Program Overview:

Undergraduate English Major

English and American literature majors pursue individual academic interests within a broader scope of literary history and study, exploring literature's relationship to its intellectual and artistic traditions, as well as to history, philosophy, culture and related fields. The major provides diverse perspectives and the opportunity to study poetry, prose, drama, novels and nonfiction forms, as well as to practice clear, effective expository writing. Rigorous training in critical thinking and writing is valuable for any career, making English an indispensable major for students preparing for work in areas as diverse as communications, marketing, medicine and law, as well as in the teaching of English at all levels.

Program Goals

Graduates will be prepared to:

  • Recognize, analyze and interpret closely and critically the use of language across a range of literary texts -- prose, poetry and drama
  • Demonstrate knowledge of major works, movements and genres of English and American literature in their cultural, historical and intellectual contexts, as well as theories of literary criticism
  • Write clear and compelling arguments with textual substantiation and intellectual integrity
  • Conduct scholarly research and to use and cite sources responsibly
  • Produce and communicate knowledge in interactive settings
  • Understand literary activity as a means of thinking about and connecting to the world and the complexity of human experience

Required Courses

  • ENGLISH 210-A, -B English Literary Traditions or ENGLISH 270-A, -B American Literary Traditions
  • ENGLISH 298 Seminar in Reading/Interpretation
  • 3 300-level courses in English literature before 1830
  • 3 300-level courses in English, American or postcolonial literature after 1830
  • 3 additional 300-level courses in any period of English, American or postcolonial literature (2 may be comparative literary studies or literature courses in other departments such as African American Studies and Classics)


Majors in English and American Literature must complete at least 1 course in literary theory and at least 1 300-level course in American literature. Majors should complete ENGLISH 111, 210-A,-B or 270-A,-B and 298 before taking upper-level courses. Completing the 210 or 270 sequence and 298 exempts majors from completing ENGLISH 113.

Program Details

We are surrounded by words and stories, from novels, plays and films to tweets, websites and blogs. The study of literature is essentially the seeking to understand how words and stories and the images they create actually work, to grasp how texts of all kinds are made. English and American Literature majors read and analyze literature that has circulated across more than 1,000 years of history and nearly all the continents of the globe. The English and American literature major builds on centuries of literary history, from Chaucer and Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf,  Emily Dickinson and Mark Twain, all the way to recent literature by writers such as Toni Morrison and Seamus Heaney as well. At the same time, the major is designed to develop the essential skills that lie at the core of a liberal arts education, including informed and critical reading, writing and speaking.