whitney’s Idyl of the Westland.


President Brimhall retired in 1921. Fiercely devoted to BYU, Brimhall was known for his hard work and his inspirational preaching, counseling, and teaching. When a watch was stolen from a locker, he came down hard on the culprit, proclaiming in a morning devotional that every tick of the watch would say “thief, thief, thief, thief” to the new owner. It was reported that the next morning upon entering his office, Brimhall found several watches on his desk. In addition to being president, Brimhall served on the Church Board of Education, the General Board of the YMMIA and the Church Board of Examiners. He also fathered fourteen children.

Franklin S. Harris, at 36 the new president of BYU, earned his doctorate at Cornell. He was a professor of agronomy at Utah State Agricultural College, having served for ten years as director of the School of Agricultural Engineering and the Experiment Station. Broadly educated himself, Harris believed in a well-rounded education for students. He was determined to make BYU a great Church university. As BYU continued to grow, one of his first priorities was to recruit outstanding faculty.  Because several of the Council of the Twelve held doctorates or had otherwise excelled as experts, one of Harris’s first innovations was to have these educators lecture at BYU and offer credit for attendance. Those giving lectures included Joseph Fielding Smith, Dr. John A. Widtsoe, Dr. James E. Talmage, Dr. Richard R. Lyman, Stephen L Richards, and Dr. Adam S. Bennion.

When Harris became president, BYU had a college enrollment of 438 students but was not yet accredited. After completing their undergraduate work, students got into graduate schools based on personal merit. Harris began early to make BYU better known. President Heber J. Grant, also of the same mind, invited several top American educators to speak at the April General Conference in 1921 and 1922. Other innovations instituted by Harris included a new extension division and Education Week.

The first building constructed after Harris became president was the Heber J. Grant Library completed in 1925. But BYU’s future was anything but certain. Faced with rising costs and the fact that public education made Church education in many ways redundant, the Church began closing academies and turning its junior colleges over to the states where they had been located. These included Gila College in Arizona, and Weber, Snow, and Dixie Colleges in Utah. Ricks College in Idaho escaped this fate when the stake presidency in Rexburg and other leaders offered funding. As in the past there was also serious discussion regarding closing BYU and focusing on only religious education in seminaries; BYU managed, under Harris, to weather this storm. However, Harris wasn’t totally occupied with campus administrative problems. In 1926 he read an invited paper at the Pan-Pacific Science Congress in Tokyo and then continued on a world tour of universities and educational systems

As a new president, Harris quickly established five new colleges, among them the College of Arts and Sciences, where the English Department was housed. He also established graduate and research divisions and imposed stricter graduation requirements. Before receiving a degree, students had to be approved by a faculty member in their majors, by the dean of their college, by the Committee on Graduation, and by the University Council. Students were not permitted to register for more than sixteen credits per quarter without special permission. Entrance requirements also became more rigorous. Harris was not known for delegating much authority. In fact, he and the registrar, John E. Hayes, were the university’s only full-time administrators. Harris did most of the hiring and had the last word on salaries. Finally, after making required improvements and changes, BYU was accredited in 1922 by the Northwestern Association and in 1928 by the Association of American Universities.

Financing BYU continued as the major problem, particularly faculty salaries. Between 1921 and 1929 the faculty increased by thirty-five percent and the student body by two hundred fifty percent, but the budget by only twenty percent. Pleased to be a part of a growing college and believing in its prophetic destiny, many faculty made great sacrifices to stay at BYU. Suggestive of this sacrifice, William J. Snow wrote to Harris while on sabbatical at the University of California, “Even a teacher has a stomach, feels it necessary to wear clothes, assumes it his privilege and joy to have a family [and] has in consequence to . . . pay bills, or suffer humiliation.”  Still, with Harris’s encouragement, and even on limited incomes, many faculty sought advanced degrees. At this time the budget included no provisions for retirement. Teaching loads typically varied between thirteen and nineteen hours a week. Harris, confident of BYU’s destiny as a great university, used money from the budget to buy additional property on Temple Hill for a campus, money which some thought should have gone to salaries.

The year Harris became president the English Department added two new instructors, Harrison R. Merrill and Reinhard Maeser, who had earlier been teaching at the Beaver Branch. The department curriculum also expanded, adding a variety of new courses: Advanced Composition; Short Story Writing; Newswriting; Advanced Narration; The History and Development of English; The Romantic Poets—Wordsworth and Coleridge, Byron and Scott, Shelley and Keats; Modern European Drama (Continental); Modern Drama (British); Modern Drama (American); Modern Novel; Tennyson’s  Minor Poems; Tennyson’s Major Poems; and Browning. Many of these courses represented the breaking up of earlier survey courses and also suggested the faculty’s growing expertise. The course in news writing also indicated a post-graduate practical application for English studies not apparent earlier. Short Story Writing became the first creative writing class offered at BYU.

The following academic year, 1922-23, six new faculty members joined the department:  Edward M. Rowe, Anna Egbert, Edward A. Morgan, Edward H. Holt, William H. Boyle, and Harold Bentley. New courses included Argument and Debate, Grammar, Contemporary American Literature, Shakespeare’s Comedies, and Prosody.  Also for the first time seven courses were listed as upper division. The new American literature course (“A survey of the present-day writers of America”) indicates a new appreciation for important living American writers, although, regrettably, none was listed. It would be interesting to know which Americans writers were thought worthy of study.  The following year, six courses in American literature were offered, an increase of three over the previous year.

In 1929 the English Department hired its first Ph.D., Parley A. Christensen, P.A. to his friends. Christensen had received a doctorate at Stanford in English literature. He was famous among students for his reading voice (he read Shakespeare beautifully) and his sharp wit and intellect, students referring to him covertly as Parley Agamemnon. One story relates that Christensen, irritated by a chattering student, asked, “Young man, do you have anything important to contribute to this class?” The student muttered, “No.”  “Well,” Christensen continued, “have you anything trivial to say?” The chastened student made no reply.

Also in 1929, for the first time, requirements for a B.A. and for a new M.A. in English were listed. The B.A. required thirty hours, in addition to three lower-division courses in rhetoric and composition. Other requirements included five period courses; three hours in advanced English composition; Chaucer or Old English; Milton, Wordsworth, Tennyson, or Browning; Shakespeare; and twenty-four hours in one or more foreign languages. A course in English history, if not taken in high school, was highly recommended. The M.A. required a B.A. in English or its equivalent, two courses in Shakespeare, Old English, Chaucer, and additional courses.

In addition to adding the M.A., the 1929 catalog also, for the first time, divided English courses into lower and upper division but did not list graduate courses as a separate category. New lower-division courses included Argument and Debate, Advanced English Grammar, Early American Writers, Later American Writers, American Poets, American Novelists, American Short Story Writers, three Masterpieces of English Literature courses, and Contemporary British Literature. New upper-division courses listed are Editorial Writing, Feature Writing, Magazine Writing, Book Reviewing, Poetry, English Drama, Mediaeval Literature, four English period courses, Matthew Arnold, the Victorian Poets, the English Novel, the Modern English Novel, the English Essay, Beowulf, the History of the English Language, History of Criticism, and Types of Poetry. Christensen is listed as the only faculty member teaching ten of the new courses, suggesting that expansion of the department offerings waited on the hiring of the right faculty. The new courses also suggest a department very much on the move. However, the catalog didn’t list a single upper-division course in American literature, suggesting a continued bias against its merit or appropriateness for university study.

In 1929, the National Executive Committee of the Association for Jewish Colonization in the Soviet Union (ICOR) invited President Harris to head a scientific expedition to the Soviet Union to find land suitable for a Jewish colony. Wealthy American Jews wanted to purchase land in eastern Russia to establish a large colony of Russian Jews where they could live their lives unmolested on their own land. Harris accepted the invitation and spent four months in Russia studying possibilities. In addition to the scientific work his team did in finding a suitable place for the Jewish colony, Harris served as a goodwill ambassador for both the Church and BYU.

1930s and 1940s

The Great Depression, as might be expected, brought more severe financial problems for BYU. Although earlier transfer of Church-owned junior colleges to Utah and Arizona, left more money for BYU, there was still some question as to whether it would survive. The faculty accepted salary cuts and all contracts were provisional. Students also tightened their belts, literally, forty percent surviving on three to six dollars a month for food. In spite of the Depression, enrollment continued to grow, increasing from 1,494 in 1929-30 to 2,375 a decade later.  Although a spirit of free inquiry continued, several faculty left BYU when their orthodoxy was questioned. Changes were also made in religious education when it was found that no courses were offered in the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, or the Doctrine and Covenants. In 1932 returned missionaries were required for the first time to take religion classes.

A notable addition to the English Department faculty during the 1931-32 school year was Karl E. Young, the first member of the department who had studied at both Harvard (1924-125) and Oxford (1927-30).  Other faculty hired to strengthen the department were Gladys Black, Ralph A. Britsch, Orea B. Tanner, and Leonard W. Rice.

The 1902-03 catalog, the first listing English as a department, offered ten courses. The 1931-32 catalog offered seventy-four courses—twenty-seven lower-division, thirty-two upper-division, and fifteen graduate. Of the seventy-four, only eight were in American literature—six lower-division, one upper-division, and one graduate. Obviously the belief in the validity of American literature as important was still not particularly clamorous.

P.A. Christensen

In 1935, after serving for thirty-two years as chair, Alfred Osmond retired, and P. A. Christensen, who would serve for twenty years, took his place. A great believer in freshman English as a fundamental course, Christensen insisted that all department faculty, not just junior members, teach it; according to him, the importance of the course required the best teachers.

In 1939, construction began on a religious education building to be known as the Joseph Smith Building. Built as a welfare project, it was the last of the four buildings (Maeser, Grant, and Brimhall having been built earlier), until the end of the World War II, when BYU’s student population and building program exploded. Except for BYU all Church education came under the direction of the new General Church Board of Education; BYU had its own board of trustees, all General Authorities, which did much to establish BYU as a church wide university. During the war years, 1941-1945, as would be expected, much activity on campus slowed or came to a halt. In 1945, Franklin S. Harris, after twenty-four years as president, resigned to become president of Utah Agricultural College.

Harris had steered BYU through more than two decades of growth and improvement in every category. He believed always that BYU would someday become a great university. His faith is summed up in two paragraphs from a letter Harris wrote to President Heber J. Grant at his retirement:

I am very sincere in my belief that Brigham Young University offers the best educational opportunities found in any school of the nation. We have here a student body coming from the finest people in the land. They are actuated by the high ideals of our Church and most of them respond very well to the situation. . . . The doctrines and practices of the Church are so superior to anything else found in the world and the quality of the young people who grow up in the Church is so fine that when you get this combination with the right kind of education, we are sure to get some of the leadership which the world needs so much just now.

Leaving his position as Salt Lake City superintendent of schools, Howard S. McDonald succeeded Harris as president. Trained initially as an agricultural engineer, McDonald later turned to a career in education. In his letter of appointment, the First Presidency asked McDonald to help them decide whether BYU should be closed, the last of several times the question of BYU’s continuation would come up. The end of the 1944-45 school year, the student body numbered only a little over 1,500, but with the end of World War II, 2,700 students flooded the campus, many of them part of the 10,000,000 veterans whose education would be paid for all or in part by the G. I. Bill. With so many returned servicemen on campus, campus life took on a new maturity and seriousness. A class in freshman English, for example, might easily include men in their mid- and late-twenties who had fought in the war, many of them married and starting families. These veterans, as they were called, wanted to make up the lost years and had a no-nonsense attitude toward education, which they saw as an entryway to jobs, professions, and security.

For the next twenty-five years, from 1945 to 1970, when the student body was finally capped at 30,000, the great task would be to provide the administration, staff, faculty, buildings, and programs to accommodate a rapidly expanding number of students. The first new construction was the Carl F. Eyring Science Center. To help with student housing, McDonald obtained temporary buildings from the Ogden Arsenal, some of which were converted to provide two hundred apartments for married students.

Like other departments, English continued to grow during a hectic period as the 1940s ended. New faculty included Dale H. West, Clinton F. Larson, Briant S. Jacobs, J. Golden Taylor, Olive K. Burmingham Mitchell, Stella P. Rich, Thomas E. Cheney, and Jean Anne Waterstradt. Curriculum changes included a teaching major in English, with the option to drop the twenty-four hour foreign language requirement to meet particular needs of some teachers. However, this necessitated the substitution of a B.S. for a B.A. The department for the first time also set up placement tests for freshman English, added a new category, General and Comparative Literature, as well as ten new courses and a minor. New English courses included a lower-division course in Classic Myths and upper-division courses in The Essay, American literature, and Modern Short Biography. The graduate program grew from fifteen courses in 1929-39 to thirty-three in the 1946-47 catalog, including three in Types of World Literature and four in American literature. The new undergraduate and graduate courses in American literature suggest that American literature had finally come of age. The department, with Professor Thomas E. Cheney as faculty advisor, started publication of Wye Magazine, a student literary magazine. Cheney loved the English poet William Wordsworth, who himself had loved the Wye Valley and River–hence the title of the new magazine.


In 1949, McDonald unexpectedly resigned to accept the presidency of Los Angeles State College.  Dr. Christen Jensen, professor emeritus, served as acting president until Ernest L. Wilkinson was appointed BYU’s seventh president in 1950. A successful Washington lawyer, a BYU graduate, and a devoted supporter of the university, Wilkinson set out to build the school in every area. One of his first major efforts was to increase the student body.  Successful innovations included sending faculty members to speak in stake conferences on the benefits of a BYU education, recruiting returning missionaries, asking mission presidents to urge parents to send their children to BYU, obtaining names of high-school graduates through their bishops, visiting area high schools, and advertising the university through radio, television, magazines, and newspapers. The result was an increase of five thousand students between 1950 and 1956, bringing the total to ten thousand.

To meet the increasing need for faculty, the English Department hired many new members during the early and mid-1950s. Most would spend their whole teaching careers at BYU, forming the department’s core faculty for the next thirty years. These included Dean B. Farnsworth, Edward L. Hart, Marshall R. Craig, Samuel C. Monson, Robert K. Thomas, Zane G. Alder, Dale S. Bailey, Ross S. Esplin, David L. Evans, Nan Osmond Grass, John (Jack) E. McKendrick, Ernest L. Olson, Lyman F. Smart, Homer G. Stratham, Woodruff  C. Thomson,  Glena D. Wood, Bruce B. Clark, Marden J. Clark, Irene O. Spears, Soren F. Cox, Richard G. Ellsworth,  Ernest Olson, John Thomas, and John S. Harris.

Several of the male faculty had completed their graduate degrees through the G.I. Bill following their discharge from military service after 1945. Some faculty who did not have their doctorates finished during summers or took leaves to do so. It was not unusual for department faculty to finish dissertations several years after completing all class work.  The record was ten years.

As an example of what new faculty members were bringing to the department and its students, John S. Harris had taught technical writing as a doctoral student. Knowing the value of the course for students in engineering and the biological and physical sciences, Harris surveyed faculty in these departments to find out if they favored the course. Given the enthusiastic response, he then approached the English Department and received approval for a lower-division course. Later, with the help of other interested faculty members, Harris designed the course and trained faculty where necessary. The course proved popular, and soon multiple sections were being taught. When in the early seventies the department moved to a vertical composition program, with students taking one freshman English course and an upper-division writing course, Technical Writing, now numbered 316, became the required course for engineering and science students.

During the 1950s, because of the rapidly growing numbers of students, freshman English classes ran from thirty to forty students and literature classes from fifty to one hundred. Typical teaching loads for faculty were from twelve to sixteen credit hours per quarter.


In 1960, BYU moved from the quarter to the semester system. Although this often combined three quarter classes into two semester classes, the department still offered ninety-six courses. The major also dropped from forty-five to thirty hours beyond freshman English to adjust for the switch from quarter to semester hours. New courses included Remedial English, Remedial English for Juniors, and English for Bilingual Students; Lower Division—an advanced freshman course, Technical Writing, Fundamentals of Literature for Majors and Minors; Upper Division—The Spirit of Tragedy in Literature, The Bible as Literature, four courses in World Classics, English and American Folk Poetry; and Graduate—The American Novel, The English Novel, Colonialism and Puritanism in American Literature, and Research in Folklore.

Bruce B Clark

In 1960, Bruce B. Clark became the department’s sixth chair. An able administrator and dedicated teacher, Bruce would later serve as dean of the college. The department continued to grow during the mid- to late-1950s, adding fourteen new faculty members: Marion B. Brady, Frank Horton, Jeannette Morrell, Douglas H. Thayer, Richard G. Ellsworth, John B. Harris, Darcus D. Hyde, Scott S. Hymas, Harold S. Madsen, Lorna R. Nielsen, Ted E. Ridenhour, Mable (Mae) Blanch, Alice (Allie) Howe, Eileen Gibbons, and Celestia J. Taylor.  The emphasis in the department was on teaching. Given the number of students enrolled in English classes, it was essential that all faculty members carry heavy teaching loads and teach well. The department gave little emphasis or encouragement to scholarship leading to publication.

Of the thirty-hour English major in the early 1960s, twenty hours were prescribed:

English 251, Fundamentals of Literature (3)

English 221, English Grammar (3) (substitution allowed if student showed an unusual mastery of the subject)

English 362 or 362, American Literature (3)

English 371 or 372 or 373, Early English Literature (3)

English 374 or 375, Later English Literature (3)

English 382 or 582, Shakespeare (3)

English 490, Senior Seminar for English Majors (2)

Majors could emphasize British or American literature, contemporary literature and creative writing, comparative literature, or English language. Two years of foreign language were required. If this requirement were partially waived, the student had to take an additional five hours in the department, if completely waived, ten additional hours.  The department designed a required reading list and developed a senior seminar to be taken the semester before graduation. A potential graduate was further required to take an exit exam based on the reading list, the seminar, and the student’s overall major program. Students taking a teaching major in English filled the same requirements as the regular major, plus additional courses required for certification.

Students taking a teaching minor took a course in grammar, two survey courses in English literature and one period course in American literature. Other students wishing to minor in English took fourteen hours of approved courses. To fill the university requirement for a minor, English majors could complete a regular minor in any department of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the College of Fine Arts, or library science, or a composite minor of twenty hours in approved courses.

In 1960, the university began the Honors Program with Robert K. Thomas of the English Department as its first director. Modeled on a liberal arts education, the program provided superior honors courses taught by dedicated, dynamic faculty in small classes to create a sense of scholarly community and to motivate students to write an honors thesis. From 1960 to 1983, admission was by invitation only and involved less than five percent of the student body. However, it was later found that high test scores and GPAs were not as predictive of academic success as writing ability, specific high school courses, and leadership experience, and so Honors moved to open enrollment. As might be expected, the English faculty has been heavily involved in creating and teaching Honors courses and directing Honors theses since the program’s inception.

Like the rest of the university, the English Department continued to grow in the Sixties. In the fall of 1963, the department had five hundred majors, and eight thousand students taking English classes, five thousand of whom were in freshman English.  Increasingly, freshmen were taught by graduate student instructors, sixty-two of them in 1965-66. These young instructors, as the name implies, were MA students. Teaching was a way for students to pay their way through school, gave them valuable professional experience, and of course was vital in helping the department staff freshman classes. The director and associate director of composition visited instructor classes regularly to check on teaching skills and also held weekly training meetings.

One of the department’s current responsibilities was to administer an English proficiency examination to all university juniors; juniors not passing the exam took a remedial course. To graduate, a student had to pass the exam.  It was hoped that the prospect of not graduating, or being delayed in graduating because of poor English skills, would prompt students to improve these skills. Eventually, however, such a backlog of students who failed the exam developed that the requirement became an administrative nightmare and was dropped.

By the 1965-66 school year, the student body numbered twenty thousand, an increase of ten thousand during the previous decade. To keep up with this continued growth, the department hired another twenty-four faculty members. Some of these new hires were instructors who helped teach the heavy freshman English load for two or three years and then went on to further graduate work or left for other reasons. But many become part of the permanent faculty.  New faculty members were Mary I. Allen, Penelope M. Allen, VerDon W. Ballantyne, Elouise Bell, George C. Bennion, Robert W. Blair,  Richard H. Cracroft, Harrison M. Davis, Blaine H. Hall, Darwin L. Hayes, Dustin H. Heuston, L. Douglas Hill, Eileen Kump, C. Craig McNeil, Ruth M. Mackay, Judith L. Merrell, Lorna R. Nielson, Karen F. Parker, Susan E. Ream, Charles D. Tate, Jr., L. John Taylor, Elizabeth Wahlquist, Marjorie Wight, and William A. Wilson.

Determined to improve teaching, President Wilkinson set up a new system whereby students evaluated faculty and the results were reported to deans and chairs. The intent was to rate teachers, reward superior teaching, and improve teaching where necessary. Not enthusiastic about the university system, Dean Clark, with the help of college chairs, devised a different approach which ultimately gained administrative approval. The student evaluation eventually became part of a three-part faculty evaluation that included teaching, citizenship, and scholarship on which promotions and continuing status (tenure) were granted. New faculty submitted a file after three years and again after six years, showing their achievements in the three areas. The file was then reviewed by department, college, and university committees. New faculty who passed the three-year review were advanced to candidacy for promotion to associate professor and continuing status, which were granted after passing the six-year review. Prior to the three-part evaluation, promotions were based largely on seniority and competent teaching. The move to the three-part evaluation was typical of the continuing effort to improve the faculty and particularly to encourage scholarship and publication.

Wilkinson also stressed the dress code. Famous for his crushing handshake, Wilkinson stood at the entrance to the Smith Field House to greet every student who came at the beginning of the term to register. He also had a committee present who decided whether a student’s dress and grooming met the university standard. Those who didn’t (skirts too tight or short, hair too long, beard unshaven, etc.) were denied entry until they returned in more presentable fashion. Selected students, zealous of the dress code, carried printed “Pardon Me” cards with them night and day; seeing a wandering violator on campus they would, without comment, slip the student a card, hoping for speedy reformation.

The dress code included the proviso that women, including faculty, might not wear slacks or pants, not even during periods of severe winter cold.  Eventually, of course, common sense prevailed, and women were allowed to dress against the frosty cold. Length of women’s skirts and shorts was always an issue, and it later became an issue with men’s shorts as well.  As with the women’s attire, it was assumed by some that if a man’s shorts were above the knee, his intention was to allure, if not to provoke. After serious debate and argument, it was generally concluded that knee length was safest for all concerned. If a male faculty member needed to wear a beard because of skin problems, he was required to present a note from his physician to support his case. The argument that Brigham Young and Karl G. Maeser both wore beards, as their on-campus statues proved, did not avail. Wilkinson was particularly concerned that faculty women not wear sheer blouses, to which one of the single female members of the English Department took severe umbrage. One day, although wearing an opaque blouse, she said to a male colleague that you would see them again, to which he quipped, “And what, Miss _______,is the antecedent of  ‘them’?”

During these years, students registered for their classes by pulling cards, the whole process taking place in the Field House. Coming in pre-assigned alphabetical groups, students, after passing the dress code gauntlet and Wilkinson’s maiming handshake, entered the area west of the basketball playing floor. Here they found a great horseshoe of tables with faculty under department signs handing out class cards. Students, their semester class programs in hand, stood in lines, sometimes long, hoping to pull a card for the desired class. If the cards were gone, as they sometimes were, students typically asked what class cards were available, often taking what they could get. The whole process proved so daunting that a few students (probably freshmen), disgusted and frustrated, gave up and left the building, abandoning all hopes of a college education. In the subsequent years registration would be by telephone and eventually on-line.

Department life was not all work and no play. At a fall social every year the faculty gathered for food and entertainment at one of the local ward houses. Supper was strictly pot luck, and delicious, with a wide array of meat and vegetable dishes, casseroles, salads, rolls, and desserts. The entertainment (known as the Faculty Follies) came from the department, including solo music performance, skits, original readings, roasts of faculty members, satirical sketches, and jokes. Perhaps one of the most memorable events was a beauty contest for six male faculty dressed in drag—bathing suits, tutus, and evening gowns, which, needless to say, brought down the house. The social eventually shifted from ward houses to BYU-owned Aspen Lodge at Sundance. At Christmas the department had a noon Christmas dinner on campus, again strictly potluck but without entertainment, the emphasis being on good food and conversation.

Under Wilkinson’s determined leadership and ambition to make BYU a major university, BYU continued to add students, buildings, and programs. A successful Washington, D.C., attorney, rather than an academic, Wilkinson was not always as sensitive or democratic as some faculty might have wished. A hard driver and a very hard worker, Wilkinson was sometimes known to work on Sundays in his effort to get things done. His comment that to be a professional one had to put in sixty hours a week did not sit well with all of the faculty. A campus rumor had it that Wilkinson wanted to put in time clocks and have the faculty clock in and out each day. New buildings didn’t come with faculty lounges.   If a faculty member felt the urge to discuss policy, programs, or changes with Wilkinson, he or she needed to be prepared. In his office Wilkinson had a whole series of charts and graphs that he could pull out to hammer a point home. He respected those who could argue from facts and sound reasoning and stand up to him, but he had little regard for those who lacked backbone. Given the problems of a growing university and the differing opinions and personalities involved, general faculty meetings sometimes became heated.

Typical of the changes on campus, and Wilkinson’s manner of effecting those changes, was the dividing in 1965 of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences into the College of Social Sciences and the College of Humanities. In the college meeting where the division was announced, a young, somewhat naïve English instructor asked if the division had been discussed with the college faculty. Wilkinson briefly turned to his two vice-presidents, then turned back and said no. When the instructor asked if it might not have been useful to discuss the division with the faculty first, Wilkinson had no comment.

That evening, the young instructor received a call from a seasoned faculty member complimenting him on his courage and telling him that he walked where angels feared to tread. This same instructor in a later meeting asked the Dean of Students if it were true that his office used the lie detector on students. The dean, at first reluctant to answer yes or no, finally said, “We find it gets good results.” The questioning instructor long regretted not commenting, “So does the electric chair.”

Bruce B. Clark, who was just completing his fifth year as chair, became dean of the new College of Humanities in 1965, eventually serving for sixteen years.

Dale H. West, a tall, angular man much given to irony, became the chair of the English Department in 1968, serving for the next seven years. Although not at the same rate as in previous years, the department continued in the sixties to hire new faculty to meet the demands of increasing student enrollment. Newly hired were brothers Brian S. and Larry G. Best, Maureen Derrick, Margaret T. Goff, Jerry A. Herndon, Neal E. Lambert, Julia P. Halgren, Marion K. Smith, Stephen C. Walker, Thomas L. Wood, Glade Hunsaker, Glen McKellar, Rose E. Calder, Don E. Norton, and Ray Williams.

In 1967, the English Department moved from the McKay Building to the top floor of the new west wing or annex (JKBA) of the Jesse Knight Business Building, later renamed the Jesse Knight Humanities Building.  Prior to this, the English Department faculty had offices in eleven different buildings—McKay, Maeser, Social Hall, Jesse Knight, Joseph Smith, Smoot, Harris Fine Arts Center, Smith Field House, J. Rueben Clark Library, and two temporary office buildings. Although bringing the faculty together in one building was a great improvement, graduate student instructors were crammed into two small classrooms on the bottom floor of the annex where they rotated the use of cubicles and desks.

In addition to faculty offices, the top floor of the annex included three office suites for the department headquarters. Faculty also had a large workroom (copy center) with copying machines, faculty mail boxes, and a supply room. For the first time faculty had student assistants to help with proofing, copying, collating, stapling, and other tasks. A small room doubled as a committee and lunch room.


In the same year as the move to new quarters, the department proposed a doctoral program in English, which gained approval in 1969. Nine students entered the program in 1971. Unfortunately, in the 1970s a nationwide surplus of doctorates in English developed, and graduates from established doctoral programs across the nation had difficulty finding positions, resulting in some of these programs being cut back. Because of the low number of students applying to the program and other concerns, the department found it necessary to reevaluate the doctorate.  Simultaneously, the university was pressuring departments to cut small, expensive programs. Thus, after careful study the department chose to furlough the program for three years; however, the doctoral program was never revived. Between 1975 and 1981 the department granted doctoral degrees to the six candidates: Agda Harlow, Greg Larkin, Graham St. John Scott, Clifton Holt Jolley, Gloria Cronin, and Hsiao-min (Sherman) Han.

Because university enrollment had been temporarily frozen at twenty-five thousand, department growth had finally leveled off. However, department policies and programs continued to change in an effort to offer students an ever improving education. Previously, all English education students (students planning to certify as high school English teachers) came under the direction of the College of Education. The English Department changed this so that these students all became English majors. Of the 191 majors who graduated in 1971, two-thirds were certified to teach.

Another significant change occurred in freshman composition. Following a national trend, the department moved from the old two-semester requirement to a vertical program in which students took one course as freshmen and the second as sophomores or juniors. Courses were designed in roughly four categories:  English 251, Fundamentals of Literature, for English, humanities, and arts majors; English 316, Technical Writing, for engineers and students in the sciences; English 215, Factual and Report Writing, for students in the social sciences and business; and English 212, a more advanced freshman English course. Under the new program, students were still required to take six hours of composition, but their major departments determined the second-semester course. This new program improved considerably the English Department’s relationship with other departments.

On 1 August 1971, Ernest L. Wilkinson retired, and Dallin H. Oaks became president of BYU. One of Oaks’s early decisions was to turn most responsibility for promotions and salaries over to departments.  At this time, the early seventies, English faculty who had been hired in the Twenties and Thirties and who helped shape the department and hold it together in those difficult financial years were beginning to retire. Retiring were Karl E. Young, Irene Osmond Spears, Nan Osmond Grass, and Jeannette Morrell. Harold S. Madsen retired early because of ill health.

Because the size of the department (easily the largest on campus and larger than some colleges) made creative leadership difficult, Dean Clark in the early Seventies formed a committee to study the possibility of sub-departments, each with its own chair. Clark felt that smaller units might create more harmony and stimulate more intellectual exchange among faculty. However, opinions were not unanimous. Some faculty felt that such divisions would fragment the department and build competition for resources.  Thus, the final decision to move to six sub-departments or sections was not an easy one, nor one universally approved in the department.


Marshall R. Craig

In 1972, Marshall R. Craig, a professor famous for his use of the Socratic method in his teaching, replaced Dale West as chair, and, following committee recommendations, formed six sub-departments, including English Literature, American Literature, English Language, English Composition, Teacher Training, and General Literature. After two years some faculty felt the new approach worked, some thought department unity had been compromised, and some decided administrative overhead which included the cost of a full-time administrative assistant, appropriately named William O. Shakespeare, to assist the chair, was too costly. Even so, there was general approval of the department’s new organization, and the sub-department arrangement continued.

The English Department at this time had three major responsibilities: the vast freshman English program (five thousand students); the General Education literature classes; and the major undergraduate and graduate classes. The typical teaching load had dropped from up to sixteen hours in the 1950s to twelve, except for reductions for extensive publications or administrative responsibilities. Although freshman English and composition classes had been previously taught by full-time faculty, these classes were being taught more and more by graduate students and part-time faculty, full-time faculty shifting to teaching literature and language courses, many of them specialized with smaller enrollments.  Meanwhile, the number of English majors declined for several reasons. The university general education program dropped literature as a specific requirement, while at the same time Humanities 101 courses grew in popularity, resulting in a loss of students in general education literature courses. Another cause was a decline in the need for English teachers. Finally, changing freshman English to a vertical program resulted in a heavy loss of students in second-semester composition. Because of this decrease in English major enrollment, as well as pressure from the university administration to justify small classes, and a growing emphasis on publication, tensions developed in the department that would take the next few years to work out.

Despite such tension and fluctuations in student enrollment in literature and composition courses, the department continued to hire new faculty to replace those retiring. Those shifting to emeritus status were Orea B. Tanner, Ruth M. McKay, Celestia J. Taylor, and the venerable P. A. Christensen. New hires were Arthur Henry King, Marilyn Arnold, Edward A. Geary, and Melvin J. Luthy.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, another of Dean Clark’s concerns was to foster a more positive image at BYU of the College of Humanities, particularly the English Department. To quote from notes taken during a college meeting, “We are thought of as being too sarcastic, cynical, and basically negative, ready to sacrifice principles for the sake of a clever comment, so delighted with the pleasure of language that we are more willing to display these than we are to express sincere faith, testimony, and convictions of a spiritual nature.”  Clark hastened to add that some faculty carried heavy responsibilities as bishops, stake presidents, and mission presidents, and many were deeply devoted to the gospel, but that the department needed to work harder for a more positive image with students and faculty in other colleges.


Richard H. Cracroft

In 1975, after two-and-half years as chair, Marshall Craig was released to become the chair of the new BYU Council on Student Writing, and Richard H. Cracroft, a young, dynamic thirty-eight-year-old and a relatively new faculty member, became chair.

Robert K. Thomas, academic vice president, immediately called Cracroft in and told him to shift the faculty more toward scholarly research and publication and to affiliate more with national and international scholarly organizations in literature and linguistics. Clark had already been moving in this direction by suggesting, without great success, that faculty adopt either a teaching or a scholarship track. When Cracroft later became dean of the college, he received a similar charge from Jeffrey R. Holland, then president of the University. Some older faculty who had been hired exclusively to teach felt this new requirement for scholarship suggested a lack of appreciation for their lives of dedicated service. The change was, however, a fact of academic life as the department moved to become stronger, more professional, and to enhance its scholarly reputation.

Cracroft organized a Faculty Advisory Council (FAC) comprised of the chairs of other committees (promotion, writing, curriculum, American literature, British literature, etc.) to help run the department. Other changes during his administration included writing examinations for some courses to make them challengeable (a program that later failed because of lack of student interest); revising major requirements (a department wheel that needed to be reinvented every five or six years); and establishing “An evening with . . .” lecture series through which prominent Latter-day Saints, often General Authorities, came to speak to English majors and minors.

At this time the department also set up, under the direction of Darwin Hayes, a reading/writing tutorial program called TICCIT to help students improve skills using computer software. This was part of an effort under Soren Cox to improve department general education courses and TICCIT later became part of the university Learning Resource Center managed by Kristine Hansen and housed in the Lee Library. The Center ran a tutorial program for all students needing help in developing various learning skills. Dorothy Hansen administered the reading skills development, and Don Norton oversaw writing skills tutoring. When the LRC moved out of the library, the reading and writing component remained and became the Reading/Writing Center with William Shakespeare as director. At this time, students were not required to take freshman English but to pass university reading and writing evaluations. To prepare for these evaluations, students typically took preparatory courses as needed. In addition to offering individual tutoring to all students, the Center also helped with these courses.

Following the lead of the college language departments in their study abroad programs, the English Department, through the Kennedy Center, in 1977 began its London Study Abroad Program. The goal of the program was to give students experience studying British literature in on-site courses. The program eventually broadened to include creative writing and courses in other disciplines. Today, students and faculty are housed in the BYU London Center. Under the direction of Eugene England the department started a Theatre Study Abroad program in which students studied the history of British theatre and attended plays in London and elsewhere in England. Later still, John Bennion began an England and Literature program in which students toured and walked sites important in the development of British literature. All three programs have proven to be popular with students.
On the more practical side, in order to foster department camaraderie, Cracroft furnished as a faculty commons a room used for eating lunches (President Wilkinson would not let it be called a lounge because he felt that implied loafing), putting in a refrigerator and water heater for hot drinks to make sack lunches more electric typewriters with white-out correction ribbons, a vast improvement over older manual machines. Finally, the department installed a “state-of-the-art” copying machine, which unfortunately broke down weekly, so that hand-staining ditto masters were still needed to produce class materials.On the more practical side, in order to foster department camaraderie, Cracroft furnished as a faculty commons a room used for eating lunches (President Wilkinson would not let it be called a lounge because he felt that implied loafing), putting in a refrigerator and water heater for hot drinks to make sack lunches more electric typewriters with white-out correction ribbons, a vast improvement over older

As can be expected with a large faculty, things did not always run smoothly in the department.  Although nearly all the faculty were faithful members of the Church, three were terminated for standards violations. In addition, because of polarization between religiously liberal and more conservative faculty, some divisiveness developed in the department at this time ultimately resulting, amid considerable upheaval, with some faculty members leaving to teach at other universities. On the lighter side, minor problems included whether women faculty had exclusive rights to the women’s restroom—that is, without sharing with women students–and whether one faculty member might have a better grade of carpet in his office than others had.

As the full-time department faculty became more involved in teaching upper-division and graduate classes and doing research, the department began to hire more adjunct faculty. Adjuncts typically taught writing courses or classes with heavy writing emphasis, including freshman English, 218 Creative Writing, 251 Fundamentals of Literature (a prerequisite course for the major),  312 Critical and Interpretive Writing, 314  Writing About Literature, 315  Expository and Factual Writing, and 316 Technical Writing. These instructors, some of them faculty wives, typically held M.A.s in English, were highly skilled teachers who made a significant and much appreciated contribution to the department.

In the late Seventies and early Eighties the English Department began a program with X’ian Foreign Language Institute in the People’s Republic of China to bring some of its English faculty to the department. The program proved only partially successful, however. While several of the Chinese faculty were brilliant and taught well,  others were not as capable, and eventually the program was discontinued. However, through the Kennedy Center many BYU faculty, including those from the College of Humanities, continued to teach at X’ian and other Chinese universities.  The department also at this time started a faculty exchange program with BYU-Hawaii, then called Church College of Hawaii, which proved popular continued for several decades.

Up to this point, the English Department, like other departments across campus, handled all advisement of majors and minors, with faculty members assigned to advise a given group of students. Students were periodically asked to meet with their advisors to fill out necessary forms to ensure they were meeting department and general education requirements leading to timely graduation. As all students did not come in and there was no way to require them to do so, the system proved less than effective. Also, the whole process became increasingly complex in terms of general education requirements, career advisement, and graduation clearance.  Beginning in the early Seventies, university administration launched a new program of advisement by creating college advisement centers where students could seek help. Since the colleges received no additional funding, early advisement centers typically amounted to a secretary being designated as a college advisor. However, over time the College of Humanities Advisement Center developed until it now has its own offices, a director, a secretary, and several advisors, though English faculty are still assigned to help students develop academic programs that best meet their needs.

Anne White, administrative assistant, helped to keep the department functioning smoothly during the Eighties and Nineties. Starting in 1979, she served as a student secretary, then as secretary, and finally as administrative assistant to the chair. Known for her sense of humor, irony, intelligence, hard work, and problem-solving ability, she was a popular and effective department administrator. Resigning to marry Dr. Anthony Van Soest, Anne White served the department well for a total of twenty-two years.


In 1980, Richard H. Cracroft resigned as chair after five years in that post and was replaced by John B. Harris. This same year President Oaks was released, and Jeffrey R. Holland became the new president of BYU. Neal Lambert, a member of the English faculty, became associate academic vice president. The next year, Dean Clark was released as head of the College of Humanities after sixteen years of dedicated service during a period of dynamic growth and policy and program changes, and Richard Cracroft succeeded him as dean.

Adapting to new technology, in the Eighties the department began shifting from electric typewriters to computers. There was also a new emphasis on sending faculty to scholarly conferences. Although the department encouraged scholarship and publication, teaching was still considered the primary faculty responsibility. Faculty were, however, rated in part on how much they published and where. As the department continued to put more emphasis on publication and building a scholarly reputation, older faculty found it difficult to manage the teaching load and still publish, particularly those who had previously dedicated all their time to teaching, with no expectation of publication. This was obviously a period of transition.

As faculty who had been hired during the hectic 1950s and early 1960s began to retire, the department continued to add new faculty. Retiring in the late 1970s and early 1980s were Rose E. Calder, LeMar Hendrickson, Olive K. B. Mitchell, Glena D. Wood, Marden J. Clark, Marshall R. Craig, Woodruff C. Thomson, Edward L. Hart, Dale H. West, and former chair and Dean Bruce B. Clark. New hires were Linda H. Adams, Dorothy M. Hansen, Bruce W. Jorgensen, Richard C. Poulson, Royal J. Skousen, Sally T. Taylor, Roy K. Bird, Anna May Curtis, and Darrell K. Spencer, Bruce W. Young, Gloria A. Cronin, Gordon K. Thomas, C. Jay Fox, Suzanne E. Lundquist, John J. Murphy, and Leslie Norris.

In 1985, after shepherding the department through the beginning of what would come to be some difficult years, John B. Harris stepped down as chair, and William A. (Bert) Wilson was hired from Utah State University to take his place. Wilson had taught in the department earlier but had left BYU for Utah State University, where he headed a folklore program and administered a folklore archive. Among his priorities was hiring new faculty who would both teach and publish, thus helping the department move in new directions.  Wilson also soon asked the department administrative council, various committees, and section heads to work on needed curriculum changes.

To realize some of these goals, in the last part of the Eighties the Department hired Grant M. Boswell, Gregory D. Clark, Kristine Hansen, Susan Howe, Phillip A. Snyder, David B. Paxman, John S. Bennion, David L. Cowles, Catherine Corman Parry, Doris R. Dant, William G. Eggington, Dallin D. Oaks, Raphael Johstoneaux, and Richard Y. Duerden, with Arthur Henry King and Alice (Allie) Howe were the two retirees at this time.

With the curricular changes, major requirements increased from thirty-five to forty-five hours, plus the General Education foreign language requirement and moved to a core program with four levels, each level to be taken in sequence so that one built on the next. For example, the Literature and Writing Core consisted of twenty-four hours:

Level 1: Engl 251. Fundamentals of Literary Interpretation and Criticism

Level 2: Engl 252. Critical Writing and Research

Engl 291. Perspectives in English Literature 1

Level 3: Engl 292. Perspectives in English Literature 2

Engl 293. Perspectives in American Literature

Level 4: Engl 382. Shakespeare, plus one course from each of the following three groups:

Early British:

Engl 371. English Literature to 1500: The Medieval Period Engl 372. English Literature from 1500 to 1660: The Renaissance Period

Engl 373. English Literature from 1660 to 1780: The Classical Period

Later British:

Engl 374. English Literature from 1780 to 1832: The Romantic Period

Engl 375. English Literature from 1832 to 1890: The Victorian Period

Engl 376. English Literature from 1890 to 1950: The Modern Period


Engl 361. American Literature to the Mid-Nineteenth Century

Engl 362. Later Nineteenth-Century American Literature

Engl 363. American Literature Since 1914

Other core requirements included the Language Core (nine hours); the Senior Course (three hours); and electives (six to nine hours minimum). Optional tracks were available in creative writing, writing, writing and editing, and pre-professional preparation.

Predictably, some faculty did not favor the core program, which caused further tension in the department. Another problem developed when some newer faculty suggested it was time for older faculty to catch up in terms of current scholarship. Such tension was virtually inevitable with so many new faculty having been hired, while older faculty, who had been required to dedicate their whole careers to teaching, approached retirement. Because of the increased size of the department, Wilson had many problems to deal with concerning hiring, salaries, leaves, annual interviews, promotions, curriculum, evaluations, personality conflicts.


Through years and tears the English department had many fine secretaries, most serving for two or three years. Easily one of the most long-serving and colorful was Joyce Baggerly, secretary for thirteen years from 1989 to 2002. She had been a sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, and although she did not wear her uniform as secretary, she might well have. Always fair, efficient, and even compassionate when absolutely necessary, Joyce did not suffer fools gladly, nor did she tolerate pompous BYU bureaucrats nor whining, conniving students.  Given her voice echoing down the halls from the office, her military manner, and her belief in rules and policy, Joyce was a much-loved presence in the department office, and her retirement was much regretted.


Neal E. Lambert

After serving as associate academic vice-president for five years, Neal E. Lambert was called as a mission president. After returning from his mission, and only after a year of getting back into scholarship and teaching, Lambert was appointed the new chair in 1991 to succeed Bert Wilson. However, this was not an easy time to be chair. A political polarity between liberals and conservatives had developed, focusing on feminism, abortion vs. pro-life, and cultural studies. The national press and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) had become involved in airing departmental problems. Even BYU’s accrediting associations began to raise questions about department issues. Through correspondence, General Authorities told Lambert to solve the department’s glaring problems. A brief anecdote illustrates the extent of Lambert’s distress: A faculty member looking through his office door one day and seeing Lambert staring out the window quipped, “Don’t jump, Neal. It isn’t high enough.”

However, all was not lost. Although involved in solving problems, Lambert worked to emphasize scholarship by hiring only the most promising new faculty, particularly women at equal salaries with men. At this time there were no important curriculum issues. Lambert started the discussion in the department that would eventually lead to the language faculty moving to the Linguistics Department. In 1989, Rex E. Lee became BYU’s tenth president. Far-sighted, he along with his academic vice president, Todd Britsch, gave Lambert and his successors needed support, as did Randall Jones, then dean of the College.

Through the years, because of the generosity of faculty, families of faculty, and other friends, the department was able to establish a gratifying number of student prizes, awards, and recognitions, which are presented at an annual English Department Awards Banquet. Those include the following: Writing Awards—Elsie C. Carroll Essay Contest, Hart-Larson Poetry Contest, Ann Doty Fiction Contest, Criterion Prize for Literary Criticism, Locutorium: A Place for Criticism, Thayer Freshman Writing Award, Vera Hinckley Mayhew Creative Arts Contests (poetry, short story, essay), Writer’s Portfolio Contest, William A. & Hannele B. Wilson Folklore Collecting Prize, La Verna S. Clark Creative Writing Scholarship, Carolyn Barnes Poetry Award, and Academy of American Poets (BYU Chapter) Contest;  Academic Awards—Orea B. Tanner Memorial Award, Mae Blanch Award, Edwin M. and Dessie W. Thomas Scholarship Awards for Excellence, Oleta Jex Bybee Scholarship, Naoma Rich Earl Scholarship, Alberta Huish Christensen Schoarship, and English Teaching Student of the Year Award; Awards for Graduate Students in English—Ed M. and Minnie Berry Rowe Award for Excellence in Teaching, Parley and Ruth Christensen Memorial Awards, and Clinton F. and Naomi B. Larson Scholarship.  At the banquet the department also awards to three deserving full-time faculty for excellence in teaching, research and citizenship.


C. Jay Fox

In 1995, C. Jay Fox replaced Lambert as department chair, and C. Jay Fox was appointed (the provost and the academic vice-president required two hours to convince him to accept the appointment).  During Fox’s tenure the department started awarding faculty research grants, established an annual department retreat to discuss curricular concerns, formalized the faculty mentoring process, and went through a highly successful accreditation report and graduate program review. Fox chaired a college committee to establish guidelines for teaching literary texts. John Tanner, associate academic vice president and member of the department, added guidelines for visual material, and the resulting document became university policy.

Because the department had become so large (1,224 majors in 1995) and specialized, Fox continued former chair Neal Lambert’s discussion with the faculty about the merits of dividing the department.

As in the past, the department continued to hold the annual potluck dinner and Faculty Follies at Timp Lodge above Sundance in Provo Canyon, including mini-musicals, satirical pieces, even at times genuine talent. Two memorable performances were Elouise Bell dressed as Brunhilde (horned helmet and knee-length blonde pigtails) singing in duet  “Indian Love Song” with Jack McKendrick, and Karen Lynn Davidson dressed as a gypsy and playing the violin to her dancing bear (again McKendrick in appropriate costume). Using the same gifts listed above, the department faculty also sometimes entertained students for an evening.

On a much more sober note, critical theory has a long history as a part of English studies. Moral criticism was perhaps the first, as critics as far back as Aristotle tried to understand the purpose of literature and its impact and value on the moral life of its audience and the general public. Over time, other critical approaches have included formalism, New Criticism, structuralism/semiotics, neo-Aristotelian, Freudian, Jungian, and Marxist criticism in the 1930s; reader-response, post-structuralism/deconstruction, and feminism in the 1960s; and gender studies, new historicism, multi-cultural studies, and post-colonial studies from the 1970s to the present. There were no clear demarcation lines for these various critical approaches, many of them overlapping and either continuing or waning. Sometimes popular and sometimes not, critical theory eventually became highly politicized and philosophical. However popular various critical approaches became, some faculty were less enthusiastic about them, arguing that criticism had become more important than literature, the literature useful only as a means to discuss criticism. David Cowles, with help from other faculty, created a theory reader which helped generate understanding and acceptance of various critical approaches favored by the faculty.

The faculty favored or reflected these approaches in teaching; however, in the early 1990s some felt that the department was not keeping current and also not introducing English majors early enough to critical theory. The upshot was that new majors taking English 251 (Fundamentals of Literary Interpretation and Criticism), a required introductory course, had to attend thirteen lectures, one each week, on a different kind of criticism. This lasted for several years, when the lectures were dropped in favor of a more general approach to criticism, with the students being introduced to two or three critical modes, depending on an instructor’s interests.

The early 1990s also saw an increasing number of retiring faculty who had been hired in the decades after World War II, including Gordon K. Thomas, Frank K. Horton, John S. Harris, John A. Thomas, David L. Evans, Elouise M. Bell, Byron W. Gassman, Darwin L. Hayes, Joyce S. Hooker, Susan E. Ream, Charles D. Tate, Soren F. Cox, Richard G. Ellsworth, and Ray S. Williams. New faculty hired at this time were C. Penny Bird, A. Keith Lawrence, Cynthia L. Hallen, Jesse S. Crisler, Christopher E. Crowe, Lance E. Larsen, Daniel K. Muhlestein, Brandie R. Siegfried, Gideon O. Burton, Nancy L. Christiansen, Louise R. Plummer, Don W. Chapman, Zina N. Petersen, Joyce Nelson, Peter J. Sorensen, Claudia W. Harris, Paul J. Baltes, Gail T. Houston, Cecilia Koncher Farr, Brian K. Evenson, and Michael N. Madsen.

In hiring, the department searched for new faculty who would be strong department citizens, teachers, and scholars. Regarding scholarship, the department looked for those who had already as doctoral students begun to publish and had a projected research and publication schedule that would enable them to pass rigorous third-year and sixth-year reviews in scholarship, citizenship and teaching, before receiving continuing status. Moving toward more scholarly specialization during the previous twenty years, most faculty had begun routinely presenting papers at scholarly conferences, publishing articles and creative works in journals, and authoring an increasing number of books published by scholarly presses.  The minimum department expectation became one solid scholarly article or creative piece per year, with some faculty publishing two and three. When a faculty member publishes a book, he or she is recognized at an informal luncheon where a colleague introduces the work.

Merrill J. Bateman became president of BYU in 1996. Because Bateman was the first General Authority to serve as president, there was some faculty concern about how future decisions would be made and university policies and programs developed. In an early get-acquainted-with-the-president college meeting, a concerned member of the English Department asked Bateman if, in fact, all discussion with the administration was at an end because all of his decisions would be inspired and therefore never subject to question. Smiling, Bateman said no, they would not be—much to the relief of assembled faculty.

2000s and Beyond

In 1999, after serving as chair for four years, Jay Fox was released, and John S. Tanner, who had been an associate vice-president, was appointed the new chair. Tanner’s primary assignment was to help strengthen the faculty according to principles laid down in the aims of a BYU education, the Rank and Status Policy, and the university document on Academic Freedom. He focused on scholarship, teaching, and citizenship, making salaries equitable, hiring strong new faculty, continuing to build the department on its past strong foundation, and after an extensive review developing a progressive rather than a cyclic curriculum.


John S. Tanner

Under Tanner the department also continued discussion begun by Lambert and continued by Fox about moving department specialists in language and certain language courses to the Linguistics Department. In 2002, Don W. Chapman, Doris R. Dant, William G. Eggington, Dallin D. Oaks, Royal J. Skousen, Linda H. Adams, and Don E. Norton moved, taking their several specialties with them.

A major preoccupation at this time was the planning and building of the new Joseph F. Smith Building and moving the College of Humanities from the Jesse Knight Humanities Building to the new and spacious facility.

Although retirements had slowed down somewhat from the early Nineties, the late Nineties saw another group of faculty retiring: W. Dean Rigby, Charlotte D. Lofgreen, Mae (Mable) Blanch, William A. (Bert) Wilson, Lorna R. Best, and Brian S. Best. Replacing them over a span of a decade were Edward S. Cutler, Jill Terry Rudy, Jacqueline Thursby, Danette Paul, Dennis R. Cutchins, Sirpa T. Grierson, Eric A. Eliason, Deborah M. Dean, and Nicholas A. Mason.

Cecil O. Samuelson became president of BYU in 2003, and the next year, John Tanner was released as chair, later to become academic vice-president.


Edward A. Geary

Edward A. Geary was appointed in Tanner’s stead. The major event during his one-year chairship would be the department’s preparing to move to the fourth floor of the new JFSB along with the rest of the College. Because of comparatively abundant resources, it was possible to hire new faculty, provide better annual raises, and offer reasonable opportunities for research and professional development. The department also devoted much time and energy to preparation for yet another accreditation review.


Gregory D. Clark

Gregory D. Clark was serving as composition coordinator and enjoying a half-time professional development leave when he was asked in 2005 to replace Ed Geary, who had decided to retire somewhat earlier than anticipated. Clark immediately organized a committee to help the department prioritize the work of English studies. However, this effort was preempted by the new push by BYU accreditors for learning outcomes-based assessment that in effect focused on the department’s collective priorities.

Retiring at the beginning of the new century were Neal E. Lambert, Verdon W. Ballantyne, Richard H. Cracroft, Glade O. Hunsaker, John J. Murphy, and Louise R. Plummer. Newly hired faculty were Trenton L. Hickman, Brett C. McInelly, Dennis R. Perry, Matthew W. Wickman, Dean Hughes, John Talbot, Frank Q. Christianson, Leslee Thorne-Murphy, Aaron C. Eastley, Kimberly Johnson, Kristin Matthews, Matt Haslam, and Patrick Madden.


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