English, Rhetoric, and Humanistic Studies

Grounded in a common interest in the varied functions of language, the English major integrates multiple disciplinary approaches, including the literary, the philosophical, and the aesthetic.

Cadets’ command of language is developed both critically and creatively through the study of a range of humanistic works and practice in effective forms of expression.

Rhetoric is both an art and a skill in using language, a means of fostering cooperation among human beings. In this definition “language” encompasses the language of music, art, and philosophy as well as of writing and literature. Through a study of these languages, cadets learn to create and interpret a variety of texts and locate them in their cultural contexts. In the process, English majors discover how authors, artists, and philosophers have shaped and been shaped by the values, beliefs, time, and place in which they lived and worked. Cadets thus gain a cultural awareness that will serve them well in today’s global society.

Given the necessity of digital communication in the twenty-first century, they also learn how to navigate networked writing spaces and to develop multimedia projects for the web. To extend their education beyond the classroom and prepare them to be engaged citizens and professionals, they apply what they have learned to real-world situations in both courses and required fieldwork experiences.

Degrees and Programs

Major(s): English

Degree(s): Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


English majors take ERHS courses in rhetoric/writing, literature, art, and philosophy and may pursue concentrations in any of these subjects. Emphasizing active learning and individual attention, this major cultivates each cadet’s ability to articulate ideas, analyze information, and communicate clearly with multiple audiences through a variety of media. It also provides them with opportunities to engage in real-world learning opportunities. With twenty-four hours of free electives, English majors may complete minors in other curricula or even double majors. Our graduates pursue careers in the military service, law, business, civil service, marketing, communications, education, and many other fields as well.

ERHS in the News

Find out more about the department's cadets and faculty in recent VMI news.

Josh Cheung presents his senior thesis during VMI's honors week.

Honors Thesis Questions, 'Is God a Vegetarian?'

What does the Bible say about what we should eat? That is the question Josh Cheung ’24, a Virginia Military Institute cadet double majoring in English and biology, sought to answer in his honors thesis, “Is God a Vegetarian?”

VMI Professor Duncan Richter publication announcement.

Professor of Philosophy Publishes Paper

Duncan Richter, Charles S. Luck ’55 Institute Professor, has published a paper titled “‘Obviously wrong’: the Tractatus on will and world” in the book Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus: A Critical Guide, edited by José L. Zalabardo and published by Cambridge University Press.

VMI: Forging 21st Century Leaders