The Concentration in English

English concentrators must take a total of 11 courses: two 200-level prerequisites, the Junior Seminar, and eight departmental courses, seven of which must be at the 300 level or above. With the permission of the departmental representative, concentrators may count one cognate course from another department, where that course adds depth or perspective to their studies in English. (Some optional tracks may permit more cognates.)  All courses in English follow the department's grading standards.


English department prerequisites provide a background in literary history and working knowledge of one of the major genres. Concentrators take both ENG 200 (British Literature from the 14th to the 18th Centuries) and one of the 200-level Reading Literature courses: ENG 205 (Poetry), ENG 206 (Fiction), ENG 207 (Drama), or ENG 208 (The Essay). While someconcentrators take one of the prerequisites after joining the department, it is recommended to complete at least one by the end of sophomore year.

The Junior Seminar

An introduction to the methods of research and the arts of criticism, taken in the fall of junior year. Concentrators choose one from a menu of five or six seminars when they sign into the department as sophomores. The courses are typical (ranging from Emily Dickinson to Theater and Sacrifice), but all of them involve intensive practice in the reading and writing of literary criticism. The fall junior paper is written in conjunction with the seminar, with the seminar instructor as adviser.

During the Junior Fall, students should plan a program of departmental courses for the next two years. The planned coursework for the Junior spring and Senior year should be discussed with the Junior Seminar leader, who signs the SCORE sheet and acts as the junior advisor during the fall term.

Distribution Requirements

Departmental distribution requirements ensure historical and generic breadth in each concentrator's program of study.

  • Foundations (two courses in British literature before 1800, only one of which can be Shakespeare, and one course in American literature before 1900) grounds concentrators in the history of English.
  • Modernity (one course in literature after 1800) brings them up to date.
  • Diasporas (one course in Anglophone or U.S. minority literatures) explores the racial, cultural, and geographical diversities that inform literary tradition.
  • Theory and Criticism (one course) provides tools for thinking critically across all these periods, identities, and genres.

Each semester, the department offers a wide variety of courses in each area, and a full list is available on the courses page. You can also find a list of courses past and present organized by their distribution categories. (Some courses are listed in two or more categories: by arrangement with the departmental representative, such courses may be used to satisfy two requirements simultaneously, but each concentrator can do so only once.)

The Rule of Twelve

By University rules, a student in the AB program is limited to twelve one-term courses (plus independent work) in a given department, plus up to two departmental prerequisites taken during freshmen or sophomore year. Students who exceed the thirty-one course requirement for graduation may exceed the rule of twelve by as many courses, i.e., if you take thirty-two courses total, you can exceed the rule of twelve by one course, and so on. For most English concentrators, this means only twelve courses primarily designated as English courses (ENG courses or cross-listed courses where ENG comes first, e.g. ENG 327/GSS 332). Departmental cognates do not count against the rule of twelve, nor do crosslisted courses where English is not the home department (e.g. AAS 306 / ENG 302 / AMS 306, where the home department, the first listed, is AAS).