The English Major: Overview

The major in English is designed to introduce students to the history of literature written in English; to acquaint them with a variety of historical periods and geographical and cultural regions of English language and writing; to create an awareness of methods and theories of literary and cultural analysis; and to provide continued training in critical writing.

Students who declare the major in English from the Fall 2021 semester will complete requirements in the redesigned major.  These include a sequence of three small, faculty-led seminars (English 90, 100, and 190) that focus on foundational skills in reading and understanding literature and in writing critically and meaningfully about it. The seminars are meant to be taken in order: English 90 (“Practices of Literary Study”) introduces students to different strategies for close reading, for making sense of literary language, and for appreciating the value and interest of literary study. English 100 (“The Seminar on Criticism”) addresses a range of literary topics, periods, and genres, but in each case provides intensive and closely supervised work in critical reading and writing and an engagement with methodological problems in literary studies.  We strongly recommend that majors take English 100 as juniors. English 190 is a senior research seminar that follows from prior coursework and culminates in a substantial and original scholarly essay. Students pursuing honors in English take the year-long honors seminar, H195A/B, instead of English 190 or in addition to it.

The core of the major also consists of English 45A-45B-45C, a survey of literature in English from Chaucer through the mid-20th century, including British, American, and anglophone writing. Together with the required course in Shakespeare, this sequence provides a foundation in literary history on which to build more specialized course work. Further requirements include at least one upper-division course in literature before 1800 and at least one “Literatures in English” course, addressing the variety of literary traditions and writings of peoples and cultures that have been historically underrepresented in the U.S., the British Isles, and other anglophone countries and regions.  

To be eligible to declare the major, students must have completed at least 30 units, the L&S Reading and Composition requirement, and two major requirements: English 45A or 45B, and one of the following: English 45A, 45B, 45C, Shakespeare, or English 90.

Please see the Requirements page for details.