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English Advising


The English program starts with introductory classes—101s—on a variety of themes, all of which provide instruction on reading a text and relating it to context(s). 101s have no prerequisite and are open to all students and majors.

Students may also choose to begin with 221 or 222 classes. These also have no prerequisite and are open to all students and majors. 221 courses explore a topic through varied writing assignments; 222 classes work in a single theoretical/methodological area relevant to literary studies.

Our core class is English 220, "Introduction to Literary Studies." It provides an intense, focused seminar on methods and theories.

101 is the prerequisite for 220. Students with a 4 or 5 on the AP literature test should go right to 220. (Please note: this is the AP literature test; the AP composition test does not transfer to any credit in the English department.)

At the 300 level, English students take a variety of courses grouped under four broad questions: of author and audience, of culture, nation, and identity, of form, medium, and materiality, and of history, period, and influence. The range in these groupings ensures that students can design a program tailored to their specific interests while acquiring a breadth of critical skills. English majors take at least six 300-level courses; English minors take at least three.

220 is the prerequisite for all 300-level courses. As part of their major, students should take one term of either English 221 or English 222 in addition to English 220. Majors do not need to take their 221 or 222 class before taking 300-level courses; 221 or 222 can be taken at any point in the program.

100-, 200-, and 300-level classes prepare students well for a yearlong senior experience (403 and 404), in which majors write a 35- to 50- page research thesis on a subject of their choosing.

Courses appropriate for prospective majors

ENGL 101 Texts and Contexts

ENGL 220 Introduction to Literary Studies

101 has no prerequisite; the prerequisite for 220 is 101 or a first-year seminar with an English faculty member. Students may also take 101 and 220 concurrently. Students who score 4 or 5 on the English Literature AP Examination should go directly into 220 without taking 101. If a student excelled in English while in high school but was unable to take the AP Lit exam (because of illness or because their school did not offer it), the English Department is willing to waive the 101 prerequisite for 220; have the student contact the English Department Chair. Any student interested in the English major or minor should take 220 as soon as possible. 

ENGL 221 Workshop in Writing

ENGL 222 Topics in Methods and Theory

221 and 222 have no prerequisite; those interested in majoring or minoring in English may prefer to begin with 221 or 222. The major requires one term of either 221 OR 222 in addition to 101 and 220. Please note that 220 is the prerequisite for all 300-level courses. Prospective majors or minors are therefore encouraged to take 220 as soon as possible.

Transfer students or students entering with college credits should contact the chair before selecting courses for the first semester, since prior courses have to be evaluated for equivalence in the English major.

Please contact the department chair with any placement questions.

Courses that fulfill distribution requirements

Humanities (Division I B) 

ENGL 101 Texts and Contexts

First-year students wishing to fulfill a distribution requirement should enroll in a section of 101, unless the student has a 4 or 5 in the English Literature AP, in which case the student should enroll in 220.

ENGL 220 Introduction to Literary Studies

ENGL 222 Topics in Methods and Theory

Writing in the Discipline (WID)
ENGL 220 Introduction to Literary Studies (gateway for majors)

ENGL 221 Workshop in Writing

US Diversity, Global Diversity, Sustainability Connections

Each term, some English courses fill the US Diversity, Global Diversity, and/or Sustainability Connections requirements. Please see course descriptions for details.

Suggested curricular flow through the major

We encourage students to take more than the minimum number of courses and to work with their faculty advisors to develop an individually meaningful selection of courses in English and related disciplines. Here is a suggested distribution of courses that meets the major requirements outlined above:

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

Here is a suggested distribution of courses:

First Year
English 101 or first-year seminar with an English faculty member.
English 220

Sophomore Year
2-4 300-level English courses
ENGL 221 or 222

Junior Year
2-4 300-level courses
Many English majors study abroad. Numerous abroad programs offer students the chance to take courses that will transfer to credit in the Dickinson English major. For information on how to choose courses abroad that will count toward the English major, please consult the chair or your faculty advisor. 

Senior Year
English 403 (fall)
English 404 (spring)
Two 300-level English courses

Senior Thesis
The senior experience in the English department is a yearlong course, English 403-404. Students remain with the same professor and group of peers throughout both English 403 and English 404. Over the course of the year, students develop a senior thesis: an original, daring, and deeply researched piece of literary scholarship, situated in a scholarly field, anchored by a strong argument, and written in lucid, engaging prose. Through this process, they also develop their capacity as a constructive reader, critic, and editor of their colleagues' work-in-progress. Even as each student pursues an independent research project, they are accountable to and inspired by their 403-404 workshop community.


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;
  • ​includes a judicious selection of, close engagement with, and focused analysis of, details of text(s);
  • 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.

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.


Students who are interested should gain experience by writing for and working on The Dickinsonian and/or The Dickinson Review, the college's literary journal. English majors have done internships with state and local government agencies, newspapers, public relations firms, law offices, and film studios, among other placements.

Co-curricular activities/programs

The English Majors Committee (EMC)

The EMC are a group of English majors who plan and host intellectual and social events for the department, coordinate the annual Cogan Alumni Fellowship events, advise the faculty and chair on hiring, promotion, and review as well as curricular matters, and support the inclusive, collaborative environment of the English department.

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 literary magazine.

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. Dickinson programs in Norwich, England, at the University of East Anglia, and Dunedin, New Zealand, at the University of Otago, are both convenient and enriching for our students; 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 English majors also study abroad at other Dickinson programs; this may require more planning to ensure successful completion of the major.

Additional Remarks

Advising: The chair assigns an advisor to each student when they declare a major in English. A student may request any faculty member in the department for an advisor.

Related activities: We encourage students who wish to become English majors, or who like to write, to make the most of the opportunities to write on campus—through The Dickinsonian, The Dickinson Review, Belles Lettres Society, internships, eXiled, material for the Mermaid Players and the like. 

Related departments: Many English majors take multiple courses—or minor in—Creative Writing and/or Film and Media Studies. Some also take literature courses taught in foreign languages, such as French, German, or Italian. Courses from these departments that are formally cross-listed with English will count towards English major requirements. 

Careers: The English department, in partnership with CAILCD, sponsors events to help English majors think about careers and connect with Dickinson English-major alums currently working in a wide variety of fields. Please check with your English faculty advisor for more information about career possibilities and internships.