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.
First Year Writing Seminar
Boston College’s First-Year Writing Seminar (FWS) is a 15-person workshop designed to help you develop and practice skills in writing and research. Over the semester you will learn to write rhetorically, devising effective writing processes for a variety of purposes and audiences, including but not limited to, academic writing. Each workshop allows you to work creatively on a variety of writing tasks and to put yourself in conversation with other writers. You’ll meet regularly with your instructor to make revision plans, learn to give and receive productive feedback to other writers, and develop skills for revising essays before submitting them for evaluation. You may also work with classmates to present and "publish" your work within various classroom, campus, or internet settings.
One goal of FWS is to teach you a variety of strategies to practice in a range of writing situations which, in turn, will help you to understand and plan for subsequent writing challenges in your future academic, professional, and personal lives. Another goal of FWS is to give you the tools and the incentive to keep writing after the course has ended: in other courses, in your community, and for your own pleasure. Part of learning to write well, especially in academic settings, involves putting yourself into conversation with current arguments using the conventions and tropes of relevant discourses. In FWS you will also be introduced to library resources and will practice writing and documenting secondary research.
Paula Mathieu, Director
S447 Stokes Hall
Martha Hincks, Associate Director
S446 Stokes Hall
Dacia Gentilella, Part-time Faculty
Learning Specialist, Learning to Learn Program
50 College Road
Brian Zimmerman, Part-time Faculty
S456 Stokes Hall
Kristin Imre, Part-time Faculty, English department
S430M Stokes Hall
English Language Learning
The Program for English Language Learning (ELL) supports students from linguistically diverse backgrounds in their mastery of English. The following courses fulfill BC’s Core English requirements and are offered as a linked sequence:
First Year Writing Seminar for English Language Learners
(ENGL 1009, fall semester)
This 15-person workshop is designed to help you, as students from linguistically diverse backgrounds, develop skills in writing and research; we will explore the rhetorical conventions of English and devise effective writing processes for a variety of purposes and audiences, including but not limited to academic writing. You’ll share your work with your peers and learn to provide productive feedback to one another. You’ll meet regularly with your instructor to discuss strategies for revision as well as any issues with grammar and syntax you find challenging in your writing.
Literature Core for English Language Learners
(ENGL 1079, spring semester)
In this 15-person seminar, you will explore a variety of literary genres including fiction, poetry, and drama. Emphasis is placed on post-1900 American literature to enhance the development of contemporary and idiomatic diction and syntax. You’ll meet regularly with your instructor for ongoing language support in writing, research, and presentation skills.
ELL Writing Specialist Support
ELL English Sections offer one-on-one meetings with ELL writing specialists outside of class for those students identified by their instructors as needing individualized support.
Department permission is required to take ENGL 1009 and 1079. Most students place into these courses (and take them in sequence) after taking a language assessment at the end of August. For more information please contact Lynne Anderson, Director of English Language Learning.
“Literature is the memory of humanity.” Isaac Bashevis Singer
Why take the Literature Core?
- By taking three credits of the Core Curriculum in literature, students read in order to explore the characteristics and values of their own and other cultures; to discover alternative ways of looking at the world; to gain insights into issues of permanent importance and contemporary urgency; and to distinguish and appreciate the linguistic and formal satisfactions of literary art.
- To read literature critically is to examine the human condition through language’s expressive power and to place the reception of literary works in cultural, historical, and social contexts. Literature, in all its genres, is a fundamental vehicle for understanding human experiences.
- Students will be introduced to disciplinary skills including close reading, analysis of texts, and the practice of writing about them with clarity and engagement. Through shared critical and reflective inquiry, students will explore ways in which meaning is textually produced in the world.
-- From the University Mission Statement on the Literature Core
ENGL 1080 Literature Core
You can fulfill the University’s Literature Core requirement through courses in several departments at BC: English, Classics, Slavic and Eastern European Languages, Romance Languages and Literatures, and German. But to fulfill the university’s Literature Core requirement through the English department—unless you have received AP credit—you should enroll in ENGL 1080 (followed by a section number, e.g. .01, .02, and so on). If you plan to take First Year Writing (FWS) as well, you can take your Literature Core Course before or after FWS.
All of our sections have common goals and shared guidelines about exams, the amount of writing you do, and so forth. We all emphasize discussion-based pedagogy, active learning, and collaborative work. Meanwhile you will also quickly discover that we offer many different, exciting topics across our Literature Core offerings, each taking a slightly different approach to these common goals. For instance, one instructor might focus on Detective writing; another on family relations in English and American drama; another on the idea of “money,” or political dissent, or social marginality. For this reason, it is very important to choose a section, if you can, that stimulates your interests—and that starts with consulting our Complete listing of all sections.
In addition, students may fulfill their Literature Core requirement through the Wood College of Advancing Studies. However, we do not permit the Literature Core requirement to be fulfilled over the summer at other institutions.
You’ll notice, as well, that several Literature Core courses are part of the Core Renewal program, and offer exciting opportunities to study Enduring Questions through cross-disciplinary, parallel courses in two departments.
Eileen Donovan-Kranz directs the Literature Core Program.
The English major at Boston College offers a wide range of curricular choices while it helps you to develop fundamental skills in close reading, literary analysis, and critical thinking. As a major, you’ll become deeply familiar with some of the major developments in British, American and World literatures, choosing among courses that explore issues fundamental to the human condition through multiple periods, cultures, and approaches.
After you declare the major (by contacting Marla DeRosa at email@example.com) you’ll be assigned a departmental faculty advisor, who will help you map out an academic program in line with your interests. You may also want to pursue a concentration within the major (such as American or Irish Studies), apply to the intensive Creative Writing Concentration, or pursue Honors as a senior.
The major ordinarily consists of 30 credits (10 courses) beyond FWS and Literature Core.
- 1 semester of Studies in Poetry (ENGL 2131)
- 1 semester of Studies in Narrative (ENGL 2133)
- 8 Additional courses, of which one must be a seminar**, comprised of the following
- 1 semester of medieval or early modern literature (before 1700)*
- 1 semester of eighteenth or nineteenth century literature*
- 1 additional course in EITHER medieval/early modern or 18th/19th century literature*
- 5 electives
* Fulfilled by courses in either British or American literature.
** Required of all students in the class of 2022 and after. Seminars should be taken following Studies in Poetry and Studies in Narrative, ordinarily in the junior or senior year, and include all grad/undergrad courses offered in English, as well as any course with a seminar designation. Creative writing courses are excluded.
English majors can receive credit for up to two courses (electives or distribution requirements) for each semester of study abroad in an approved program. Courses need to be approved by the Assistant to the Chair, Marla DeRosa. E-mail for an appointment: firstname.lastname@example.org. Requirements ordinarily include detailed course descriptions or syllabi, a minimum of 11 pages of writing, and coursework based on textual analysis, either in English or the language of the host country.
Summer courses or evening courses taken through the Woods College of Advancing Studies do not count for Core credit or credit towards the major.
The English minor is comprised of six courses (18 credits) beyond the Core requirements in English.
These must include:
- Either Studies in Poetry (ENGL 2131) or Studies in Narrative (ENGL 2133)
- A historical foundations course (pre-1700 or pre-1900)
- Four electives from the department offerings
Core and Woods College classes may not be counted toward the minor, though additional courses that fulfill the first two requirements may be counted as electives. Students may count up to two courses from study abroad toward the minor, though they must be approved by the department.
For questions about the English minor, or to declare, please contact Marla DeRosa at email@example.com.
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.
Boston College Student Literary Publications
- Gusto Journal
- The Laughing Medusa
- The Medical Humanities Journal of Boston College
Boston College National Literary Publications
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 Elizabeth Graver.
- The Association of Writers & Writing Programs
- Poets and Writers Magazine
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 Treseanne Ainsworth 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.
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.