Major

Eleven courses, of which the following are required: 101, 220, six literature courses at the 300-level (two must be pre-1800 and two post-1800), 403 and 404. In addition, one elective to be selected from any 200-level or 300-level course.  At least two 300-level courses must be taken at Dickinson. Majors must also complete ENGL 300, a P/F non-credit research course, taken in conjunction with the first 300-level literature course.

Students may declare an English major in the semester in which they are enrolled in 220. When they declare, students and their faculty advisors will jointly design a schedule of advanced courses that, taking into account student interests, offers some breadth in approach and subject matter while enabling an examination of a particular area in some depth.

Transfer students and others who need a special schedule for completing the major must have their programs approved by the chair.

Minor

Six courses, including the two introductory courses (101, 220) and a minimum of three courses at the advanced literature 300-level. At least one 300-level must be pre-1800, and at least one must be taken at Dickinson.

Suggested curricular flow through the major

The English Major requires eleven courses.  This is a floor, not a ceiling; our most successful students often take more than the required number. We warmly encourage study abroad (see “Opportunities for Off Campus Study” below).
These guidelines are written for the entering student who knows he or she wants to major in English. Rather than specify the courses that you “must” have in a given semester, the following is general advice regarding courses that we suggest you take during each year. You should think of these guidelines as giving you a fast track into the major – this provides maximum flexibility in your junior and senior year.

First Year
English 220 (or 101 and 220.)  220 is the gateway course to the major, so should be taken in the first year.
Foreign language
First Year Seminar
Two courses at the 300 level (two of the 300s must be pre-1800, and two, post-1800)

Sophomore Year
Four courses at the 300 level
Continue with foreign language and other requirements. Consider courses relevant to the English major, such as English and American history, American Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, Art and Art History, Religion,  Philosophy, Music and Music History, Theater, Film, Sociology, Psychology, and Classical literature.

Junior Year
Four Courses at the 300 Level
If you study abroad, consider taking courses in literature and fields of strength to the host institution.  These may include film and new media, foreign languages and literatures, or global and post-colonial studies.

Senior Year
English 403 (fall--first semester of required senior seminar)
English 404 (spring--second semester of required seminar)
Two 300-level English courses
Finish all other requirements: (core courses, electives, language as needed)
For information regarding the suggested guidelines, please feel free to contact an English department faculty member.

Senior Thesis
The senior experience in the English department is a yearlong course, English 403-404. During the spring term, seniors will workshop their senior thesis in three parts. The process brings all participants together as writers and peer editors to produce a thesis between 35 and 50 pages. When you have chosen your topic, focus upon courses to support and deepen your inquiry.

Click here for a checklist worksheet that gives a succinct overview of the major requirements.

Independent study and independent research

The English Department offers independent study and research in literature and in expository and creative writing for content not covered in regular courses. A list of professors and their special interests is available in the English office, 4th floor, East College 400. As a general rule, no more than two independent studies or independent research courses may be counted toward the major; exceptions must be approved by the department chair. Students must secure a professor with whom to study and submit proposals (covering topic, methodology, preparation, relevance to educational goals, bibliography or primary and secondary sources, director, and course requirements) normally in the semester before the study is to be undertaken. See the academic department coordinator for English for the necessary forms.

Honors

All senior theses in English are eligible for honors nomination. Exemplary of the finest senior theses in English, an honors project:

  • advances a cogent, ambitious, and thoroughly-researched argument;
  • situates itself in and contributes to germane scholarly fields (e.g., literary studies, film and media studies, cultural history); 
  • exhibits remarkable methodological sophistication and creativity;
  • demonstrates the writer’s critical self-awareness and informed investment in the project; and  
  • achieves a clear voice and confident prose.

A select number of theses are nominated for honors by the faculty teaching English 404. Honors are determined by a committee of English faculty appointed by the chair.

Internships

Students who are interested should gain experience by writing for The Dickinsonian or The Dickinson Review, the college's literary journal. English majors have done internships with state and local government agencies, newspapers, public relations firms, and the media.

Opportunities for off-campus study

Majors and prospective majors should begin thinking about study abroad early in their sophomore year. Talk to your advisor, professors, and the department chair about study abroad opportunities.  Our program in Norwich, England, at the University of East Anglia, is convenient and enriching for our students; the credits transfer back to Dickinson easily. We also have a selective program at Mansfield College, Oxford for students with a 3.7 GPA or above. Successful admission to this program requires that a student show depth in the major by second semester of the sophomore year; please consult Dickinson's Mansfield Oxford information on the Center for Global Studies and Engagement website. Many of our students also study in Cameroon, India, and other Asian and African countries; this study requires careful planning to ensure successful completion of the major.

Co-curricular activities/programs

Belles Lettres Society
Founded in 1786, the Belles Lettres Society is one of the oldest active literary societies in the country. In addition to sponsoring a variety of events for Dickinson writers and readers, Belles Lettres publishes The Dickinson Review, a national literary magazine.

Majors have sought out occasions to publish their writing, including in the Dickinsonian, the Square, the Dickinson Magazine, and the Carlisle Sentinel.

Courses

Introductory Courses
These courses are designed to introduce students to serious literary study from a variety of perspectives, both intrinsic and extrinsic. They consist of entry-level courses in the major, the first of which is also offered for students who do not intend to major in English.

101 Texts and Contexts
Close reading (formal analysis) of texts interpreted in the contexts (e.g., cultural, historical, biographical, economic, political) that shape and are shaped by them. Topics may include the African novel, early American literature, Caribbean literature, Shakespeare on film, the romance, the quest, images of women, 19th century literature, contemporary American fiction, and American Indian literature.
Attributes: Appropriate for First-Year, Humanities

220 Introduction to Literary Studies
In literary studies, we explore the work texts do in the world. This course examines several texts of different kinds (e.g., novel, poetry, film, comic book, play, etc.) to investigate how literary forms create meanings. It also puts texts in conversation with several of the critical theories and methodologies that shape the discipline of literary study today (e.g., Marxist theory, new historicism, formalism, gender theory, postcolonial theory, ecocriticism, etc.). This course helps students frame interpretive questions and develop their own critical practice.
This course is the prerequisite for 300-level work in English.
Attributes: Appropriate for First-Year, ES Discip Specializations Crs, Writing in the Discipline

Rhetoric, Language, and Writing Courses
These courses, open to majors and non-majors alike, explore the nature of language and the rhetorical practices of expository and/or creative writing. These courses do not fulfill the DIV I. b. distribution requirement.

213 History & Structure of the English Language
The origin and growth of British and American English, along with a survey of grammatical notions and methodologies from the traditional to the transformational.
Attributes: Quantitative Reasoning

214 Working with Writers: Theory and Practice
Designed primarily for students who serve as tutors in the Norman M. Eberly Writing Center as well as for future teachers, this course examines how people learn to write from both a theoretical and a hands-on perspective.
Prerequisite: permission of the Director of the Writing Program. This course is cross-listed as WRPG 214.
Attributes: Writing in the Discipline

221 Workshop in Writing
This course develops writing and analytical thinking skills through the careful examination of the rhetorical practices of a topic chosen by the professor. Class offerings have included topics such as writing and: wellness, natural history, digital environments, the self, identity and queer studies, popular culture, memoir, creative nonfiction, biography, graphic novel, and other subgenres of fiction, poetry, or film and media studies. Seminars, workshops, group tutorials.
This course is cross-listed as WRPG 211.
Attributes: Appropriate for First-Year, Writing in the Discipline

300 Literary Studies Research Lab
This P/F non-credit research course introduces students to research methodology for advanced literary studies. ENGL 300 is a co-requisite with a student's first 300-level literature course (except ENGL 337-338).

Advanced Courses in Literature, Theory, and Film
These courses deepen the methodological discussions of texts and the animating debates around them first initiated in ENGL 220. Students are encouraged to craft an individualized course of study in consultation with their advisor that exposes them to the different approaches listed below. Individual 300-level courses will often emphasize one or more particular critical perspectives or reading methods, exploring the intersections of these different approaches, and strengthening students’ sense of themselves as readers. All courses at this level will ask students to evaluate and to make arguments based upon textual evidence and secondary sources while mastering various research techniques. NOTE:  Prerequisites for 300-level courses are ENGL 220 or permission of instructor.  For 300-level courses in American literature, prerequisites are ENGL 220 or AMST 202, or permission of instructor.

222 Topics in Methods and Theory
This course offers a focused introduction to a particular literary method, and/or methods from a related field.
Attributes: Appropriate for First-Year, Humanities

311 Questions of Author and Audience
Examines how authors’ lived experience has shaped texts and how audience reception has reshaped and reimagined those texts. Course titles in this category have included “Chaucer’s Women,” “Austen in Her Time,” “Robert Frost and Modern Poetry,” “The American Auteur,” and “Poetry of the Mad Men Era.”
Prerequisites: ENGL 220, OR, for AMST majors, AMST 202.
Attributes: Humanities

321 Questions of Culture, Nation, and Identity
Examines texts’ accounts of and implication in systems of power and privilege. These classes focus on questions of agency, gender, race, and ethnicity in both individual and collective identities. Course titles in this category have included “Shakespeare: Politics and Culture,” “Where Do Novels Come From?” “Celtic Revival/Harlem Renaissance,” “Literatures of the Global South: Migration & Displacement,” and “Studies in US LGBTQ+ History and Literature.”
Prerequisites: ENGL 220, OR, for AMST majors, AMST 202.
Attributes: Humanities

331 Questions of Form, Medium, and Materiality
Examines the genres, conventions, and forms through which texts are produced, circulated, and understood. Course titles in this category have included “John Donne and Material Culture,” “Shakespearean Genres,” “The 19th-century Novel,” “Experimental Fictions,” and “The Video Game.”
Prerequisites: ENGL 220, OR, for AMST majors, AMST 202.
Attributes: Humanities

341 Questions of History, Period, and Influence
Examines how authors and texts engage aesthetic and/or socio-political histories. Course titles in this category have included “Medieval Women Writers,” “Routes through the Early Americas,” “The Bloomsbury Group,” “Border Crossings in Asian American Literature,” and “U.S. Literature and the 9/11 Decade.”
Prerequisites: ENGL 220, OR, for AMST majors, AMST 202.
Attributes: Humanities

351 Special Topics in Textual Study
Special topics in literature, theory, film, and media. Examines questions of the relationships among primary texts and their historical, methodological, and/or theoretical contexts not otherwise addressed in ENGL 311, 321, 331 and 341.
Prerequisites: ENGL 220, OR, for AMST majors, AMST 202.
Attributes: Humanities

The Senior Experience

This final two-semester sequence of courses in the major seeks to draw upon the student's critical and creative independence by offering seminars and workshops whose topics are shaped partly by student interest.

403 Senior Literature Seminar
Demonstration, under close supervision, of a command of the critical reading and writing expected of a student major in English. Various topics and approaches. Students who fail ENGL 300 CALM Lab will be prohibited from registering for 403 without permission of the department chair. Students enrolled in ENGL 300 CALM Lab during the 403 who fail to complete ENGL 300 will also fail ENGL 403.
Prerequisite: Open to senior English majors who have passed ENGL 300.

404 Senior Thesis Workshop
A workshop requiring students to share discoveries and problems as they produce a lengthy manuscript based on a topic of their own choosing, subject to the approval of the instructor.
Prerequisites: 300 and 403.
Attributes: Can't be taken pass/fail