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Literature Major Frequently Asked Questions

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How do I know whether a course counts as TTC, ICSP, Race & Ethnicity, Pre- or Post-1830, etc.?

The course descriptions in English Course Listings specify whether a given course counts as pre-1830 or post-1830, and which major requirements are fulfilled, both old and new.  English Course Listings contain quarter-by-quarter lists of all the courses fulfilling the pre-1830, post-1830, TTC, ICSP, American Literature, Gender, Sexuality & Embodiment, Race & Ethnicity, and Postcolonial & Comparative Literature requirements.

I’m going to use a 200-level course as one of my additional literature courses. Can it satisfy requirements such as pre/post-1830, Race & Ethnicity, etc.?

No.  The pre/post-1830 requirements and the Gender, Sexuality & Embodiment, Race & Ethnicity, and Postcolonial & Comparative Literature requirements must be satisfied using your seven 300-level courses. (Under the pre-2022 major requirements, 200-level courses may be counted for the chronological and TTC/ICSP requirements.)

Can the same course satisfy multiple major requirements?

Yes. A course on medieval women’s writing, for example, can count as both a pre-1830 course and an Gender, Sexuality & Embodiment course.

I think a particular course should fulfill a major requirement, but it’s not marked as such in English Course Listings. What should I do?

Consult with the DUS. Be sure to bring a copy of the course description and syllabus. Final decisions about course requirements rest with the English Department faculty rather than with individual students. But we do listen to reason!

When should I take English 397?

You’re ready for English 397 when your regular 300-level courses no longer feel like a stretch – that is to say, when you feel that you’ve mastered the skills required for a typical 300-level English class. You will usually reach that milestone after you’ve taken between four and six 300-level literature courses. If you are considering applying to the English literature honors program, make sure to take English 397 during your junior year, ideally in fall or winter quarter.

I know I’ve taken a course that fulfills the Race & Ethnicity requirement (or any other requirement, old or new), but according to my academic progress report in CAESAR that requirement is still unsatisfied. What should I do?

Consult the DUS. Errors in CAESAR’s academic progress reports are unfortunately quite common, but the DUS should be able to straighten everything out. It’s important to make sure that your academic progress report accurately reflects your progress through the major when you file your petition to graduate.


I’m currently an English literature major but I’m hoping to be admitted to the creative writing major. Should I take English 300?

You may. In addition to being a required course for the literature major, English 300 counts as a 300-level literature course toward the creative writing major.  We encourage students to take it as early as possible because it teaches the writing and analytical skills they will need in their other 300-level literature classes, regardless of which major they decide to pursue. For the same reason, students usually don’t get much out of English 300 if they postpone taking it until senior year.

Does declaring the English literature major allow me to pre-register for creative writing courses?

Yes. Literature majors may pre-register for English 206 and any other classes for which they fulfill the prerequisites.

Does declaring the English literature major help me at all towards a creative writing major?

Some intended creative writing majors declare an English literature major in order to pre-register for 300-level literature courses. That’s not a bad idea, but we do not recommend that you simply jump into 300-level literature courses without any preparation. By definition, 300-level literature courses expect you to be comfortable with college-level literary analysis and with writing extended argumentative essays. It’s a good idea to take two 200-level historical breadth courses and English 300 before embarking on 300-level literature classes (see above.). You can also help to prepare yourself for 300-level literature courses by taking one or both of your first-year seminars with English department faculty members.

I don’t know whether I’ll be admitted to the creative writing major. Should I declare a major in English literature “just in case”?

As you probably know, admission to the creative writing major is competitive, with an average acceptance rate of about 60%. As a result, every student who plans to apply to the creative writing major also needs a contingency plan, whether a major in English literature or in some other field.

Can I double major or major/minor in English literature and creative writing?

Sadly, no. There is too much overlap between the two sets of major requirements. But we do encourage literature students to take creative writing courses, and vice versa.


How should I start the English Major?

Your first step should be to begin with an "Historical Breadth" course.

Your second step should be to take a second Historical Breadth course and English 300, either concurrently or in quick succession. It’s okay to take English 300 with one Historical Breadth course under your belt.

Your third step should be to begin taking 300-level English literature courses. It’s best to begin these advanced courses after you’ve completed English 300. English 300 teaches you how to write the standard eight-page analytical paper required for most 300-level literature classes.

Under the old major requirements, can I take a “mixed” sequence, i.e. one quarter of English Literary Traditions and one quarter of American Literary Traditions?

Under the old major requirements, yes. From the four introductory courses for the English major (210-1, 210-2, 270-1, 270-2), you must take either 210-1 OR 270-1 and any one of the three remaining courses. In other words, you may take any two of the four courses except the combination 210-2 and 270-2. The two courses can be taken in any order.

Under the new major requirements, English 210-1, -2 and English 270-1, -2 are not required, but do count as Historical Breadth courses.

When should I take English 300?

As early as possible in your career as an English major. English 300 teaches you how to write the standard eight-page analytical paper required for most 300-level literature classes. Taking it early on will save you lots of painful trial and error! By the same logic, the class will probably seem pretty pointless if you put it off until senior year.

I took English 213 (Intro to Fiction) or another “non-sequence” 200-level literature course. Does it count towards the English major?

Yes. You can count up to two 200-level literature courses towards the 9 additional courses requirement.  English 206 may also count as one of these 200-level courses under the old major.  English 206 does not count toward the English Literature major for students who matriculated in Fall 2022.


I’ve enjoyed my 300-level English courses, but now I’m ready for a greater challenge. What’s the next step?

Consider applying to the honors program in English literature. As a rule of thumb, successful applicants usually have an English major GPA of at least 3.75.

It doesn’t look as if the honors program is going to work for me, either for reasons of scheduling or because my GPA isn’t high enough. Are there any other options?

Consider applying for an independent study (English 399), in which you work with a faculty member on a topic of your choice. 

Independent studies are open to junior and senior English literature majors with strong departmental records. A student who wishes to pursue an independent study must find a faculty sponsor for their project and submit a completed application before the end of Registration Week for the quarter in which you’d like to take the Independent Study. The application should include a substantial syllabus, including reading assignments and due dates for writing assignments. Any member of the English department faculty may sponsor a 399 project. Teaching assistants are not eligible to guide Independent Study projects.

Are there any other possibilities?

Exceptional undergraduate English majors are sometimes allowed to enroll in graduate-level literature courses. If you’re interested, consult with the course instructor and the DUS.


When should I start taking 300-level English literature courses?

As soon as you’ve successfully completed English 300 (see above).

Do all of my additional literature courses have to be at the 300 level?

No.  Up to two 200-level English courses may count toward the literature major.  The rest must be 300-level literature courses.  Under the old English Literature major requirements, English 206 may count as one of those 200-level courses.

Can I count courses taken at other institutions towards the English major?

The DUS evaluates courses taken at other institutions on a case-by-case basis. In order to be considered for English department credit, courses must be equivalent in rigor to NU English courses, and must be taken face-to-face rather than online.

Can literature courses taken outside the English Department count as additional courses?

All literature courses taught by English Department faculty in departments and programs such as African American Studies and Comparative Literary Studies count as additional literature courses. In addition, students may count up to one course on literary texts not originally written in English, read either in the original language or in translation. These courses need not be taught by English department faculty.

Can I receive credit for multiple courses with the same course number?

Sometimes. You can receive credit for multiple versions of courses with general titles such as “Studies in Medieval Literature” or “American Novel” as long as each version of the course has a distinct topic. If you aren’t sure whether topics are sufficiently distinct, consult the course instructor or the DUS.

Can I count a composition course (e.g., English 205, 304, 305) or a creative writing course (e.g. English 206, 207, 208) towards the English literature major? How about Chicago Field Studies?

No composition or creative writing courses may count toward the current English Literature major.
Under the old English Literature major requirements, English 206 may count as one of two 200-level English courses.

Can I count a study abroad course as an additional literature course?

You can count up to two literature courses from a one-quarter study abroad program as additional literature courses. These courses must be approved by the DUS as equivalent in rigor to NU’s 300-level literature courses. As a rule of thumb, equivalent courses generally assign at least five novels (or a comparable amount of drama, poetry, etc.) and at least fifteen pages of critical writing.

English majors studying abroad for longer than a quarter can sometimes count more than two study abroad courses as core courses. Consult with the DUS.

Can I count an Independent Study (English 399) as one of my additional literature courses?

Yes, you can count one Independent Study as an additional course for the English literature major.

Can I count the same course towards more than one major?

Not usually. But if you are experiencing unusual hardship and need an exception to this policy for one course, please consult with the DUS.