The reasons given for this change are straight out of the progressive playbook. It’s not about making the department better, it’s about power and control.

BoingBoing reports:

Cornell English Department votes to change name to “Department of Literatures In English”

According to an article on Brittle Paper written by Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ and Carole Boyce Davies — both professors at Cornell University — 75 percent of the the university faculty voted this week in favor of changing the name of the English Department to the “Department of Literatures in English.”

This sounds like a subtle semantic change. But the idea behind it is driven by a larger-scale movement to de-colonize the Western university system. As the authors explain:

The name ‘English Department’ no longer reflects our diverse fields of study – even those still in the margins of the English canon. Our Department now offers courses in Enlightenment, Romanticist, Modernist and Post-Colonial literatures; Caribbean, African, African Diasporic, Native American, African American, Latin American, Chicanx, LatinX, LGBTQ, Indian, Asian diasporic and Asian American.

Literature in translation and many others using literary theories and concepts from all over the world. Within fields traditionally associated with English literature, scholars of both Romanticism and Medieval Studies have keenly recognized that multiple diverse voices and histories were involved in shaping those areas of study. What we want is to have a department that lives up to our lived reality. There is no room for a singular English literature.

We are not asking for other fields to be defunded at the expense of centering diverse scholars and their scholarship, we are simply asking for equality. For how can a department expect to become an incubator of Caribbean, African American, or African scholarship if it has only one scholar working on vast fields? How do we incubate ideas and develop them without clusters of people working in the same field? Our students, in an increasingly shrinking job market made worse by the pandemic need to be well grounded in their fields and their global dimensions.


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