Undergraduate Majors Program Description - Class of 2020

The Concentration in English

English concentrators must take a total of 11 courses: ENG 200 Introduction to Literature: 14th to the 18th Centuries, the Junior Seminar, and nine departmental courses. 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.

The Junior Seminar

An introduction to the methods of research and the arts of criticism, taken in the fall of junior year (either at Princeton or while studying abroad at University College of London through OIP). Concentrators choose one from a menu of five or six seminars when they sign into the department as sophomores. The courses are topical (ranging from Emily Dickinson to Theater and Sacrifice), but all of them involve intensive practice in the reading and writing of literary criticism. During Junior Seminar students will begin work on their Junior Paper, under the guidance of the Seminar Leader. During the spring term, JP work will continue, with the Seminar Leader acting as the student's JP advisor.

If you are interested in learning more about the UCL program, contact Francesca Schenker at OIP; or attend one of our information sessions in the fall.

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 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).


Optional tracks within the English Department offer the chance for students with special interests to focus their programs of study within the discipline of English and on questions that lie between disciplines. Concentrators may elect a track at any time: a junior may already know she wants to focus on literary theory; a second-semester senior may realize he has been writing about literature and the arts all along. Some tracks, however, have more requirements than others (arts and media, theater and performance studies, and creative writing in particular), and students are advised to make a start as early as the sophomore year.

Literature, Culture, Language:

Concentrators may focus on a particular national or international body of work: British, American, or Anglophone.

  • British: Literature and culture of the British Isles. Requirements: four courses in British literature; one junior paper and the senior thesis on a British topic. One cognate course in another department (history, art and archaeology, etc.) on a British topic may be counted.
  • American: Literature and culture of the territories that became the United States, from native peoples and the first European settlers to the present day. Requirements: four courses in American literature (including at least one of ENG 201, ENG 353, or ENG 366); one junior paper and the senior thesis on an American topic. One cognate course in another department (history, art and archaeology, etc.) on an American topic may be counted. This track is often combined with a certificate in American studies or African American studies.
  • Anglophone: Literature and culture of English as a global language. Four courses in Anglophone literature; one junior paper and the senior thesis on an Anglophone topic. Up to two cognate courses in another department (history, art and archaeology, etc.) on an Anglophone topic may be counted.

Arts and Media:

Literature in relation to other arts, including architecture, visual art, film, photography, music (classical, popular, or other); and/or in relation to its circumstances of production and transmission, from manuscript to print to radio, television, and the Internet. Requirements: three courses in topics related to the arts and media, including up to two cognates from other departments; one junior paper and the senior thesis on a related topic.

Comparative Literatures:

English in relation to the literature of another language. Requirements: at least three and no more than four 300-level courses in a single foreign language (with no other cognates permitted); one junior paper and the senior thesis on a comparative topic (including translation). With permission of the departmental representative, some foreign language classes may be used to satisfy the departmental distribution requirements.

Theory and Criticism:

For students interested in thinking about the underlying principles by which we understand literature. Considers the history and theory of literary interpretation from Plato to the present, including such methods and movements as linguistics, structuralism, feminism, psychoanalysis, Marxism, cultural studies, gender and sexuality studies, race studies, postcolonial studies, and deconstruction. Requirements: three courses in literary or cultural theory and literary criticism, including either ENG 305 or ENG 306; one junior paper and the senior thesis on a topic in theory and criticism, or making imaginative use of critical methodologies.

Theater and Performance Studies:

A home for the study of dramatic literature, performance culture, and/or performance studies. Includes traditional theater, live and recorded music, popular culture performances, avant-garde arts, stand-up comedy, street theater, contemporary dance, and slam poetry. Requirements: one introductory class in theater by the end of sophomore year; at least two and not more than three 300- or 400-level courses in theater, counted as departmental courses (no other cognates are allowed); departmental courses must also include one upper-level Shakespeare course, one course in drama and/or performance before 1700, and one course in drama and/or performance after 1700; one junior paper and the senior thesis on a related topic.

Creative Writing:

Students elect the creative writing track provisionally; final admission depends on the permission of the Program in Creative Writing to write a creative thesis. The Department of English recommends that students take at least one 200-level creative writing course by the end of sophomore year. Requirements: a minimum of two and a maximum of three courses at the 300 level or above in creative writing counted as departmental courses (no other cognates are allowed); creative thesis. Students not approved to write a creative thesis revert to one of the other tracks. One 300-level creative writing class may be used as a cognate.

Individual Program of Study:

By special arrangement with the departmental representative, students may design an interdisciplinary track in an area not covered by the above, counting two cognates taken in other departments toward their nine departmentals.