In the College of Arts and Sciences .
The Department of Literatures in 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.
A. Galloway, Picket Family Chair, Department of Literatures in English; S. Zacher, associate chair; I. Hutchinson, director of creative writing; M. Raskolnikov, director of undergraduate studies; E. Hanson, director of honors; K. Attell, director of graduate studies; D. Spires, director of graduate student teaching; S. Mohanty, director of minors; E. Anker, K. Attell, C. Boyce-Davies, J. Braddock, M.P. Brady, L. Brown, J. Byrd, C. Caruth, E. Cheyfitz, E. Cohn, D. Faulkner, C. Frazier, E. Fridlund, R. Gilbert, C. Green, T. Hill, J. Hu Pegues, G. Hutchinson, J. Juffer, R. Kalas, J.R. Lennon, C. Levine, G. Londe, P. Lorenz, J. Mackowski, K. McCullough, J. McKenzie, V. Mort Hutchinson, T. Murray, M.W. Ngugi, E. Quiñonez, N. Saccamano, S. Samuels, D. Schwarz, D. Spires, N. Thompson-Spires, L. Van Clief-Stefanon, H. Viramontes, L. Warren, S. Wong. Emeriti: B. Adams, J. Blackall, F. Bogel, C. Chase, B. Correll, J. Culler, S. Davis, L. Donaldson, D. Fried, A. Fulton, L. Herrin, M. Hite, M. Jacobus, M. Koch, K. McClane, M. McCoy, D. Mermin, R. Morgan, R. Parker, M. Radzinowicz, P. Sawyer, H. Shaw, S. Siegel, S. Vaughn, 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 through the Knight Institute 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 sample widely, while fulfilling the requirements; others might emphasize a particular historical period, region, genre, or approach, or combine sustained work in creative writing with the study of literature. The department recommends that students prepare themselves for the major by taking one or more 2000-level courses, many of which provide introductions to important aspects of literature, culture, and theory also covered in more advanced courses. These 2000-level courses concentrate on the skills basic to the English major and to other academic work—analytical reading and articulate 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 coursework required for the major.
Note: In addition to the major requirements outlined below, all students must meet the college graduation requirements .
Major requirements for students matriculating in Fall 2022 and later:
Students matriculating in 2021 may choose to follow either these requirements or those listed for students matriculating in 2020 or earlier.
Ten full-semester courses in Literatures in English or related fields
A minimum of seven full-semester courses must be ENGL courses.
Major distribution requirements
Students are required to take the following courses from different categories within the course offerings of Literatures in English:
- Pre-1800: two courses must be from courses in which at least half of the material consists of literature written in English before 1800, studied in the original.
- Post-1800: two courses must be from courses in which at least half of the material consists of literature written in English after 1800.
Of either the pre- or post-1800 courses, the following further requirements apply:
- Two courses must be focused on Literatures of the Americas, at least one of which must cover the following fields: American Indian or Indigenous, African American, Asian American & Asian Pacific Islander, or Latinx.
- One course must be focused on literatures of the Global South (African Literatures in English, African Diaspora Literatures in English, Asian Diaspora Literatures in English, Caribbean Literatures in English, South Asian Literatures in English).
Courses may qualify for multiple categories, but students may use a single course to fulfill no more than two of the four categories above.
- 4000-level: two courses must be at the 4000-level or above. The 4000-level requirement may only be satisfied with ENGL seminar courses.
- Concentration: three courses must form an intellectually coherent “concentration.”
Notes on course credits
- Concentrations are defined by students in consultation with their advisors. Concentrations might feature historical periods or regions of literatures in English (including those required as above), particular genres, or particular approaches. Possible concentrations include creative writing; medieval literature; Renaissance literature; African diaspora literatures; literatures of the Americas before 1900; poetry; twentieth-century literatures in English; literary theory; gender and sexuality studies; film and media; drama; etc.
- Students must receive a grade of C or better in a course to count it toward the major.
- Courses must be 3 credits or higher to count toward the major unless otherwise noted.
- No more than two courses of non-Cornell credit per semester may be applied to the major (this restriction includes study abroad under Cornell auspices).
- ENGL 4930 - Honors Essay Tutorial I - ENGL 4940 - Honors Essay Tutorial II may be counted toward the required 10 full-semester courses but may not be used to satisfy other categories of requirements.
First Year Writing Seminars, ENGL 2800 , ENGL 2810 , ENGL 2880 , and ENGL 2890 may not be counted toward the major.
All cross-listed courses may count for the major, as may up to three courses at the 3000 level or above from other departments or academic units if focused on literatures not originally in English. Other courses may count only with the approval of the Director of Undergraduate Studies.
Major requirements for students who matriculated in Fall 2020 or earlier:
Students who matriculated in 2021 may choose to follow either these requirements or those listed for students matriculating in 2022 or later.
- 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 which 50 percent or more of the material consists of literature originally written in English before 1800. The sole exception to this rule is ENGL 3280 - The Bible as Literature which, although not originally written in English, may be used to satisfy the pre-1800 requirement. English courses that satisfy the pre-1800 requirement are so designated in the Courses of Study. Courses outside of the department may be used with permission of the DUS.
- 4000-level: 8 credits (two courses) must be at the 4000-level or above. The 4000-level requirement may only be satisfied with ENGL seminar courses.
- Concentration: 12 credits (three courses) must form an intellectually coherent “concentration.”
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, 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 and Indigenous Studies, Jewish Studies, Latina/o Studies, and Performance and Media Arts) are routinely counted toward the 40 hours of major credit. Many 2000-level literature courses in which the material is read in the original language may also be counted toward the English major. Majors should discuss the use of non-English courses for major credit with their faculty advisor or the DUS.
- 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.
- ENGL 4930 - Honors Essay Tutorial I - ENGL 4940 - Honors Essay Tutorial II may be counted toward the 40 required credit hours in the major, but they may not be used to satisfy the pre-1800, 4000-level seminar, or concentration requirements.
- 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 from other departments that are crosslisted with ENGL courses qualify for major credit. Courses used for the English major may also be used to meet distribution requirements in the College of Arts and Sciences.
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.
The Honors Program:
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. To qualify for the Honors Program, students should have a GPA of 3.7 in courses that count toward the English major. 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 approved 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 their thesis advisor. The year’s work culminates in the submission of a substantial critical essay of about 50 pages that is read by at least two members of the faculty. Find more information about the Honors Program.
Minors in the Department of Literatures in English:
The Department of Literatures in English offers three minors, open to any student at Cornell with any major (except English): ”Creative Writing,” “English,” and “Minority, Indigenous, and Third World Studies” (MITWS). To declare a minor, students must submit an online minor declaration form to the Department of Literatures in English before the end of the seventh week of their final semester. The declaration form may be found at the minors section of the department website.
Successful completion of the minor will be noted on students’ official transcripts.
Notes on course credits
- Each minor requires students to pass five three- or four-credit courses with a grade of C or higher (no S/U).
- No first-year writing seminars may be used toward minor requirements.
- At most, four credits total from transfer, study abroad, independent study, or upper-level literature courses from another Cornell department may count if approved by the department.
Students wishing to minor in Creative Writing must complete five courses. Due to the writing-intensive nature of these courses, students may take only one Creative Writing course per term. The minor in Creative Writing cannot be completed in less than four terms. The literature course may be taken concurrently. 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 at the 2000-, 3000-, and 4000-levels. Those wishing to take four creative writing courses should minor in creative writing.
- Literature courses offered in the Department of Literatures in English and courses from another department that are crosslisted with English count towards the minor.
- With the exception of ENGL 1100 - How Reading Changes Your Life , no 1000-level courses count.
- Students should consult the Advisor to Minors (Satya P. Mohanty, firstname.lastname@example.org) if they have questions about a course counting for the English minor.
Minority, Indigenous, and Third World Studies (MITWS)
Students wishing to minor in Minority, Indigenous, and Third World Studies (MITWS) must complete five courses in such areas as African American, Asian American, American Indian and other indigenous, Latino/a, and Anglophone African, Asian, and Caribbean literatures. 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. A list of sample courses is available on the department website. Four courses must be ENGL courses or courses that have an ENGL crosslist; the fifth course, with approval, may come from another department. Students should consult the Advisor to Minors, (Satya P. Mohanty, email@example.com) with questions about courses counting for the MITWS minor.
These courses provide a sample of the kinds of courses that count toward the Minority, Indigenous, and Third World Studies (MITWS) minor through the Department of Literatures in English. Please consult with the Advisor to Minors (Satya P. Mohanty, firstname.lastname@example.org) with questions about other courses counting for the MITWS minor.