Skip to main content

Secondary navigation:

English Major

english department

Students ordinarily begin an English major in their sophomore year, after completing the First Year Writing Seminar and the Literature Core, or equivalents. In addition to the two three-credit Core courses, students must take 30 credits (in the form of ten, three-credit courses) from the Department’s offerings. These must include ENGL 2131 Studies in Poetry (three credits) and ENGL 2133 Studies in Narrative (three credits), usually taken in sequence in the sophomore year. Both courses train students intensively in the close reading of literary texts and in writing with critical awareness about literature.

Because it is important for students to understand the foundations of literary traditions, English majors are also required to take nine credits in British or American literature, pre-1900, to be distributed in the following manner:

  • three credits in medieval or early-modern literature (before 1700)
  • three credits in eighteenth or nineteenth-century literature (between 1700-1900)
  • three additional credits in either category (i.e., pre-1900)

Students complete the English major by taking 15 credits in elective courses of their choice.

During the sophomore year, historical survey courses such as Introduction to British Literature and Culture I & II and the American Literary History sequence may help fill in students' knowledge of the development of English and American literature. Students who have a special interest in American literature are advised to take American Literary History I as a foundation for later courses. At this point, students should be in a position to begin making their own choices about how they will complete the major requirements, in discussion with their major advisor. They will have many options from among the 30 or more electives the department offers each semester in English and American literature, in Irish Studies, in writing, in the different genres, and in particular themes.

Summer or evening courses taken through the Woods College of Advancing Studies may not be counted toward Core or major credit.


Advanced seminars are designed for English majors who want to pursue a topic or field in more depth than is possible in larger electives. The advanced seminar, with its small class size and intensive focus, is designed to foster an intimate learning community where students are encouraged not only to study an issue intensively but also to engage actively in intellectual exchange with a faculty member and a select group of committed peers. These courses are intended mainly for juniors and seniors, and students are required to have completed both Studies in Poetry and Studies in Narrative and at least one additional elective before taking an advanced seminar. Students should expect to produce a longer seminar research paper (15-20 pages) as well as one or more shorter papers and make at least one oral presentation. Students who intend to apply to graduate school in English are strongly urged to take at least one advanced seminar.

For some students with specific interdisciplinary interests, in African and African Diaspora Studies or American Studies for instance, an individually designed sequence of courses under the English major is appropriate. Students who satisfy their major requirements this way may count for English credit up to two courses taken in other departments. This plan must be approved by the Chairperson and the student's department advisor by the end of the first semester of junior year.