Why English? Critical and Creative Traditions


Bachardy Drawing of Christopher IsherwoodCal State LA has been home to a wealth of creative scholars and scholarly creative writers, reflecting the department's emphasis on the centrality of literary studies to both critical and creative traditions. The current faculty publish regularly in leading academic journals on subjects ranging from 14th century manuscripts to 21st century book culture, produce book-length studies of literature and culture, and write and present on a wide variety of pedagogical issues. In addition, Creative Writing faculty regularly publish creative works of fiction and poetry.

The tradition of scholarly achievement by faculty at Cal State LA dates back to the earliest days of the department. Paul Zall published frequently on British Romanticism and later on important American Revolutionary figures. Norman Fruman produced his groundbreaking and controversial study of Coleridge's plagiarisms, Coleridge, the Damaged Archangel, while at Cal State LA. For more on the critical tradition, see Paul Zall's reminiscence "Scholarship at Offramp U?!!?"

Over the years, the Department of English at Cal State LA has been graced by a remarkable collection of novelists, playwrights and poets and both Creative Writing faculty and students have enjoyed considerable success.

In the early 1960s, Christopher Isherwood and Dorothy Parker were distinguished visiting professors. 

In addition, Cal State LA's Creative Writing faculty has included Wirt Williams, twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, Leon Surmelian, noted Armenian novelist and writing teacher, and Kate Braverman, multi-award winning fiction writer and poet.

Portrait Photo of Henri Coulette

Another important figure in the department's history is the poet Henri Coulette. Coulette, a Lamont Poetry Prize winner, graduated from Cal State LA (when it was known as Los Angeles State College of Applied Arts) with a degree in English in 1952 and returned in 1959 as a professor until his untimely death in 1988. 

For more on the creative tradition, see the reminiscences of John Weston and others "Creative Writers at Cal State LA".


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Critical and Creative Traditions

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