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Languages, Literature and Composition

The Department of Languages, Literature and Composition offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in English and Spanish, as well as minors in English, French, Spanish, German studies, African American studies, Film studies, Creative Writing, Global studies, and Spanish Translation/interpreting. All degree programs are designed with small classes and one-on-one guidance from instructors and advisers to help students develop the skills in critical thinking, oral and written communication, research, and analysis that are essential to 21st-Century careers. Find examples of excellent student projects and publications in the English Literary File and in the Upstate Research Journal. Our award-winning faculty members are published authors, leaders of national and regional organizations, working translators and interpreters, and global travelers committed to opening up a world of opportunity for our students.

Languages, Literature, and Composition programs prepare students for careers in law, professional/technical/creative writing, editing, publishing, translation and interpreting, library science, researching, business and non-profit administration, intelligence and military analysis, public relations, the film and popular culture industry, community outreach, as well as teaching both in the US and abroad. Our alumni are working around the world as lawyers, journalists, business owners and executives, military officers, professors, teachers, public relations directors, Peace Corps volunteers, authors and editors.

Our minors allow students to combine their interest in language and culture with a major in business, health care, engineering, technology, communications, criminal justice, child advocacy, or nearly any other field. Our minors prepare students to research, analyze, create, and communicate more effectively across audiences and cultures. These skills can significantly increase career competitiveness, especially in the Upstate region which is one of the biggest centers for international companies in the United States. 

Follow us on Twitter @LLC_Upstate or stop by our office in the Humanities and Performing Arts Center Room 222 to find out more.

Dr. Celena E. Kusch, Chair: 864-503-5850
Dr. Araceli Hernandez-Laroche, Assistant Chair for World Languages: 864-503-5221

English, ESOL, and Professional Writing

The Bachelor of Arts in English and the English minor prepare students with the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century information economy--from reading and writing to analyzing and producing creative and professional writing in a variety of print and digital media. Core courses expose students to the full range of English studies, including creative and professional writing, linguistics and English for speakers of other languages (ESOL), literary study of Shakespeare and the classics, as well as cultural difference and diversity in literature. Students also choose their own personalized set of advanced English courses focused on literature or film, creative or professional writing and rhetoric, linguistics and English for Speakers of Other Languages or a combination of these. Popular courses include Writing in the Fantasy Genre, Adolescent Literature, African American literature, the Harlem Renaissance, Mythical, Classical, and Biblical Backgrounds, Postcolonial Literature, Women Writers, and Writing in Fantasy Genres, and Freelance Publishing. Find examples of great student writing in English courses in the English Literary File, undergraduate student journal. 

Our alumni have used their degrees to become published authors, journalists, grant writers, lawyers, government leaders, non-profit administrators, public relations writers, business owners, college professors, K-12 teachers, and teachers of English in Spain, China, Mexico, and around the world.

Current students can find tips for success in English courses, guides to pursuing a career in English and more in our Department site under "The Dome."

Creative Writing

Students in creative writing minor enjoy the benefits of small classes and one-on-one attention to practice and perfect their skills in writing autobiography, creative nonfiction, drama, novels, poetry and stories in a range of genres. 

  • Workshop writing in small classes with a 12:1 student-faculty ratio
  • Work with award-winning authors on novels, short fiction, genre fiction, creative non-fiction, and memoirs 
  • Intern with the literary magazine, outstanding student organization winner

Dr. Thomas McConnell, professor of English, most recently won the Porter Fleming Literary Competition. His latest novel, The Wooden King, will be published by Hub City Press in spring 2018. 

Prof. Brock Adams, senior instructor of English and director of the Writing Center, was awarded the SC First Novel Prize for 2016, and his novel, Ember, was released in fall 2017. The novel is set in Upstate South Carolina, and offers a thrilling view of an apocalyptic world in which a dying sun ushers in a cold, dark reality. 

 Dr. Marilyn Knight, author of the horror novel Baby Doll, advises the literary arts magazine, Writers Inc. Interested students may enroll in a one-credit internship to work with the magazine throughout the year. 

World Languages, Translation, & Global Studies

USC Upstate students can open new worlds of opportunity at home and abroad by studying one of our five languages: American Sign Language, Chinese, French, German, and Spanish. Current students may find out more about the world language placement test and which world language courses are right for you on our Department site under "The Dome."

As our largest world language program, the Spanish major and minors prepare students to communicate in Spanish and to connect Spanish with various professions in the competitive global marketplace of the Upstate and beyond. Students pursuing a B.A. in Spanish focus on the language, literature, and culture of Spanish and Latin American countries and communities both past and present. Literature, film, and culture courses as well as study abroad opportunities in Spain, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica immerse students in the life and experiences of the Spanish-speaking world.

Throughout the US Spanish studies are quickly growing, and the Spanish major ranks as the most popular second major nationwide. Students who cannot double major in Spanish can pursue a range of minors that can help build skills and show employers that you have the global and intercultural competencies they demand. The annual New Global South Summit brings together faculty, students, community members, and worldwide experts to explore the future of our interconnected world. 

The Minor in Global Studies combines intermediate-level study of Chinese, French, German, or Spanish with a broader exploration of global cultural interactions, including a study abroad experience. This minor also meets the cultural and language requirements of USC Upstate’s Peace Corps Prep Program.

Many USC Upstate are bilingual by the time they enter the University. Minors in Spanish translation/ interpreting learn both theory and practical applications of translation and interpreting in healthcare, legal, business, and education professions. Advanced coursework in translation, interpretation, and Spanish for the professions helps students prepare for careers in a bilingual marketplace, while internships and service learning opportunities in translation and teaching English to speakers of other languages demonstrate the way Spanish can help make a real difference in many lives.

Minors in world languages allow students to combine their interest in language and culture with a major in business, health care, engineering, technology, communications, criminal justice, child advocacy, education, or nearly any other field. Our minors prepare students to research, analyze, create, and communicate more effectively across audiences and cultures. These skills can significantly increase career competitiveness. Minors in French, German Studies, Spanish and Spanish Translation/Interpreting prepare students for careers working with companies, organizations, schools, and communities from throughout the world, including Europe, Africa, Asia, and North and South America. Global companies like BMW, Michelin, Dräxlmaier, and others headquartered in the Upstate region seek talented employees who can communicate and work across languages and cultures as they carry on business around the globe.

World language teachers are also in high demand, and students with advanced language skills may use them to gain certification to teach through PACE or other post-graduation certification programs. Our world language faculty are actively involved with state-wide and national associations of teachers of world languages, where they work closely with K-12 schools and teachers throughout South Carolina. Now in its 20th year, the Reflections Workshop for world language teachers, founded by Dr. June Carter, brings dozens of teachers to USC Upstate each year for professional development with national leaders in world language teaching. 

African American Studies

African American Studies Minor includes courses in African American literature, culture, arts, history, social sciences and critical race theory.

Film Studies

The film studies minor introduces students to both film analysis and criticism as well as film and video production. The Upstate region and surrounding areas in North Carolina and Georgia have hosted crews for dozens of feature films, and the film/entertainment industry is growing as a regular avenue of communication for companies, non-profit organizations, education, and other industries. 

Add a film minor to a degree in business, communications, English, non-profit administration, sociology, or computer science to demonstrate your ability to work in a YouTube-centered world. 

Preface & First-Year Writing

Preface, USC Upstate's signature program in first-year reading and writing, has received national recognition for its impact on preparing students for leadership and civic engagement. The Preface First-Year Reading Program Includes readings, cultural events and exhibits designed to bring together the University community and first-year students in discussion of a single text and the issues it raises.

First-year students enrolled in Composition I (ENGL U101) and University 101 discuss the common reading selection in class throughout the semester, then particpate in lectures, film screenings, and other programs designed to help create connections between students, faculty, the University, and the community. Students meet national leaders, award-winning authors, voices from Upstate's social and business communities, as well a USC Upstate faculty from throughout the university in this great introduction to University and academic life. 

Get to Know Our Languages, Literature, and Composition Community

Meet Our Faculty

Full-Time Faculty in English, World Languages, and African American Studies

Dr. Celena E. Kusch, Chair
Associate Professor of American Literature
Teaching and Research Areas: Modernism, Postmodernism, Postcolonial Studies, Women's and Gender Studies, Literary Theory

Dr. Araceli Hernandez-Laroche, Assistant Chair of World Languages
Assistant Professor of French and Comparative Literature
Teaching and Research Areas: French Language and Literature, Existentialism, Immigration, Francophone Africa, the Global South

Brock Adams
Senior Instructor of English, Director of the Writing Center
Teaching and Research Areas: Writing, Creative Nonfiction, Flash Fiction, Apocalyptic Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic Fiction

Meggan Burton
Senior Instructor of Spanish
Teaching and Research Areas: Spanish, Spanish for Business, Language Acquisition through Video

Dr. Catherine Canino
Professor of English, Director of the Honors Program
Teaching and Research Areas: Shakespeare, Elizabethan England, Shakespeare and Film

Dr. Warren Carson
Professor of English, Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
Teaching and Research Areas: African American Literature, Harlem Renaissance, Black Masculinity

Dr. June Carter 
Professor of Spanish, Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, and Director of the Reflections Workshop for Language Instructors
Teaching and Research Areas: Spanish Language and Literature, Latin American Literature and Culture, Spanish and Social Justice, K-16 Language Learning

Dr. Peter Caster
Professor of English
Teaching and Research Areas: Film Studies, Disney, Masculinity Studies, Prison Studies, Cultural Studies

Dr. David Coberly 
Assistant Professor of Spanish
Teaching and Research Areas: Spanish Language and Linguistics, Second Language Acquisition, Language Learning Assessment

Gabrielle Drake
Senior Instructor of Spanish
Teaching and Research Areas: Spanish Language and Spanish for Specific Purposes, Spanish for Criminal Justice

Maria Francisco Monteso
Instructor of Spanish
Teaching and Research Areas: Spanish Language, Translation and Interpreting, Spanish in the Community and the Professions, Study Abroad to Spain

Dr. Esther Godfrey 
Associate Professor of English
Teaching and Research Areas: Victorian Literature, Women's and Gender Studies, Women's Literature

Douglas Jackson
Senior Instructor of Spanish
Teaching and Research Areas: Spanish Language, Spanish for Specific Purposes, Spanish for Nursing and Health Professions, Peace Corps Prep Program, Study Abroad in Central America

Dr. Cassandra Jones
Assistant Professor of African American Studies, Director of the African American Studies Program
Teaching and Research Areas: African American Studies, Women's and Gender Studies, Afrofuturism, Game Culture, Speculative Fiction

Dr. Beth Keefauver
Instructor of English
Teaching and Research Areas: Composition, Creative, and Professional Writing, Women's and Gender Studies, Environmental Literature

Dr. Marilyn Knight
Associate Professor of English, Faculty Advisor for Writers Inc.
Teaching and Research Areas: Creative Writing, Short Fiction, Gothic and Horror Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction, Southern Literature, Women's and Gender Studies

Dr. Thomas McConnell 
Professor of English
Teaching and Research Areas: Creative Writing, Novel, Long Story, Autobiography and Memoir, Contemporary Literature

Dr. David Marlow 
Professor of English, Director of the Center for Service Learning and Civic Engagement
Teaching and Research Areas: Linguistics, English for Speakers of Other Languages, Dialect Diversity, Service Learning, Study Abroad in Nicaragua

Dr. Richard Murphy 
Associate Professor of English
Teaching and Research Areas: Irish Literature, Postcolonial Literature

Dr. Colleen O'Brien 
Associate Professor of English
Teaching and Research Areas: American Literature, African American Literature and African American Studies, Women's and Gender Studies

Dr. Shannon Polchow 
Associate Professor of Spanish
Teaching and Research Areas: Spanish Language and Literature, Golden Age Spain, Study Abroad in Spain and Costa Rica

Wayne Robbins 
Senior Instructor of English
Teaching and Research Areas: Composition, Creative, and Professional Writing, Song Writing

Hans Schmidt
Instructor of German
Teaching and Research Areas: German Language and Literature, German for the Professions, German Language Acquisition

Dr. Monika Shehi 
Associate Professor of English, Director of the First-Year Writing Program
Teaching and Research Areas: Rhetoric and Composition, Discourse Analysis, Intercultural Studies in Composition

Tasha Thomas 
Senior Instructor of English, Director of the Spartanburg Writing Project
Teaching and Research Areas: Composition and Creative Writing, English Education, Young Adult Literature, Teaching with Technology, Digital Storytelling

Dr. George H. Williams 
Associate Professor of English
Teaching and Research Areas: 18th Century British Literature and Culture, History of the Book, Digital Technologies, Digital Humanities, Disability Studies

Students and Faculty in the News
Recent Books by Faculty Members

Book Cover of Ember by Brock Adams, featuring an image of the night sky, full of stars, over the dark silhouette of a tree line at the horizon.

Brock Adam's first novel Ember
Hub City Press, September 2017

Winner of the 2016 SC First Novel Prize, Ember, by Brock Adams is an apocalyptic thriller set in the Upstate region. As the sun begins to die, so do the human relationships and the interpersonal warmth that should hold society together. With the sun no more than a dying ember, the characters are left to re-discover what it means to love and to survive in a changed world.

Celena Kusch's textbook Literary Analysis: The Basics 
Routledge, April 2016

Literary Analysis The BasicsLiterary Analysis: The Basics offers an introduction to analysing a wide range of literary forms. Providing a clear outline of the methodologies employed in twenty-first century literary analysis, it introduces readers to the genres, canons, terms, issues, critical approaches, and contexts that affect the analysis of any text. It addresses such questions as:

  • What counts as literature?
  • Is analysis a dissection?
  • How do gender, race, class and culture affect the meaning of a text?
  • Why is the social and historical context of a text important?
  • Can digital media be analysed in the same way as a poem?

With examples from ancient myths to young adult fiction, a glossary of key terms, and suggestions for further reading, Literary Analysis: The Basics is essential reading for anyone wishing to improve their analytical reading skills.

Colleen O'Brien's Race, Romance, and Rebellion: Literatures of the Americas in the Nineteenth Century
University of Virginia Press, October 2013

Race Romance RebellionAs in many literatures of the New World grappling with issues of slavery and freedom, stories of racial insurrection frequently coincided with stories of cross-racial romance in nineteenth-century U.S. print culture. Colleen O’Brien explores how authors such as Harriet Jacobs, Elizabeth Livermore, and Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda imagined the expansion of race and gender-based rights as a hemispheric affair, drawing together the United States with Africa, Cuba, and other parts of the Caribbean. Placing less familiar women writers in conversation with their more famous contemporaries—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, and Lydia Maria Child—O’Brien traces the transnational progress of freedom through the antebellum cultural fascination with cross-racial relationships and insurrections. Her book mines a variety of sources—fiction, political rhetoric, popular journalism, race science, and biblical treatises—to reveal a common concern: a future in which romance and rebellion engender radical social and political transformation.             

Alumni Success Stories

What Are Our Alumni Doing?

  • Studying in Graduate School at Brandeis, American University, the Medical University of South Carolina, Clemson University, the University of Kentucky, Winthrop University and many more
  • Working as journalists
  • Practicing law
  • Serving as officers in the military
  • Leading community organizations
  • Working as public relations professionals
  • Writing creatively
  • Editing
  • Blogging
  • Freelancing
  • Making films
  • Working with Teach for America, Americorps, the Peace Corps and other national and regional service organizations
  • Running their own businesses
  • Teaching as college professors
  • Working in libraries
  • Teaching in K-12 schools
  • Managing and recruiting in the human resources industry
  • Living in Mexico, Spain, France, Italy, Argentina, Canada, Ecuador, China, and throughout the world.

Do you have a great alumni story to share? Contact the Department Chair at or share your news on Twitter @LLC_Upstate 

Alumni Portrait Tara Bing, now working as an attorney

Tara Bing is currently an Attorney Adviser for Social Security Administration Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. After graduating from USC Upstate in 2013, Tara began graduate school at the Charleston School of Law. In 2016, Tara graduated from law school, passed the South Carolina Bar, and was sworn-in as an attorney. She first served as a law clerk in SC Circuit Court for the Honorable Alison Renee Lee.
“I always knew that I wanted to attend law school to become a lawyer and decided to pick a major that I thought would benefit me in law school. At first, I was certain that I needed to major in political science, but I quickly changed my mind when I was told that I should choose a major that I would love. I am glad that I changed my major to English because writing was a skill that I felt would help me excel in law school. . . . I am excited to see what the future holds for me.”

"I believe that there are countless opportunities to use your English major in the real world. I decided to use my English major to become a lawyer, and I want to show others that an English major does not mold students into just one career path. The sky is not even the limit for anyone with drive and determination to make their dreams come true."

Alumni Portrait Philip Davenport, now teaching English in Mexico

Philip Davenport completed a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus on Studio Art and French at USC Upstate in 2013. He went on to earn an MA in International Studies (International Law and Organization) from the University of South Carolina Columbia the following year. After completing his TEFL Certification, Philip lived and worked for Boston Academy in Léon, Guanajuato, Mexico. In July 2016, he received a professorship position at the Universidad Mariana in San Juan de Pasto, Colombia, and he has taught in Colombia and Mexico, where he plans to start his own English school in the coming years.

"I owe all of my experiences, opportunities, and success to the professors and staff at the USC Upstate. During my degree program I received so much support from my professors, including Dr. Araceli Hernandez-Laroche (my mentor and friend). I remember the professors taking me under their wings and showing me what I needed to do to succeed. They offered me opportunities to teach, intern, and research, and without them I believe I wouldn’t be where I am today, chasing my dream of travelling and working around the world. Today, I feel lucky and extremely grateful for the inspiration, courage, and motivation that USC Upstate helped me find. My final words would be those that a great friend offered me right before I left for Mexico, she wrote in a card these simple words: 'Jump, and the net will appear.' Those words will always stick with me as I continue into the future, and I hope they speak to you as well."

Alumni Portrait Travis Deberry, now working as an officer in the US military

Travis Deberry earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from USC Upstate. Upon commissioning as a Second Lieutenant in 2012, he started off in the Army Chemical Corps as a platoon leader stationed at Camp Stanley, South Korea. Following Korea, he graduated from the Army Airborne School to qualify as a parachutist for my next assignment in Vicenza, Italy, where he was stationed for two years. Today he is an active duty Army Captain working in the Army Adjutant General Corps, which operates as the Army’s
Human Resources branch.

"The USC Upstate English program enhanced my critical thinking skills and prepared me for the professional writing requirements as an Army Officer. Officers must be effective readers and writers who are able to analyze and interpret Army doctrine, publish and issue  operational orders, implement policies, and write scholarly articles that advance the profession of arms. Being able to analyze and deconstructing binaries are skills that I will continue to use and pursue throughout my life and my career."

Alumni Portrait Tanya Newman, published novelistTanya Newman has a Bachelor of Arts in English from USC Upstate, and a Master of Arts in English from Clemson University. She is an English Instructor and Library Specialist with Spartanburg Community College. Her short story, “The Only One,” was published by Gadfly Online. Her first novel, The Good Thief, was published by Black Opal Books in 2016, and her second novel, Winter Rain, was published in 2017. She has a third novel already on the way.

"I feel immeasurably blessed to have studied in the English Department at USC Upstate because I found what I wanted to do for the rest of my life: write and teach. The path to this discovery would not be complete without the wisdom and inspiration from many professors, namely Dr. Marilyn Knight, Dr. Thomas McConnell, Dr. Donald Knight, Dr. Alan Chalmers, and Professor Jonathan Barker. Each ignited and re-ignited a love of literature and writing through courses like Creative Writing, Contemporary American and British Literature, Victorian Literature, and Women in Literature, and works like The Great Gatsby, The Sun Also Rises, As I Lay Dying, The French Lieutenant’s WomanThe Scarlet Letter, and Jane Eyre. I found a home in these classes and these works, as I did with the Literary Club and my work as a Features Editor with The Carolinian. My professors inspired me to do for other students what they did for me, which was inspire, enlighten, and enrich through literature. Studying writing and literature at USC Upstate is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made."

  • Goals Student Learning Outcomes
    1. The student graduating in English at USC Upstate should be able to demonstrate a knowledge of literary periods, movements, genres, and authors that is informed by literary criticism, theory, and linguistic analysis.

    1.1 Demonstrate an ability to situate and interpret texts in their historical and cultural contexts.

    1.2 Utilize appropriate literary and/or linguistic theory in discussing the assigned texts.

     2. A student graduating in English at USC Upstate should be able to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate a variety of texts.

    2.1 Interpret meaning and significance based on close observations of details within and among texts.

    3. A student graduating in English at USC Upstate should be able to communicate in a clear and concise manner for a variety of audiences.

    3.1 Write with clarity and precision as appropriate for the given audience.

    4. A student graduating in English at USC Upstate should be able to incorporate, engage in and utilize well-planned and well-executed research.

    4.1 Critically engage the ideas of other scholars.

    4.2 Incorporate research in writing about the assigned texts.

  • Goals Student Learning Outcomes
    1. Students graduating in Spanish at USC Upstate will be able to demonstrate speaking and listening proficiency in Spanish.

    1. Students will demonstrate competence in syntax and rules of discourse in varying linguistic tasks as measured by the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines— Speaking.

     2. Students graduating in Spanish at USC Upstate will be able to demonstrate the ability to write in different styles.

    2.1 Students will write with clarity and precision on assigned texts.

    2.2 Students will demonstrate an ability to write for various audiences.

    3. Students graduating in Spanish at USC Upstate will be able to demonstrate an adequate command of grammar and linguistics.

    3.1 Students will demonstrate competence in syntax and rules of discourse, as measured by the ACTFL Written Proficiency Scale.

    3.2 Students will demonstrate understanding of the principles of Spanish phonetics and how they compare with English phonetics.

    4. Students graduating in Spanish at USC Upstate will be able to read, understand and analyze popular and literary texts in Spanish.

    4.1 Students will demonstrate an ability to situate and interpret texts in their historical and cultural contexts.

    4.2 Make connections between texts written in Spanish.

    5. Students graduating in Spanish at USC Upstate will be able to demonstrate an ability to compare the products, practices and perspectives of the cultures of Spanish speakers with others. 5. Students will demonstrate an ability to compare the culture of a particular Hispanic group with the students' own cultures.