The Department of English, one of the largest at Penn, is staffed by 45 to 50 faculty members and teaches about 75 graduate students, dozens of majors, and well over 500 students per semester. Many other departments or programs use the same library materials as the Department of English. These include, but are by no means limited to: Cinema Studies, African American Studies, Linguistics, American Studies, Religious Studies, Folklore, and History, as well as programs in literary history and theory, ancient and modern foreign language studies, and comparative literature. Students and faculty in each of these departments or programs, sensitive to and reliant on literary forms of evidence, increasingly define "literature" as does the Department of English in newly broadened ways.
The Department teaches courses and directs doctoral dissertations across the universe of literature written in (and, occasionally, translated into) the English language. The curriculum includes both traditional and non-traditional period courses and courses on many special topics, authors, genres, or approaches. Interests range from canonical to non-canonical works and encompass primary, secondary, reference, historical, and linguistic materials, as well as "literature" in untraditional forms (e.g., cinematic; graphic novels; etc.) and in various formats. This enormous diversity of interests and possibilities reflects both the breadth traditionally and the changes increasingly characteristic of English and American literatures as disciplines.
Library collections of literature in English also serve as a source of literary reading for our entire user community of students, faculty, and staff.