In the College of Arts and Sciences .
The Department of English offers a wide range of courses in English, American, and Anglophone literature as well as in creative writing, expository writing, and film analysis. Literature courses focus variously on close reading of texts, study of particular authors and genres, questions of critical theory and method, and the relationship of literary works to their historical contexts and to other disciplines. Writing courses typically employ the workshop method in which students develop their skills by responding to criticism of their work by their classmates as well as by their instructors. Many students supplement their formal course work in English by attending public lectures and readings sponsored by the department or by writing for campus literary magazines. The department seeks not only to foster critical analysis and lucid writing but also to teach students to think about the nature of language and to be alert to both the rigors and the pleasures of reading texts of diverse inspiration.
C. Levine, Picket Family Chair of the English Department; A. Galloway, associate chair; I. Hutchinson, director of creative writing; K. McCullough, director of undergraduate studies; E. Cohn, director of honors; M.P. Brady, director of graduate studies; L. Brown, director of graduate student teaching; S. Mohanty, director of minors; E. Anker, K. Attell, C. Boyce-Davies, J. Braddock, C. Caruth, E. Cheyfitz, E. Diaz, E. Evans, D. Faulkner, E. Fridlund, D. Fried, R. Gilbert, C. Green, E. Hanson, T. Hill, G. Hutchinson, J. Juffer, R. Kalas, M. Koch, J. R. Lennon, G. Londe, P. Lorenz, J. Mackowski, J. Mann, J. McKenzie, R. Morgan, V. Mort Hutchinson, T. Murray, M.W. Ngugi, E. Quiñonez, M. Raskolnikov, N. Saccamano, S. Samuels, D. Schwarz, H. Shaw, D. Spires, N. Thompson-Spires, S. Vaughn, L. Van Clief-Stefanon, H. Viramontes, S. Wong, S. Zacher. Emeriti: B. Adams, J. Blackall, F. Bogel, C. Chase, B. Correll, J. Culler, S. Davis, L. Donaldson, A. Fulton, L. Herrin, M. Hite, M. Jacobus, A. Lurie, K. McClane, M. McCoy, D. Mermin, R. Parker, M. Radzinowicz, P. Sawyer, S. Siegel, W. Wetherbee
First-Year Writing Seminars:
As part of the university-wide First-Year Writing Seminars program administered by the John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines, the department offers a wide range of courses in literature, film, and media; nature, the environment, and climate change; culture, politics, and identity; and in community engagement—connecting students with local community partners. Students may apply any of these courses to their first-year writing seminar requirement. Detailed course descriptions may be found in the first-year writing seminar program listings, available from college registrars in August for the fall semester and in November for the spring semester.
Freshmen interested in majoring in English are encouraged to take at least one of the department’s seminars listed under ENGL 1270 - FWS: Writing About Literature . These courses are open, as space permits, to first-semester freshmen with scores of 700 or above on the CEEB College Placements Tests in English composition or literature, or 5 on the CEEB Advanced Placement Examination in English, as well as to students who have completed another first-year writing seminar.
The Major in English:
Students who major in English develop their own programs of study in consultation with their major advisors. Some choose to focus on a particular historical period or literary genre, or to combine sustained work in creative writing with the study of literature. Others pursue interests in such areas as women’s literature, African American literature, literature and the visual arts, or critical theory. The department recommends that students prepare themselves for the English major by taking one or more 2000-level courses, many of which provide introductions to important aspects of literature, culture, and theory that are also covered in more advanced courses. These 2000-level courses concentrate on the skills basic to the English major and to other academic work—responsive, sensitive reading and lucid, strong writing. ENGL 2800 , ENGL 2810 , ENGL 2880 , and ENGL 2890 are also suitable preparations for the major, and are open to students who have completed their first-year writing seminar requirement. However, these introductory courses in creative and expository writing do not count toward the 40 credits required for the major.
Note: In addition to the major requirements outlined below, all students must meet the college graduation requirements .
Requirements for the major:
- 40 credit hours of English courses or related fields
- A minimum of 28 credit hours must be ENGL courses.
Major distribution requirements
Students are required to take the following number of courses from different categories within the English course offerings:
- Pre-1800: 12 credits (three courses) must be from courses in with 50 percent or more of the material consists of literature originally written in English before 1800 (such courses are indicated in the English course listings). The pre-1800 requirement may only be satisfied with ENGL courses.
- 4000-level: 8 credits (two courses) must be at the 4000-level or above. The 4000-level requirement may only be satisfied with ENGL courses.
- Concentration: 12 credits (three courses) must form an intellectually coherent “concentration.”
Some notes on course credits
- Students select their concentration in consultation with their major advisor.
- To receive credit towards the major, students must receive a grade of C or better within a course.
- A maximum of 12 of the 40 required credit hours may come from appropriate courses originating in departments and programs other than English may be used to satisfy English major requirements provided they are at the 3000-level or above. Upper level courses (3000 or above) in literature and creative writing offered by academic units representing neighboring or allied disciplines (German Studies, Romance Studies, Asian Studies, Classics, Comparative Literature, Africana Studies, the Society for the Humanities, American Studies, Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies, Religious Studies, Asian American Studies, American Indian Studies, Jewish Studies, Latino Studies, and Performance and Media Arts) are routinely counted toward the 40 hours of major credit.
- ENGL 4930 - Honors Essay Tutorial I - ENGL 4940 - Honors Essay Tutorial II may not be used to satisfy the English distribution requirements, but they may be counted toward the 40 required credit hours in the major.
- All 2000-level ENGL courses (with the exception of 2800-2810 and 2880-2890) count for the major, as do all 3000- and 4000-level courses. Courses used for the English major may also be used to meet distribution requirements in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Courses that satisfy the pre-1800 requirement are so designated in Courses of Study. Many English majors use ENGL 2010 to begin meeting this requirement, since this course provides an overview of earlier periods of British and American literatures and so enables students to make more informed choices of additional pre-1800 courses. Advanced courses in literary works not originally written in English may not be used to fulfill the pre-1800 requirement, even if they are offered by the English department.
The three-course concentration requirement may be satisfied with any courses approved for the major. The department’s guide, “Majoring in English at Cornell,” suggests areas of concentration and offers examples of courses that fall within those areas, but majors define their own concentrations in consultation with their major advisors.
All English majors are urged to take courses in which they read foreign works of literature in the original language, and in addition to 3000- and 4000-level courses in the departments and programs mentioned above, many 2000-level courses in which the materials are read in their original language may also be counted toward the English major as part of the 12 non-English course credits. Majors should discuss the use of non-ENGL courses for major credit with their faculty advisors or the DUS.
Planning a Program of Study:
Few students know from the moment they decide to pursue a major in English exactly what they wish to study. Moreover, it is natural for interests to change over the course of time. The effort of creating or discovering a coherent pattern in the courses selected is itself a valuable part of a literary (as well as liberal) education, and English majors are expected to discuss their overall program of study when seeking their advisors’ approval of courses each semester. While the department leaves a great deal to the discretion of its individual majors and their academic advisors, it expects them to choose courses with an eye to breadth and variety on the one hand and focus and coherence on the other.
Students with a special interest in developing their skills as writers of verse or prose will find a variety of workshop courses in expository and creative writing. As a rule a student may not enroll in more than one such course in any given semester, although exceptions are sometimes allowed where one of these is ENGL 2880 or ENGL 2890 .
A number of English majors do part of their course work at a foreign institution, usually during their junior year; some spend a single semester away from campus, others an entire year. The Office of Global Learning has information on a variety of programs at universities around the world. Many English majors study abroad in the United Kingdom and other English-speaking countries, but some choose other locations. As long as students continue to meet all college and department requirements or can complete them upon returning to Cornell, the English major can easily accommodate study abroad. Students planning to study abroad in their junior year who wish to complete the Honors program should make arrangements with the Director of Honors in English before leaving campus.
Credit for literature courses taken abroad can in most instances be applied to the 40-hour minimum for the English major and to requirements like the concentration and pre-1800 requirements. Approval of requests to apply credit for study abroad to the English major is granted by the DUS rather than the academic advisor, however, and students must confer with the Director of Undergraduate Study (DUS) in advance of going abroad as well as on their return. The first conference includes a review of catalogue descriptions of courses the student expects to take while abroad (along with a few alternatives), the second a presentation of papers, exams, transcripts or equivalent documentation of successful completion of the work proposed.
No more than 8 credits per semester of non-Cornell credit may be applied to the English major. This restriction applies to study abroad even when that study is conducted under Cornell auspices.
The Major in English with Honors:
Second-semester sophomores who have done superior work in English and related subjects are encouraged to seek admission to the departmental program leading to the degree of Bachelor of Arts with Honors in English. Following a meeting with the Director of Honors, qualified students will be admitted provisionally to the program. During their junior year these students complete at least one Honors Seminar (ENGL 4910 in the fall or ENGL 4920 in the spring) and are encouraged to take an additional 4000-level English course in the area of their thesis topic. On the basis of the work in these and other English courses, provisional Honors candidates must select a thesis topic and secure a thesis advisor by the end of the junior year. A student who has been accepted by a thesis advisor and whose brief thesis proposal has been signed by the Director of Honors becomes a candidate for Honors rather than a provisional candidate.
During the senior year, each candidate for honors in English enrolls in a yearlong tutorial (ENGL 4930 –ENGL 4940 ) with the faculty member he or she has chosen as a thesis advisor. The year’s work culminates in the submission of a substantial critical essay to be judged by at least two members of the faculty. Find more information about the Honors Program.
The English Department Minors:
The English department offers three minors, open to any student at Cornell with any major (except English). Students may declare their intention to minor at any time and declare completion of their chosen minor at any time up to week 7 of their final semester. Each minor requires students to pass five courses of at least three credits each with a grade of C or higher (no S/U). No first-year writing seminar may count, and at most four credits in all from transfer, study abroad, or independent study, or (where relevant) from another Cornell department may count. Students should seek an advisor from any Cornell English Department faculty or work with the English minors advisor, Satya Mohanty. Find more information about the English minors.
Students wishing to minor in Creative Writing must complete five courses. The following courses are required:
Students wishing to minor in English must complete five courses. Students may distribute their courses as they wish among offerings in literature, creative writing, and critical writing/creative nonfiction on the 2000-, 3000-, and 4000-levels.
Minority, Indigenous, and Third World Studies (MITWS)
Students wishing to minor in Minority, Indigenous, and Third World Studies (MITWS) must complete five courses from a list of departmentally designated offerings in such areas as African American, Asian American, American Indian and other indigenous, Latino/a, and Anglophone African, Asian, and Caribbean literature. The MITWS minor seeks to foster comparative thinking across domestic U.S. and international contexts. With this in mind, students may choose courses in English and other departments that engage with ethnic, indigenous, and/or national literatures. Students should consult the advisor to minors to see if such courses will count for the MITWS minor.