Eleven courses, of which the following are required: 101, 220, either 221 or 222, six literature courses at the 300-level (two must be pre-1800 and two post-1800), 403 and 404. At least two 300-level courses must be taken at Dickinson with English faculty. Students will still, of course, be able to take additional 300-level courses.

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.


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 with English faculty.

Suggested curricular flow through the major

The English major requires a minimum of eleven courses: ENGL 101, ENGL 220, ENGL 221 OR 222, six 300-level English courses (including two 300-level courses focused on literature before1800 and two on literature after 1800), 403, and 404. 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.

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.

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.


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.


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

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.


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.
Prerequisite: 101. This course is the prerequisite for 300-level work in English.
Attributes: Appropriate for First-Year, Writing in the Discipline

Rhetoric, Writing, and Methods Courses 
These courses, open to majors and non-majors alike, have no prerequisites. They explore the rhetorical practices of expository and/or creative writing through a specific topic; or they focus on a specific critical method that is part of or related to literary studies.

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.

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.
Attributes: Appropriate for First-Year, Writing in the Discipline

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

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.  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.

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.
Prerequisites: Open to senior English majors.

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: 403.
Attributes: Can't be taken pass/fail