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.