The English major at Boston College offers a wide range of courses while introducing fundamental skills in close reading, literary analysis, and critical thinking. As an English major you’ll become deeply familiar with major developments in British, American, Anglophone, and Multicultural Literatures, choosing courses that explore issues fundamental to the human condition through multiple periods, cultures, and approaches. You’ll have the freedom to shape a program suited to your intellectual and creative interests while sharpening skills in critical thinking, analysis, argumentation, and articulation.
English Honors Program
The English Department offers two options for writing an Honors Thesis: a critical project (roughly 50 pages) or a creative project (a novel, a sustained work of creative nonfiction, a series of short stories, or a collection of poetry). This project is mentored by a faculty member in weekly meetings over the course of the year.
2017-18 Honors projects include creative memoirs, essay collections, and poem cycles, as well as fresh critical approaches that range from an analysis of “soundscapes” in eighteenth-century fiction to the Gothic tradition in television’s “Penny Dreadful,” and from “subversive virginity” in thirteenth-century medieval texts to a study of tradition in T.S. Eliot’s poetry.
Download suggestions and a worksheet for generating a topic for an Honors Thesis.
Eligibility for Honors
If you are a junior English major with a GPA of 3.6 or higher in your English courses, we hope you will consider applying to write a senior thesis, either scholarly or creative, under the supervision of a full-time English faculty member. Once admitted to Departmental Honors, you’ll enroll in EN 6600.01 both semesters of senior year, fulfilling six (elective) credits toward the major. Accepted candidates add EN 6600.01 during drop/add of the fall term.
To be considered for Honors, you need to have completed at least three ENGL courses by the time you apply, one of which must be either Studies in Poetry or Studies in Narrative. Creative writers need to have taken at least two writing workshops, with a grade of A or A-in both; one must be in the genre of the proposed project. For writers of scholarship it’s helpful to have taken a seminar, ideally by spring of junior year, but this is not required. Applications are due by May 1 at 5:00 p.m., even if you’re studying abroad.
Finding an Honors Advisor
All honors theses are advised by a full-time faculty member in the English Department. Most honors applicants start looking for an advisor early in spring semester of junior year. In some cases, especially for creative projects, the process begins even earlier. The application process is highly individual, and the Honors Director is available to help you through it, from developing a topic to finding resources to locating the best advisor for the project. You might begin by approaching a faculty member you know well from a current or past class. (Keep in mind, however, that faculty ordinarily advise only one thesis a year, and professors on leave advise theses only in very unusual circumstances). Checking faculty by Field of Interest is another good place to begin.
If you’re proposing a creative project, it’s best to begin with an instructor from a current or prior workshop, who knows your writing well. Your instructor can help connect you to a suitable advisor who works in your proposed genre. See here for a list of Creative writing faculty.
Admissions to Honors is competitive. An important element in your application is your prospective advisor’s supporting letter (emailed separately to the Honors Director by the application deadline). Be sure, once you have a verbal agreement to work with a full-time faculty member, that you work together on your prospectus and reading list. This early research and writing is as integral to the success of your project as any of the later portions of your work. It’s up to you, as the applicant, to arrange to meet with your prospective advisor, share drafts of your proposal and reading list, and get your prospective advisor’s support and approval well before the deadline.
- Honors Program Application: Applications are due by 5:00 p.m. on May 1st
- Application Guidelines
- Honors Guidelines for Thesis Writers
Creative Writing Concentration
The English department offers a Creative Writing Concentration that allows you to intensify and focus your English major by taking a series of practice-based writing courses along with literature courses. These small, intensive, processed-based workshops are taught by published authors and offered in three genres—poetry, fiction and non-fiction—at three levels. As a Concentrator, you will also attend gatherings to read new work, share news about literary activities on campus, socialize with other writers, do writing prompts together, and discuss career paths. You will be invited to a rich array of talks, readings, and smaller gatherings with visiting writers.
Graduates of the program have gone on not only to publish their own creative work, but also to find careers in publishing, journalism, teaching, communications, and many other fields that require excellent writing skills. Past students have been admitted to graduate programs in creative writing at, among other places, Washington University in St. Louis; Bowling Green; NYU; Eastern Washington State; University of Iowa; Indiana U.; Sarah Lawrence College; U. of Wyoming; Emerson College, U. of Florida; U. of Texas Austin; U. of Pittsburgh; Hunter College; UMass Amherst; Brooklyn College; U. of Arizona, Columbia.
- A Creative Writing Concentrator undertakes a 36-credit English major instead of the usual 30 credits.
- At least nine of these credits must be writing workshops in any genre, selected with the help of your Concentration advisor.
If you are an English major who has received a grade of A- or better in one of the department's creative writing workshops, you may declare the Creative Writing Concentration up through the end of drop/add week of first semester of junior year. The period for declaring the Concentration each semester runs through the end of drop/add week. Eligible English Majors wishing to declare should see Marla DeRosa in Stokes S493 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Boston College Student Literary Publications
- Gusto Journal
- The Laughing Medusa
- The Medical Humanities Journal of Boston College
Boston College National Literary Publications
Internships at Post Road are available to Boston College students. For more information, please visit postroadmag.com/internships
Events at Boston College
- Boston College English department Undergraduate Writing Awards
(The submission deadline for these prizes is 4:00 p.m. on March 31.)
Please direct questions to Andrew Sofer.
- The Association of Writers & Writing Programs
- Poets and Writers Magazine
Undergraduate Writing Awards
Awards Requiring Submission
Dever Award for Freshman Writing – a cash award for the best essay (at least five double-spaced pages) written by a freshman for any English course. The essay should be submitted by a member of the English faculty with an application form filled out by the faculty member. Instructors may nominate up to two student essays written by members of the current freshmen class or during the previous spring semester by students who were freshmen at that time.
ELL Essay Award – a cash award for the best essay (at least 1,000 words) written by an English Language Learner (of any class year) for an ELL section of First Year Writing Seminar or Literature Core. The essay should be submitted by a member of the English faculty with an application form completed by the faculty member. Instructors may nominate up to three essays.
McCarthy Award – a cash award, open to juniors and seniors, given annually for the best collection of pieces of creative writing (fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction or pieces from several different genres). The submission may total no more than 12 pages per applicant. Prose should be double spaced; poetry may be single spaced). Both published and unpublished work may be submitted; if a work has been published or is forthcoming, please note this at the top. Fragments of longer works are acceptable, but please note them as such. Applicants may nominate themselves.
Randall Award – a cash award presented in honor of author and Professor John Randall to the undergraduate writer of the best essay in the field of American literature and culture. This may include literary journalism, as well as scholarly essays on American topics. Chapters from relevant Senior Honors Projects from the current academic year are eligible; submissions should be limited to 20 double-spaced pages. Faculty may nominate up to two student essays or chapters written during the current academic year or the previous spring semester by current undergraduates only. Undergraduate students nominating themselves may submit one essay or one chapter written during the current academic year or the prior spring semester.
Dever Fellowship – a substantial grant in honor of Margaret and Joseph Dever, to a graduating senior who proposes to pursue a career in writing. Applicants, who must have published at least one work in a BC publication or in an external one, may nominate themselves.
Application not required for the following awards
Cardinal Cushing Award – a cash award given annually to undergraduates who produce the best work in fiction published in BC undergraduate publications (Stylus, Laughing Medusa, Witness, or other new BC publications).
Bishop Kelleher Award – a cash award given annually to undergraduates who produce the best work in poetry published in BC undergraduate publications (Stylus, Laughing Medusa, Witness, or other new BC publications).
Application not necessary for the following award
Kean Memorial Award – a cash award to the graduating senior judged by the Kean Award Committee to be the outstanding English major.
All English majors are assigned a [full-time] faculty member for advising after their first year. First year students are assigned non-major advisors through the academic advising center. After first year, English majors may request a particular faculty member for advising, and we will honor such requests whenever possible. Although we understand the value of continuity in advising, majors may have a change in advisor when their previous advisor is on leave. Students who have English as their second major or a minor will not be assigned an advisor in the department, but are encouraged to use current professors as a resource.
In order to register, you must first meet with your advisor in the English department. Students who have not yet been assigned an advisor in the English department may see Marla Derosa in Stokes S493 for help with course selection or other questions about the English major.
Your advisor will have a copy of your course audit and will review it with you; you should bring a list of the courses (and alternates) that you are interested in signing up for, as well as a list of any questions that you might have. Advisors will post office hours or a schedule of appointment times for the registration period on their doors each semester. It is the student's responsibility to attend those office hours or to sign up for an appointment at least several days before an assigned registration time. The department cannot provide you with your registration code.
Before meeting with your advisor during the registration period, read carefully the descriptions of the department's course offerings. Normally, course descriptions list specific texts covered and provide a sense of the instructor's methods. By reading the listing attentively, you can often distinguish between discussion—and lecture—oriented courses, between survey courses and classes that will deal with a small number of texts in great detail, and between courses that require several exams and those that require journal writing, in-class presentations, and/or essays. Although the department's present course-numbering system does not always reflect the level of course difficulty: 1000-level courses indicate introductory courses that hold seats for sophomores, while 6000-level courses usually designate seminars (15-person courses designed for the more advanced major).
The Drop-Add period presents an opportunity to make some—but only some—changes in your schedule. Although some professors will occasionally provide course overrides for students in special circumstances, large class size dictates that this is not often possible. A student requesting an override must:
Transfer and summer school credits in English
The English department requires that virtually all courses in the major be taken in the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences during the fall and spring semesters. Permission to take one English major course during the summer or through the Woods College of Advancing Studies is given only in very unusual circumstances. To request permission to count a summer or evening course toward the major, prior to enrollment, bring a catalog with a description of the course you wish to take, to Marla Derosa in Stokes S493. Summer courses taken abroad and taught by English department faculty will be accepted as major electives.
English Majors Planning to Study Abroad
As part of your application checklist for study abroad, you need to procure permission from your major department. In the case of the English department, you have little reason for concern. Please plan to meet with Marla Derosa to discuss your plans. These meetings do not require an appointment unless you cannot meet during regular office hours.
Meetings should require no more than 15 minutes.
What Does the Meeting Entail?
The reason Office of International Programs requires you to meet with your major department is, first and foremost, to make sure that you can study abroad and still complete your major requirements in time to graduate. We will pull up your degree audit, look at the classes you have completed (or plan to complete) before studying abroad, determine how many courses the English department will accept from your program, and figure out how many courses you will need to complete upon your return. Assuming you can complete the ten courses required for the major, you will receive departmental approval. This meeting time can also be used to discuss any questions you may have about course approvals, etc.
Before You Go Abroad
We can be flexible about the number of courses majors need to complete before studying abroad, so there is no set requirement. However, we strongly recommend that you take Studies in Poetry and Studies in Narrative before you depart. These classes provide a solid foundation for your studies, and you don't want to have to take them when you return as a senior/second semester junior! Students in the Creative Writing Concentration are strongly discouraged from studying abroad for a full year. Please discuss your plans with the program director.
While You Are Abroad
The number of courses the department accepts from abroad depends on where you go and how long you will be there. In a nutshell, we can accept two courses per semester from an English speaking country, one course per semester from a non-English speaking country. For example, if you study in Ireland for one semester, you can take up to two courses toward the major. If you study in Madrid for the year, you can also take up to two courses toward your major. As a result, you may need to take additional major electives at BC before or after. Please remember that summer courses cannot be counted toward the English major.
Approval For Courses Will Be Done On an Individual Basis
- You will need to provide a description or a syllabus for course approval.
- A general requirement is that the course should include at least 11-12 pages of finished writing.
- If the courses you are taking for major credit change once you register abroad, please fax or mail updated approval forms.
- Credit distribution for courses is determined by Office of International Programs.
- Journalism and communications courses are not considered English electives unless they are taught within an English department.
- Courses that are not taught in English may be counted as major electives. You may take courses abroad to satisfy the pre-1700 and pre-1900 requirements as long as the course focuses on British or American Literature.
When You Return
If you have any questions about how courses from abroad are listed on your degree audit, please contact Office of International Programs. If you have questions about how your English courses are listed, please contact Marla Derosa. Also, any questions about your English major and studying abroad, before, during or after you go, please E-mail Marla Derosa at email@example.com.
Choosing the Right Program
There are many strong English programs offered through universities overseas. Majors are encouraged to discuss options with their faculty advisors. Some examples of particularly strong programs include: Oxford University; King's College, Cambridge University; University College London (UCL), Queen Mary & Westfield (QMW), University of London; Advanced Studies in England, Bath; Lancaster University; University of Glasgow; University College Dublin (UCD); Trinity College Dublin; NUI Galway and Cork, and University of Paris.
Please consider other locations listed.
All Morissey College of Arts and Sciences internships are handled by Professor Elizabeth Bracher in the Morrissey Dean's Office.
If you’re an English major also completing a Lynch School of Education major or minor, you’ll need to fulfill more specific requirements to demonstrate a broad range of knowledge within the discipline. In addition to the First Year Writing Seminar, the Literature Core, Studies in Poetry, and Studies in Narrative, you will need the following courses:
- one Pre 1700 Class
- one Pre 1900 Class
- one course on Anglophone or Ethnic American Authors
- one course on Women Authors
- one course on the History of the Language/Grammar/Linguistics
- one course on Adolescent and Young Adult Literature
- two English electives
To help you gain sufficient knowledge across this spectrum, you may consider taking one or more general survey courses (e.g. Introduction to British Literature and Culture I and II, American Literary History I, II and III) to fulfill some of these requirements. Students with questions about the EN/LSOE requirements should E-mail Marla DeRosa in Stokes S493.
Minor in Secondary Education
As an MCAS English major, you may apply to minor in Education in order to gain certification for teaching. The program begins in the junior year. Contact the Coordinator of Secondary Education or the Associate Dean in the Lynch School of Education during the first semester of your sophomore year for more information.
B.A./M.A. in English
The English department at Boston College has created a B.A./M.A. Program that allows selected students to earn both a B.A. and an M.A. in English in five years. Enrolled students will start earning graduate credit as a senior, then complete the M.A. in a fifth year of full-time study.
Admission to the program requires a GPA of 3.3 overall and 3.6 in the English major. Students may count four courses taken in the senior year toward their M.A. degree. These courses may be graduate courses, or undergraduate courses designated as 'seminars.' At least two of the four must be at the graduate level, including hybrid graduate/undergraduate seminars; up to two of the four may be undergraduate courses designated as 'seminars.' The two graduate courses must be taken as overloads, and these count toward the M.A. degree only. The other two courses will count toward both degrees. One of the graduate courses taken in the senior year must be 'Introduction to Advanced Research' or 'Issues and Methods in American Studies.'
The purpose of the program is to allow students a greater opportunity for concentrated study and research training. Students in the B.A./M.A. program must meet all the specific course requirements for the undergraduate major as well as the formal requirements for the M.A., including the completion of Introduction to Advanced Research or its equivalent, demonstrated proficiency in a foreign language, a theory course, and a comprehensive exam.
Students interested in the program should consult the Director of the M.A. Program to discuss whether this version of the M.A. is right for their individual goals. The Director will review the student's academic record and, if appropriate, facilitate the application process. The application fee and GRE requirement will be waived. Once accepted into the B.A./M.A. program students will have the Director of the M.A. Program as their advisor. Students in the program will not be eligible for TF/TA positions or graduate financial aid. Students in the program will not be charged graduate tuition for the two overload graduate courses taken in the senior year.
How to apply
Students must submit applications by March 31 of the junior year. The required application materials are a personal statement, a writing sample, three letters of recommendation, and an official transcript. Please take a look at this webpage for application instructions and E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions on how to upload materials.
Do not send any materials to the English department.