How to Become an English Major or Minor
- Department Information
- Advanced Placement
- Requirements for the Major
- Requirements for the Minor
- The Creative Writing Concentration in the English Major
- Directions for Sophomores Planning an English Major
- Graduate Study in English
- Teacher Certification
Courses at the 100 level are open to all students and presume no previous college experience in literary study. They provide good introductions to such study because of their subject matter or their focus on the skills of critical reading. ENG 120 (Critical Interpretation) is open to all students, but is primarily designed for prospective English majors. The course trains students in the skills of critical reading and writing.
200-level literature courses, with the exception of Shakespeare (223 and 224), are open to all students without prerequisite. They treat major writers and historical periods, and provide training in making comparisons and connections among different works, writers, and ideas.
300-level literature courses encourage both students and instructors to pursue their special interests. They presume a greater overall competence, together with some previous experience in the study of major writers, periods, and ideas in English or American literature. They are open to juniors and seniors who have taken two literature courses in the department, at least one of which must be 200 level, and by permission of the instructor or chair to other qualified students.
For independent work (350), students with at least a 3.33 GPA in courses in the department will have first consideration. Students are encouraged to confer with the instructors of courses in which they are interested. Students should consult the more complete descriptions of all courses, composed by their instructors and available from the department administrative assistants.
Creative writing. The English Department offers beginning and advanced courses in poetry (ENG 202 and 302), in fiction (ENG 203 and 301), in children’s literature (ENG 205), and in screenwriting (ENG 204/CAMS 204). A literary non-fiction writing course (ENG 206/WRIT 225) that covers different genres (for example, reviewing the arts, travel writing, personal essay, and memoir) is offered in collaboration with The Writing Program. The Theatre Studies Department offers an introductory playwriting course (THST 221). These courses are open to all Wellesley College students. Students may choose a Creative Writing concentration within the English major. There is no minor in Creative Writing.
Students may receive credits toward their Wellesley degree for their performance on AP or IB examinations. Because no high school course is considered the equivalent of a course in the English Department, the English Department does not grant credit toward the major for AP or IB courses. First-year students and other undeclared majors contemplating further study in English are encouraged to consult the department chair or the department pre-major advisor in relation to their course selection. Students majoring in English should discuss their programs with the chair or their major advisors, and should consult with them about any changes they wish to make during their junior and senior years.
The English major consists of a minimum of ten units, at least eight of which must be in areas other than creative writing. At least seven units must be above 100 level, and of these at least two units must be earned in 300-level literature, film, or literary theory courses. At least eight of the units for the major must be taken in the department, including the two required units in 300-level courses dealing with literature, film, or literary theory; with the approval of a student’s major advisor, two courses taught within language and literature departments and related interdisciplinary programs and departments at Wellesley and other approved schools may be offered for major credit; these may include literature courses taught in translation or language courses at the third-year level or higher. Students planning to study for a full academic year in a program abroad in the United Kingdom should seek the counsel of their advisors or the department chair to avoid running up against the college's rule that 18 courses must be taken outside any one department; universities in the UK commonly require all courses to be taken within their English Departments.
The First-Year Writing Requirement does not count toward the major. Courses designated WRIT 105/ENG 120 satisfy both the ENG 120 requirement and the First-Year Writing Requirement, and count as a unit toward the fulfillment of the major. Other combined sections, such as WRIT 106/ENG 122, count toward the major as well. Independent work (350, 360, or 370) does not count toward the minimum requirement of two 300-level courses for the major or toward the ten courses required for the major. 300-level courses in creative writing also do not count toward the minimum requirement of two 300-level courses.
All students majoring in English must take ENG 120 (Critical Interpretation), at least one course in Shakespeare (200 level), and two courses focused on literature written before 1900, of which at least one must focus on literature before 1800.
Courses taken in other departments at Wellesley College may not be used to satisfy any of the above distribution requirements. With the chair’s permission, courses taken abroad during junior year or on twelve-college exchange may satisfy certain distribution requirements. ENG 112, 223, and 224 do not satisfy the pre-1800 distribution requirement. Transfer students or Davis Scholars who have had work equivalent to 120 at another institution may apply to the chair for exemption from the critical interpretation requirement.
The English minor consists of five units: (A) 120 and (B) at least one unit on literature written before 1900 and (C) at least one 300-level unit, excluding 350 and (D) at least four units, including the 300-level course, taken in the department. One course taught within language and literature departments and related interdepartmental programs at Wellesley and other approved schools may be offered for minor credit; these may include literature courses taught in translation or language courses at the third-year level or higher. A maximum of two creative writing units may be included. A course on Shakespeare can count toward the minor, but it does not fulfill the pre-1900 requirement.
The creative writing concentration within the English major is designed for majors with a strong commitment to developing their own creative work. Students electing the creative writing concentration take a series of workshops in one or more creative genres (fiction, poetry, children’s literature, playwriting, screenwriting, and creative non-fiction) and select, in consultation with their advisor, courses in literary study that provide the background in and knowledge of literary tradition necessary to make a contribution to that tradition.
Students interested in the creative writing concentration are urged to begin planning their programs early in their careers at Wellesley. It is expected that they will have taken at least one writing workshop by the time of election of the English major (spring semester sophomore year or fall semester sophomore year, for students going abroad), and have been in touch with a member of the creative writing faculty to plan the major. English majors electing the creative writing concentration must choose a member of the creative writing faculty as their advisor. Students who are interested in the creative writing concentration but who do not feel confident that they have had sufficient experience in writing to choose the concentration at the time of the election of the major should elect the English major; they may add the creative writing concentration later.
All creative writing classes are mandatory credit/noncredit. Independent work in creative writing (350, 360, and 370) receives letter grades.
Students electing the creative writing concentration must fulfill all the requirements of the English major, including ENG 120, a course on Shakespeare, the period distribution requirements, and two 300-level literature courses. It is expected that creative writing students will take a focused program of critical study in the genre or genres in which they specialize.
In addition to eight courses in the critical study of literature, majors in the creative writing concentration take a minimum of four units of creative writing work. Creative writing courses may be repeated once for additional credit. A student who is extremely motivated and capable of independent work and who has the permission of a faculty advisor may take an independent study (ENG 350); however, it is recommended that students take full advantage of the workshop experience provided by the creative writing courses. A student qualifying for honors in English and whose proposal has been approved by the Creative Writing Committee may pursue a creative writing thesis; the thesis option, although it includes two course units (ENG 360 and ENG 370), can only count as one of the four creative writing courses required by the concentration. Creative writing faculty generally direct creative theses; however, other English Department faculty may direct creative theses.
1. Visit the department office and Common Room on the first floor of Founders (F106). All students taking English courses—not only majors—are cordially invited to use our Common Room, which contains a small library.
2. Select an advisor. Every member of the English Department serves as an advisor. A student may choose her own advisor. In order to aid students in making a useful match, brief descriptions of faculty members' areas of interest and scholarly work appear on the Faculty page.
3. Read through the catalogue and this website. Work out a tentative plan for your major, or just think about what you are most interested in, and how you can most effectively combine your own interests with the department’s requirements. Try to see your advisor as soon as possible. The advisor’s signature must be on the Declaration of Major.
4. Remember that courses taken at other institutions (including summer school courses) must be approved by the Chair if credit towards the major is to be awarded. Major advisors cannot grant this approval.
5. Your advisor is there to help you develop a plan for the major. Let your advisor do well what he or she knows how to do—think with you about the course of your education.
6. Reminder for Junior English Majors: Confirmation of Major forms must be completed and signed by your advisor in the Spring of your Junior year (or the very beginning of your Senior year if you were away).
There are a number of ways one can assemble an English major from the courses the department (and other departments) offer. While each major should work with her advisor to design a program appropriate to her interests (and that fulfills the department's requirements), we offer some suggestions below on paths one might take through the major, as examples of ways one can choose courses that combine to create a coherent intellectual experience and deepen one's understanding of a particular period or genre of writing.
- The Novel in English
Students with a particular interest in the English novel will probably want to take several of the department courses devoted to the novel. The sequence English 271, 272, 273 traces the development of the British novel from the 18th century through the 20th. The sequence English 262, 266, and 267 is a series of multi-genre courses, usually with a strong focus on fiction, that trace American writing from the early 19th century through the 20th. Each year the department offers a number of 300-level courses on the novel, such as the seminars on Jane Austen and on James Joyce that have been taught in recent years.
- Fiction Outside British & American Traditions
Courses dealing with literature outside the British and American national traditions, such as Indian Writing in English, or with particular traditions within a national literature, like Asian American Literature and Lesbian and Gay Writing in America, most often focus on fiction and are excellent choices for students who wish to explore the full range of accomplishment in English-language fiction. We also recommend Africana Studies 201, The African American Literary Tradition; Africana Studies 211, Introduction to African Literature; and Africana Studies 212, Black Women Writers. All three of these courses feature a substantial component of fiction.
- The Modern Novel
Students who have a particular interest in the modern novel may find it valuable to take Russian 251 (offered in English), which studies the nineteenth-century Russian writers who had such a powerful influence on fiction writing in English. For those who have the language, French 214, Desire, Power, and Language in the Nineteenth-Century Novel, offers an enriched understanding of 19th- and 20th-century fiction throughout the English-speaking world. Students interested in the earlier novel would benefit, if they have the language, from study of Cervantes (Spanish 302).
Students with a special interest in poetry will probably want to take the Romantic Poetry course (English 241) and the Modern and Contemporary Poetry courses (English 251 and 253), as well as a number of the other courses in which poetry figures prominently: Chaucer (English 213), Milton (English 227), Renaissance Literature (English 222), Seventeeth-Century Literature (English 225), Eighteenth-Century Literature (English 234), and Victorian Literature (English 245). The department offers a number of 300-level courses that focus on poetry each year, such as the courses on Keats and Shelley, or Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, that have been offered recently.
Students with a particular interest in poetry would also do well to take Classical Mythology (Classical Civilization 104), and would benefit greatly from Dante (Italian 263, taught in English). Students interested in modern poetry in English, if they have the language, should consider French 215, Baudelaire, Verlaine, Rimbaud, which treats a period of French poetry that has exerted tremendous influence on subsequent poetry in English. Students attracted to the poetry of earlier periods of English literature will also find the offerings of the Medieval/Renaissance Studies Program of interest. Monsters, Villians, and Wives (ENG 246/ME/R 246) and Arthurian Legends (ENG 247/ME/R 247) explore the genres of narrative poetry, epic and romance, in England and on the continent, that in later periods evolved into the novel.
Students with a particular interest in drama will want to take both of the 200-level Shakespeare courses (ENG 223 and 224). American Drama and Musical Theater (ENG 281) will also appeal to students interested in constructing a major concentration in drama, as will many of the courses that we teach that focus on or include films. A number of English department courses have a significant drama component; check the course descriptions to find these courses. We highly recommend Africana Studies 266, Black Drama. In addition, students interested in drama should explore the courses offered by the Theatre Studies program.
- Particular Literary Periods
Students interested in a particular literary period should of course take the available courses in that period. They should also consider taking history courses in the relevant period, as well as courses in other literatures, mythology, art history, or religion that provide appropriate background and context for English-language writing. Students interested in the study of medieval writing, for instance, might elect to take one or more of the history department's offerings in the period, such as History 208, Society and Culture in Medieval Europe, or History 210, The British Isles: From Glorious Revolution to Global Empire. They might also wish to extend their knowledge of the Bible through courses in the Religion Department, such as Religion 104, Study of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, or Religion 105, Study of the New Testament. And they might wish to explore what was happening in the other arts during this time by taking a course such as Art History 201, Medieval Art and Architecture. A student interested in modern American fiction might take a course in American history, such as History 204, History of the United States in the Twentieth Century, or a course in art history, such as Art History 225, Modern Art Since 1945, or a course in Women's Studies, such as Women's Studies 222, Women in Contemporary American Society, to help place her readings of American novels and stories within the larger context of the development of American society, culture, and institutions in the period.
Students expecting to do graduate work in English should ordinarily plan to acquire a reading knowledge of one and, if possible, two foreign languages. They should take ENG 382 (Criticism) or an equivalent course in literary theory. They should also consult with the department’s graduate school advisor, and with their major advisor, about courses that are appropriate for those considering graduate work in English.
Students interested in obtaining certification to teach English in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts should consult with the chair of the Education Department and the English Department liaison to the Education Department