Guide to the Literature Major
Requirements for the Major
Beginning Fall 2022 the English Literature Major comprises two 200-level “Historical Breadth” courses, English 300, English 397, and 9 additional literature courses. “Historical Breadth” courses are defined as classes that engage with at least 200 years of literature from a particular tradition, genre, or theme. These courses will expose students to the longue durée of literary history and narratives of continuity and change over time. One Historical Breadth course must focus on literature written pre-1830 and the other must focus on literature written post-1830. Courses that fulfill the “Historical Breadth” requirement are clearly marked in English Course Listings.
English 300 is a seminar that teaches fundamental skills of literary interpretation and exposes students to new ways of thinking about literary texts, and it is recommended that students take it early in their academic career as an English major. There are no prerequisites for English 300. English 300 may only be taken once, and it does not count toward the additional 9 courses required for the major.
English 397, the Research Seminar, teaches students how to define a viable research topic, identify and evaluate sources, and craft an extended argument – crucial cognitive skills that also happen to be highly sought-after by employers. Students should register for English 397 after successfully completing 4-6 300-level literature courses, normally during the junior or senior year. Students who wish to pursue honors in English must have completed or be enrolled in the Research Seminar when they apply to the Honors Program in Spring Quarter of the junior year. English 397 cannot be taken simultaneously with the English 398-1,2: Honors Seminar, which honors students take during Fall and Winter of the senior year.
In contrast to the required courses, the 9 additional literature courses offer students wide latitude in defining their own paths through the major. This is your chance to take classes on subjects you feel passionate about . . . and also to venture into the unknown! In order to ensure a reasonable degree of cultural and historical competency, the 9 additional literature courses must fulfill the following requirements:
- Two 200- or 300-level literature courses (must be taken in the English Department);
- Seven 300-level courses
- At least 3 courses on works written before 1830
- At least 3 courses on works written after 1830
- At least 1 course focusing on Gender, Sexuality & Embodiment
- At least 1 course focusing on Postcolonial & Comparative Literatures
- At least 1 course focusing on Race & Ethnicity
- 1 300-level literature course may be taken in another department or program, subject to approval by the DUS
A worksheet to help you keep track of your progress through the English major is available here.
Please note that students who matriculated prior to Fall 2022 should use this form to track their progress through the previous iteration of the major when petitioning to graduate unless they choose to opt in to the current major.
What are the Race and Ethnicity, Gender, Sexuality, and Embodiment, and Post-colonial and Comparative literatures requirements?
“Race & Ethnicity” courses focus on texts that highlight race and ethnicity as lived experiences and constructed categories, alongside scholarly formations that treat these ideas. “Gender, Sexuality & Embodiment” courses focus on texts that defy cultural norms related to gender, sexuality, and dis/ability and engage relevant scholarly literatures. “Postcolonial and Comparative Literatures” courses focus on texts that invite various forms of postcolonial, decolonial, transnational, and/or comparative literary analysis. Beyond showcasing writers across a wide range of identity categories and cultural locations, courses taught in these groupings will assign or substantially engage with secondary literature that enriches students’ awareness of the scholarly traditions and methods that have developed most self-consciously around questions of racial, gendered, national, and other forms of difference.
Courses that fulfill the pre- and post-1830; Gender, Sexuality & Embodiment; Postcolonial & Comparative Literatures; and Race & Ethnicity requirements are clearly identified in English Course Listings.
Declaring an English Literature Major
You may download major declaration forms and minor declaration forms from Weinberg's Policies, Procedures and Forms page. Once you have completed the form, e-mail it to Jeffrey Masten, the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS). Once signed by the DUS, they will then submit the completed declaration form to the WCAS Office of Undergraduate Studies.
Petitioning To Graduate
The process of petitioning to graduate with a major or minor in English Literature takes place via the Frevvo portal administered by the Registrar. As part of this process, the Director of Undergraduate Studies reviews the degree progress report to verify that all requirements have been completed. As part of this process, fill out the major worksheet or minor worksheet and email it to the DUS. Be sure to include any future courses you plan to take to fulfill the major or minor.
All majors are eligible to pre-register for up to two English literature courses per quarter. Note, however, that students may only pre-register for a total of two courses across all majors and minors. Pre-registration times are based on class year and student identification number, with seniors beginning on Monday morning. See the Registrar’s website for the specific schedule.