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Literatures, Languages and Cultures

Literatures, Languages and Cultures

The unit of Literatures, Languages and Cultures is home to nationally and internationally recognized faculty who conduct research and teach in the areas of literatures, linguistics, cultural studies, film, theatre and performance studies, eco-critical studies, gender and sexuality studies, and world and heritage languages. We have one of the most productive and distinguished faculty on campus, and we offer several undergraduate programs. At the graduate level, Literatures, Languages and Cultures faculty are core members of the Interdisciplinary Humanities program.

Undergraduate degrees in our unit include:

Major/Minor Programs


The English program asks students to recognize the complex interactions of culture and literature. We focus primarily—but not exclusively—on literature written around the world in English. Literature and literary criticism are significant parts of an age-old, continuing conversation about the meaning and value of human society. Stories, poems, and plays always arise out of specific times, places, and cultural traditions, and often gives powerful voice to marginalized experiences and individual differences against the backdrop of larger, homogenizing forces. The study of literature enables one to engage this conversation richly, both for personal development and for the ability it gives one to be a responsible, active agent in the many societies each person inhabits. Moreover, literary study gives one insight into how cultures operate in such a way as to facilitate ethical cross-cultural interactions. The skills of analytical and ethical critical thinking, interpretation, and writing that are developed in English classes are valued by multiple professions, including law, education, medicine, business, technology, journalism, politics, and social work.

For additional information on the English major/minor at UC Merced, please visit the English website.

For English major/minor requirements, please consult your catalog.


With more than 400 million speakers worldwide, Spanish is the third most spoken language in the world, and one of the six official languages of the United Nations. In the United States, there are 41 million speakers. Spanish has an important role in California’s history and contemporary society, including the Central Valley. The major and minor in Spanish at UC Merced accommodate both heritage and second language speakers. It prepares learners with academic and specialized language skills and intercultural competence necessary to participate effectively in professional and local contexts where bilingualism is in demand (e.g. business, education, healthcare). In doing so, our Spanish programs help students face the demands of an ever more globalized society, one that requires and values linguistic and cultural competence in more than one language. Learners are challenged to think critically and to analyze literary works and other cultural productions. The major and minor in Spanish emphasize the study of Iberian, Latin American, and Latina/o literatures, linguistics, and cultures. Our programs strive to engage students’ capacity for rigorous analysis and independent thought within a considerable range of disciplines and endeavors, and to cultivate the intellectual, creative, ethical, and social qualities essential for leadership in a rapidly changing global community. We seek to make our program a lively intellectual environment that fosters innovative thinking among faculty and students alike.

For additional information on the Spanish major/minor at UC Merced, please visit the Spanish website.

For Spanish major/minor requirements, please consult your catalog.


American Studies:

The American Studies minor builds on the tradition of an interdisciplinary field of study that promotes a broad humanistic understanding of American culture, past and present. By incorporating economics, history, literature, sociology, art history, anthropology, ethnic studies and public policy (among other areas), this minor encourages students and faculty within those fields to exchange ideas on scholarship as it relates to the American experience. In addition, the American Studies minor seeks to move beyond traditional limitations of American Studies, by allowing students to take relevant courses in engineering or the natural sciences. Inclusion of these courses is based on the rationale that cultural practices often stem from our understanding of and research in those sciences.

For additional information on the American Studies minor at UC Merced, please visit the American Studies website.

For American Studies major requirements, please consult your catalog.

Chicano/a Studies:

The minor in Chicano/a Studies is an interdisciplinary program that introduces students to the complex experiences, history, cultural practices, and social interactions of one of the largest ethnic groups in the United States. The program is organized around the following central questions that students in the program will explore from multiple disciplinary perspectives: 1) the role that race and ethnicity play and have played in shaping the experiences of different ethnic groups in the United States, with an emphasis on Chicanos/as; 2) the dynamics of migration and immigration, and the ensuing changes in identity, language, social and cultural practices, and national (or transnational) allegiances, with particular attention to the borderlands and its role in defining a Chicano/a identity over the years; 3) cultural contact and conflict in a historical context, including an in-depth examination of activism and its role in raising consciousness, political mobilization (both contentious and non-contentious behavior), building a sense of community, and advancing Chicano/a civil and human rights; 4) literature and the ways in which it reflects and advances social changes, produces artistic renditions of Chicano/a and non-Chicano/a life, facilitates a sense of community, and interacts with readers from different cultural backgrounds; 5) language, with special attention to bilingualism, the social and the artistic uses of mixing languages, as well as the tension between spoken and written versions of those languages; and 6) the indigenous component of the Chicano/a identity.

For additional information on the Chicano/a Studies minor at UC Merced, please visit the Chicano/a Studies website.

For Chicano/a minor requirements, please consult your catalog.

Instruction in World Languages

The unit also offers an expanding number of courses in World Languages. Communicating effectively in a language other than English is a fundamental asset in any profession, from careers in education, translation, and interpretation, to those in international studies, health, business, or law. Speaking a language other than English is also useful for traveling and conducting research in other parts of the world. In addition to these professional advantages, developing knowledge in a second language offers social, cognitive and health advantages. We offer instruction in Chinese, French, Japanese and Spanish. All lower and upper division courses in Chinese, French, Japanese and Spanish are content-based, learner-oriented, and they follow the communicative learning approach. In addition to helping students develop skills to communicate in the target language, these courses attempt to promote cultural awareness of the countries and communities where the languages are spoken. Our Spanish language program offers courses at the lower and upper division level. Lower division course offerings include introductory and intermediate courses, and courses for Spanish heritage speakers who would like to improve academic registers in oral language, writing and reading. At the upper division level, the Spanish program offers a wide variety of courses that provide students opportunities to learn specialized language necessary for specific professions (business, health, education) and to broaden their knowledge of Iberian, Latin American, and Latina/o literatures, linguistics, and cultures.