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English Curriculum


English majors need to take 11 courses, minimum, as outlined below. Click here for an advising worksheet that offers a succinct overview of the major requirements.

• 101: 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.

• 220: 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 (not Composition) test should go right to 220. 220 is the pre-requisite for all 300-level classes.

• Either 221 or 222: ENGL 221: Workshop in Writing is a Writing in the Discipline Class that fulfills that graduation requirement. ENGL 222: Topics in Method & Theory offers a deep dive into a specific sub-field of literary studies. These courses have no prerequisite and are open to any interested student.

• Six 300-level courses: 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.

   - 2 must be focused on pre-1800 literature
   - 2 must be focused on post-1800 literature
   - At least 2 of the six 300-level courses must be taken at Dickinson with English faculty.

• 403 and 404 (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 for both courses. Over two semesters, with faculty mentorship and rigorous workshopping in a community of peers, students develop an original, deeply researched piece of literary scholarship (10,000-15,000 words).  

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. We recommend that students use the advising worksheet to track their progress through the major, and to discuss their course selection options with faculty. Transfer students and others who need a special schedule for completing the major must have their programs approved by the chair.


English minors need to take 6 courses, minimum, as outlined below:

• 101
• 220
• 3 literature courses at the 300 level:  
   - At least 1 300-level course must be pre-1800.
   - At least 1 300-level course must be taken at Dickinson with English faculty.

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.

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 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.

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.

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 natural history, digital environments, the self, identity and queer studies, popular culture, visual poetry, biography, and other subgenres of fiction, poetry, or film and media studies.
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 a method 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. In addition to 300-level courses in the English department, students may choose from a number of approved upper-level courses in other departments, every term, that may be taken as a 300-level English course. 

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