New Major Requirements and FAQs

The English Department is excited to launch its revised curriculum that began in Fall 2019! Existing majors (students who matriculated in 2018/2019 and before) are free to complete the major requirements in place at the time of their matriculation. We encourage you, however, to follow the new curriculum where possible. Majors and double majors in English must take at least 11 courses (33 hours). Of these 11, students must take seven courses (21 hours) at 300-level or higher. (AP credit does not count towards the major.) The following coursework comprises the core of the English major or double major.

1. Training the Imagination
ENGL 200, Gateways to Literary Study, emphasizes close reading and critical writing about literature. Students engage basic questions: What is literature? How does it work? Can we distinguish literary language from everyday language? What are the most recognizable genres of literature? What does it mean to engage with literature critically? (English 200 is to be taken in the freshman or sophomore year.)
Special note to English majors or potential English majors: please contact the English department to receive a special registration form if the sections of English 200 are full. You can also contact the instructor directly for permission to add this course. Priority is given to Humanities students.

2. Theoretical Concepts and Methods
ENGL 300, Practices of Literary Study, explores the relation of literary and other cultural texts to key concepts in literary and cultural theory. In their reading and writing, students engage a variety of theoretical problems and modes of reading, among them close textual analysis, critical attention to representation of the (racial, gendered, sexual, class) subject, and what it means to read a text’s relation to philosophical traditions, power relations, history, and empire. (English 300 is to be taken after English 200, ideally in the spring of freshman year or in the sophomore year.)

3. Historical Foundations
Three classes at the 200-level or above in periods before 1900, two of which must be in periods before 1800, and only one of which can be a course in Shakespeare.

The pre-1900 and pre-1800 course requirements train students to understand past traditions and their influence on the present. Topical courses as well as surveys in British and American literature track continuities and discontinuities in literary history while engaging students in questions about history as a narrative and cultural archive. (Historical Foundations classes can be taken at any time in the major.) *Please note that students who elect the concentration in creative writing are required to take two rather than three courses in literature written before 1900, one of which must be in literature written before 1800.

4. Diverse Traditions
One class at the 200-level or above in fields related to critical race, post-colonial, and gender studies.

While the historical courses introduce students to the long traditions of British and American literature, field courses in critical race, post-colonial, and gender studies intercept and broaden understanding of these traditions through the divergent strands of minority, transnational, and global literatures. In these courses, students examine how cultural productions of various kinds disclose these traditions as sites of struggle, imitation, and critique. (Diverse Traditions classes can be taken at any time in the major.)

5. Areas of Specialization/Creative Writing Concentration
Three classes at the 200-level or above in one of four areas of specialization: 1) Literature & Literary History; 2) Culture & Social Change; 3) Visual Culture and Comparative Media; 4) Science, Medicine, & the Environment OR Four courses in the Concentration in Creative Writing (at least two of which must be at the 300 level and one of which must be at the 400 level)

The four areas of specialization and the concentration in creative writing provide students with an opportunity to focus their coursework around a defined area of critical interest. Through this focused work in the major, students develop expertise and mastery, and prepare themselves for an extended research or creative project in the senior year. Many courses count for more than one area of specialization, and some students may elect to pursue more than one area. See the department’s course descriptions for which courses count for which areas.

6. Fundamentals of Research
Two semesters (six credits) in the Senior Seminar & Research Workshop.

The year-long Senior Seminar & Research Workshop engages our graduating students in the deeper and more challenging processes of sustained writing and research. This immersive, methods-based seminar is co-taught each year by three faculty members from different areas of expertise, including at least one creative writer. The senior experience guides majors in a significant piece of critical or creative work within their area of specialization or their creative writing concentration. All students present their work at an end-of-the-year departmental symposium. Please note that the Senior Seminar & Research Workshop replaces the former senior thesis structure. (This course is to be taken in the senior year only.)


What are the main differences between the "old" and "new" majors?
  • The new major requires 11 courses for everyone; the old major requires 12 courses for single majors and creative writing concentrators, and 10 courses for double majors

  • The new major asks you to organize your electives around an area of specialization or the concentration in creative writing

  • The new major features a two-semester senior seminar and research workshop in which you craft a culminating research project on a topic of your choice; the old major requires a one-semester capstone project for which the topic is determined by the professor and the content of the course (note that in the old major, creative writers cannot write a creative capstone project)

What is the difference between a capstone course and the new senior seminar and research workshop?

Capstone courses in the English Department are organized according to specific content (Shakespearean Drama; Feminist Environments; Race and Slavery in 19th Century America, for example), just as your other courses in the university are. In an English capstone, students write a 20-25 pp. research paper based on this content. The new senior seminar sequence differs from this model in four central ways: 1) the course content is less about a particular topic, and more about why and how we write, and how, as a community, we might aid and support each other’s writing; 2) students in the course are free to devise their own topics and projects, based on their interests; 3) students have the option to write a critical or a creative project, or a hybrid of the two, depending on their area of specialization or the creative writing concentration; 4) students develop, research, and write their projects over the course of a year, rather than one semester.

Can I mix and match between the "old" and "new" majors or do I need to choose one or the other?

Students will need to decide to pursue one or the other set of requirements with one key exception: current sophomores and juniors who wish to stay with the old major requirements can opt to take the two-semester senior seminar and research workshop in place of a capstone course. The director of undergraduate studies will manage this exception on Degree Works.

How will I know which courses count for which areas of specialization?

Each semester at pre-registration, the department will publicize which offerings count toward each area. The GA also lists the department’s offerings with their designated areas of specialization.

If I am a creative writing concentrator, do I also need to choose an area of specialization in literary studies?

No, concentrators in creative writing will not be required to choose an area of specialization but they can if they want to!

Can I double-count requirements? For example, can one of my area of specialization courses also count for my critical race, postcolonial, and gender studies requirement?

Where applicable, students may double-count one course from the major distribution requirements toward their chosen area of specialization.

Will 200-level courses count for the areas of specialization?

Yes, the new curriculum allows students to count 200-level courses for the areas of specialization as well as for departmental distribution requirements.

Can relevant courses outside the English major (film and theater courses in HART and VADA, medical humanities courses or environmental studies courses) count for my area of specialization?

Yes, English majors can petition the director of undergraduate studies to count up to two courses outside the department toward their area of specialization. This will be most relevant to students pursuing the visual & comparative media specialization and the science, medicine, & the environment specialization.

How will advising work in the new major?

English majors will be advised in a variety of ways:

  1. The director of undergraduate studies or a member of the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee will reach out during your English 200 semester to initiate advising;

  2. When you declare the major, you will discuss your trajectory through the major with the director of undergraduate studies;

  3. The Undergraduate Curriculum Committee will hold advising open houses at each of the bi-annual pre-registration events hosted by the department in the fall and spring semesters. We strongly encourage our majors to seek advising at these events;

  4. All junior majors will meet with departmental faculty in the spring semester in preparation for the senior seminar & research workshop

Always reach out to the director of undergraduate studies with any questions about the major!

What English courses qualify for D1 credit?

Many English courses qualify for D1 credit and the list is everchanging. It is the student's responsibility to ensure the courses they take fulfill their distribution requirements.

For a list of all courses designated as distribution courses, search the Course Catalog.