About the Majors

At Hamilton, students may choose to major in literature or creative writing. In either case, their professors will encourage them to explore literature across centuries, nations, and languages. Consulting with advisors, literature majors develop an individualized, and potentially interdisciplinary, course of study. Creative writing majors take courses that balance literary study with poetry and prose workshops. In both majors, the curriculum emphasizes small classes, the exchange and testing of ideas, and the development of superior reading and writing skills.

Literature Students Will Learn to:

  • Write clear and well supported arguments about literary and/or other cultural texts
  • Demonstrate knowledge of diverse literary traditions across historical periods, geographic regions, and/or social contexts
  • Analyze literary works compellingly in contexts informed by literary criticism and/or broader regions, and/or social contexts

Creative Writing Students Will Learn to:

  • Write with an awareness of the literary traditions within which they are working
  • Write with attentiveness to form and genre
  • Write a sustained creative project that demonstrates originality and attention to language

A Sampling of Courses

Suffrage Cartoon

Suffrage and Comics

Since the 19th century, editorial cartoons and comics have played a crucial role in illustrating enfranchisement across race and gender. This course examines US suffrage from 1800s magazine and newspaper culture to webcomics. We’ll analyze representations of the 15th and 19th amendments, and how cartoons of Columbia, Uncle Sam, and Wonder Woman shaped depictions of citizenship and voting rights. Digital Humanities projects. Works by Keppler, Brinkley, Robbins, Alcaraz, Knight, and others.

Explore these select courses:

Always a necessity and sometimes a luxury, food connects all people to the planet and to one another. This course will explore how authors and filmmakers use food and cooking in their works as a means of exposing complex social relationships, histories, and identities. The list of authors we may read includes Laura Esquivel, Aimee Bender, Isak Dinesen, Franz Kafka, MFK Fisher, Ruth Reichl, and many poets. We will also look at films such as Big Night; Eat, Drink, Man, Woman; and Ratatouille.

"Know thyself." Young people struggled with this injunction long before Hamilton adopted the motto. This course explores how young people in literature—from medieval tales of adventure through 21st c. graphic novels—attempt to define their own identity in relation to their families and societies. We’ll explore how intersections of gender, sexuality, race, and culture come together in the construction of identity. Texts may include anonymous medieval works, as well as novels by Jane Austen, Alison Bechdel, Charles Dickens, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Art Spiegelman.

Debates about the value of literature have long been tied to questions about its use. Literature has been praised—and condemned—as a source of pleasure, a medium for the transmission of knowledge, and a vehicle of personal expression. In order to determine why fiction matters, we will examine works that explore the power of literature to shape moral, social, and political realities, including philosophical manifestos, anti-slavery treatises, self-help manuals, and experimental novels. Works by Rousseau, Cugoano, Wollstonecraft, and George Eliot, as well as the film The Servant (1963).

A creative non-fiction workshop in which students will read and discuss essays in some of the following sub-genres: memoir, travel/nature writing, food-writing, and literary journalism by a wide range of authors. Readings will provide models for student work as well as contexts in which to examine the work students generate. Part of our task will be to answer the question: What is creative non-fiction? Through a close examination of the texts we read in class, and the process of both writing and critiquing student essays, we will attempt to clarify the sometimes vague definitions of the genre.

Poetry in the early modern era circulated in manuscript in particular controlled social contexts. How did poems survive, get into print? What is the difference between reading a poem in manuscript, in a collection, in an anthology? Attention to manuscript circulation, common-place books, and miscellanies, and the role of anthologies in canon formation after. Case studies: the Devonshire manuscript, Sidney and Shakespeare sonnet sequences, collections by Anne Bradstreet, Katherine Philips, and Edward Taylor, among others. Later examples, such as Dickinson, according to student interest.

Meet Our Faculty

Naomi Guttman

Department Chair, the Jane D. and Ellis E. Bradford ’45 Distinguished Writing Chair


poetry and poetics; food writing; contemplative pedagogy; environmental and feminist literary study

Stephanie Bahr

Assistant Professor of Literature


Tina May Hall

Professor of Literature and Creative Writing


creative writing, 20th-century literature, experimental women's writing, and postmodern gothic

Suzanne Keen

Dean of Faculty and Professor of Literature and Creative Writing


Doran Larson

Edward North Chair of Greek and Greek Literature and Professor of Literature and Creative Writing


20th-century American literature; the history of the Anglo-American novel; fiction writing; nonfiction writing and prison writing of the U.S., South Africa, and Ireland

Hoa Ngo

Visiting Assistant Professor of Literature and Creative Writing


Vincent Odamtten

Professor of Literature, Chair and Professor of Africana Studies


African literature with a focus of Ghanaian and women's literature; 20th-century Caribbean literature; African-American literature; science fiction; literary criticism; use of digital technology in the study of literature

Onno Oerlemans

Elizabeth J. McCormack Professor of Literature


Romantic period literature; animals in literature; animal rights; nature writing – literature and environmentalism; cultural and political history of the Adirondack Park

Misha Rai

Visiting Assistant Professor of Literature and Creative Writing


history of the novel, the political novel, the transnational novel, emergency narratives, fiction, and literary suspense

Jane Springer

Professor of Literature and Creative Writing


poems, poetics, nonfiction and Southern literature

Pavitra Sundar

Associate Professor of Literature


Suzanne Taylor

Assistant Professor of Literature


Katherine Terrell

Associate Professor of Literature


Old English, Middle English, and Middle Scots language and literature

Margaret Thickstun

Jane Watson Irwin Professor of Literature, Director of Medieval and Renaissance Studies


literature in 17th-century England and Colonial America, particularly by women and by people writing on religious subjects

Anne Valente

Assistant Professor of Literature and Creative Writing


creative writing, novels and short stories, creative non-fiction, and 20th century American literature

Benjamin Widiss

Associate Professor of Literature


20th-century and contemporary American literature, literary theory, autobiography, film

Steven Yao

Edmund A. LeFevre Professor of English


20th-century American and British literature; literary translation; Ezra Pound; comparative literature; Asian American literature, especially poetry; global literary modernisms; Asian diasoporas; transpacific literature

Christian Goodwillie

Lecturer in History, Lecturer in Literature and Creative Writing


Phil Memmer

Lecturer in Literature and Creative Writing


Austin Briggs

Hamilton B. Tompkins Professor of English Literature Emeritus (retired)


Jean D'Costa

Leavenworth Professor of English Emerita (retired)

Ivan Marki

Edmund A. LeFevre Professor of English Emeritus (retired)

John O'Neill

Professor of English Emeritus (retired)


literature of Restoration England, 1660-1700

Patricia O'Neill

Leonard C. Ferguson Professor of Literature and Creative Writing Emerita (retired)


Victorian and postcolonial literature, film studies, and digital humanities

Nancy Sorkin Rabinowitz

Professor of Comparative Literature Emerita (retired)


Greek tragedy; feminist criticism; reception and performance of tragedy; teaching yoga and classics to underserved populations, especially prisoners

Peter Rabinowitz

Carolyn C. and David M. Ellis '38 Distinguished Teaching Professor of Comparative Literature Emeritus (retired)


narrative theory, including its application to music; 19th- and 20th-century fiction, including Proust and detective fiction; 19th- and 20th-century classical music, especially opera, piano and orchestral music

Bill Rosenfeld

Marjorie and Robert W. McEwen Professor of English Emeritus (retired)

Nathaniel Strout

Associate Professor of English Emeritus (retired)


Shakespeare, English Renaissance drama, English Renaissance non-dramatic literature, and Restoration and 18th-century drama

Victoria Vernon

Associate Professor of Comparative Literature Emerita (retired)

Explore Hamilton Stories

Women's basketball team captain Kelcie Zarle '22.

Hoops Captain Zarle ’22 Taking Her Talents to Moolah Kicks

As captain of Hamilton’s women’s basketball team, Kelcie Zarle ’22 is looking forward to combining her passions for the sport and communications after graduation as a social media coordinator for Moolah Kicks.

Katie Naughton ’08

Because Hamiltonians Pursue Poetry: Katie Naughton ’08

Katie Naughton ’08 is poetry in motion: She’s working on her dissertation for a doctorate in literature at the University at Buffalo, teaching undergraduates, creating a website where poets will share short their recommendations for poetry to read, handling publicity, social media, and editorial work for Essay Press, and working on a digital humanities archives.

Jahmali Matthews '22

Matthews ’22 Awarded FAO Schwarz Fellowship

Jahmali Matthews ’22 has been awarded a highly selective two-year award in social impact that includes a paid position with a leading nonprofit, personalized mentoring, and professional development opportunities.

Careers After Hamilton

Hamilton graduates who concentrated in literature and creative writing are pursuing careers in a variety of fields, including:

  • Director, Electronic Publishing, Scientific American
  • Executive Editor, Whole Living magazine
  • Chief Development Officer, Norman Rockwell Museum
  • President, Scholastic Media
  • Magistrate, Connecticut State Superior Court
  • Composer/Music Publisher, Ceili Rain
  • Financial Advisor, Ameriprise Financial Services
  • Physician, Senior Deputy Editor, Annals of Internal Medicine
  • Communications Manager, IBM


Department Name

Literature and Creative Writing Department

Office Location
198 College Hill Road
Clinton, NY 13323

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