English Website


Chair, Professor KAREN SWANN

Professors: I. BELL*, R. BELL, BUNDTZEN, CASE, FIX, KLEINER, KNOPP, LIMON, PYE*, RAAB, ROSENHEIM, J. SHEPARD, D. L. SMITH, SOKOLSKY, SWANN, TIFFT. Visiting Professor: S. GRAVER. Associate Professors: KENT, P. MURPHY**. Assistant Professors: CHAKKALAKAL, T. DAVIS, THORNE. Visiting Associate Professor: PETHICA. Visiting Assistant Professor: ROSS. Senior Lecturers: CLEGHORN, GLÜCK*. Lecturers: BARRETT§, DE GOOYER§§, K. SHEPARD§. Mellon Fellow: MUNRO.


The course offerings in English enable students, whether majors or non-majors, to explore literature in a variety of ways, and to satisfy their interests in particular authors, literary periods, and genres. They emphasize interpretive skills, systematic and critical thinking, and careful attention to the generic, cultural, and historical contexts of literature written in English.


At the introductory level, the department offers a range of writing-intensive 100-level courses which focus on interpretive skills-techniques of reading-as well as skills in writing and argumentation. The department also offers English 150, Expository Writing, a course focusing on rudimentary writing skills. All 100-level courses are designed primarily for first-year students, although they are open to interested sophomores, juniors, and seniors. A 100-level course other than 150 is required for admission to most upper-level English courses, except in the case of students who have placed out of the introductory courses by receiving a score of 5 on the Advanced Placement examination in English Literature or of 6 or 7 on the International Baccalaureate.


Most 200-level courses are designed primarily for qualified first-year students, sophomores, and junior and senior non-majors, but they are open to junior and senior majors and count as major courses. Several 200-level courses have no prerequisites; see individual descriptions for details. 200-level Gateway courses are designed for first- and second-year students who are considering becoming English Majors, or who are interested in pursuing upper-level course work in the department. All Gateway courses are writing-intensive. Completion of a Gateway course is a requirement for the major.


The majority of English Department courses are at the 300 level. 300-level courses are open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors. They are normally not open to first-year students, although in exceptional cases first-year students may enroll in a 300-level course with consent of the instructor.


400-level courses are intensive, discussion-oriented classes that place a premium on independent, student-initiated work. Such classes can be structured in a variety of ways. A course might alternate tutorial sessions with seminar meetings, or it might take the form of a colloquium, with discussions organized around individual or group presentations on different aspects of a topic. Or a class might be oriented around a long final paper on a topic of the student's devising and involve conferences focused on the progress of that project. Limited to 15 students, 400-level courses are open to students who have completed at least one 300-level English course; they should be attractive to any student interested in a course that emphasizes intensive discussion and independent work.


All junior and senior English majors are assigned a departmental faculty member as an advisor. Students' preferences for advisors are solicited during the preregistration period in April, and assignments are announced at the start of the school year.

Non-majors who wish to discuss English Department offerings are invited to see any faculty member or the department chair.


Majors are urged to select a balance of intermediate and advanced courses, and to choose classes from both the American and British traditions. Each student can fashion his or her own sequence of study within a basic pattern that insures coherence and variety. This pattern comprises at least nine courses.

They are also urged to elect collateral courses in subjects such as art, music, history, comparative literature, philosophy, religion, theatre, and foreign languages with a view to supporting and broadening their studies in literature. In particular, the study of classical and modern languages, as well as of foreign literatures, is strongly recommended.


The nine courses required for the major must include the following:

1) Any 100-level English class except English 150. Students exempted by the department from 100-level courses will substitute an elective course.

2) At least two courses dealing primarily with literature written before 1700 (identified in parentheses at the end of the course description).

3) At least two courses dealing primarily with literature written between 1700 and 1900 (identified in parentheses at the end of the course description).

4) At least one course dealing primarily with literature written after 1900 (identified in parentheses at the end of the course description).

5) At least one "criticism" course (identified in parentheses at the end of course description). A course fulfilling the criticism requirement entails a sustained and explicit reflection on problems of critical method, whether by engaging a range of critical approaches and their implications or by exploring a particular method, theorist, or critic in depth. Please note that when a criticism course also deals with literature satisfying a historical distribution requirement (pre-1700, 1700-1900, etc.), the course may be used to satisfy either the criticism or the chronological requirement, but not both.

6) At least one 200-level Gateway course (listed at the end of the 200-level course descriptions). Gateway courses are designed for first- and second-year students contemplating the major or intending to pursue more advanced work in the department; these courses focus on analytical writing skills while introducing students to critical methods and historical approaches that will prove fruitful as they pursue the major. (Note: a Gateway course can fulfill a Period or Criticism requirement as well as a Gateway requirement.)

The department will now give one elective course credit toward the major for a course taken in literature of a foreign language, whether the course is taught in the original language or in translation. Such a course may not be used to satisfy the department's historical distribution, criticism, or gateway requirements.


The English Department offers three different routes toward honors: a creative writing thesis, a critical thesis, and a critical specialization. The requirements of each are described below. Candidates for the program should normally have at least a 3.5 average in courses taken in English, but admission will not depend solely on course grades. Formal application to pursue honors must be made to the director of honors by April of the junior year. For the Class of 2005, the Director of Honors is Professor Anita Sokolsky.

All routes require honors students to take a minimum of TEN regular-semester courses (rather than the nine otherwise required for the major), and to devote their senior year winter study course to their honors projects. More specifically:

Students doing a creative writing thesis must, by graduation, take at least nine regular-semester courses, and, in addition, take English 497 (Honors Independent Study, fall) and English 031 (Honors Thesis, winter study) during senior year.

Students writing a critical thesis must, by graduation, take at least eight regular-semester courses, and, in addition, take English 497 and English 498 (Honors Independent Study, fall and spring) and English 031 (Senior Thesis, winter study) during senior year.

Students pursuing a critical specialization must, by graduation, take at least eight regular-semester courses, and in addition, take English 497 and English 498 (Honors Independent Study, fall and spring) and English 030 (Honors Colloquium: Specialization Route, winter study) during senior year.

A student who is highly-qualified to pursue honors, but who, for compelling reasons, is unable to pursue a year-long project, may petition the department for permission to pursue a critical thesis or critical specialization over one semester and the winter study term. Since the norm for these projects is a full year, such permission will be granted only in exceptional circumstances. If granted, the standards for admission and for evaluating the final project would be identical to those that apply to year-long honors projects.

All students who wish to apply to the honors program are required to consult with a prospective faculty advisor, as well as with the director of honors, before April of the junior year. In early April, candidates submit a 1-page preliminary proposal that provides as specific a description as possible of the proposed project. The director of honors reviews proposals with the faculty advisor, and then makes a recommendation to the whole department. Students whose proposals are accepted receive provisional admission to the program at this time. Students not admitted to the honors program are advised, when appropriate, about other possible ways of pursuing their interests (e.g., independent studies, regular departmental courses).

Admitted students must consult with their advisors before the end of the spring semester of junior year to discuss reading or work pertinent to writing the formal honors prospectus. This prospectus is a decisive factor in final admission to the program. A draft of the prospectus must be submitted to the student's advisor by the end of the first week of July, and the final version to the Director of Honors and the advisor (two copies) by July 30 before the fall of senior year. After reviewing the prospectuses and consulting with advisors, the department's honors committee determines final admission to the program. Applicants are notified during the first week of the fall term.

While grades for the fall and winter study terms are deferred until both the honors project and review process are completed, students must do the equivalent of at least B+ work to continue in the program. Should the student's work in the fall semester not meet this minimal standard, the course will convert to a standard independent study (English 397), and the student will register for a regular winter study project. A student engaged in a year-long project must likewise perform satisfactorily in winter study (English 030 or 031) to enroll in English 498 in the spring semester. When such is not the case, the winter study course will be converted to an independent study "99."

Students are required to submit to their advisor, on the due dates specified below, three final copies of their written work. While letter grades for honors courses are assigned by the faculty advisor, the recommendation about honors is made by two other faculty members, who serve as readers of the student's work. These readers, after consulting with the faculty advisor, report their recommendation to the whole department, which awards either Highest Honors, Honors, or no honors. Honors of any kind are contingent upon satisfactory completion of courses in the major during the spring semester of the senior year. Highest honors are normally awarded only to students whose performance in both the honors program and regular courses in the major has been exceptional. All students who are awarded honors participate in a series of informal presentations at the end of the spring term in senior year.

Creative Writing Thesis

The creative writing thesis involves the completion of a significant body of fiction or poetry during the fall semester and winter study of the senior year. (With permission of the honors committee, the thesis may be undertaken during the winter study period and the spring semester of the senior year.) Since a student will most likely include in the thesis writing done in earlier semesters, a creative writing thesis usually involves only the fall semester and the winter study period, rather than the full year allotted to complete the critical essay.

Requirements for admission include outstanding work in an introductory and an advanced workshop, a recommendation from one of the creative writing teachers (who will then act as thesis advisor), a brief preliminary proposal, and the approval of the departmental honors committee. The formal prospectus consists of a 1-page description of the project, including its relation to work completed and in-progress. Students must also submit a writing sample. A creative writing thesis begun in the fall is due on the last day of winter study. The methods of evaluation are identical to those for critical projects (but their page limits do not apply).

Critical Thesis

The critical thesis involves writing a substantial scholarly and/or critical essay during both semesters as well as the winter study period of the senior year. The formal prospectus, a 2- to 3-page description of the thesis project, should present a coherent proposal indicating the range of the thesis, the questions to be investigated, the methods to be used, and the arguments likely to be considered, along with a brief bibliography.

Significant progress on the thesis, including a substantial amount of writing (to be determined by student and advisor), is required by the end of the fall semester. A first draft of the thesis must be completed by the end of the winter study period. The spring semester is to be devoted to revising and refining the work and to shaping its several chapters into a unified argument. Ideally, the length of the honors essay will be about 15,000 words (roughly 45 pages). In no case should the thesis be longer than 25,000 words, including notes. The finished thesis is due on the second Friday following spring break.

Critical Specialization

The critical specialization route is intended to provide students with an opportunity for making a series of forays into an area of interest that is both broad in scope and related to work undertaken in at least two courses. At least one of these courses must be in the English Department, and both need to have been taken by the end of fall term in senior year. The critical specialization must be united by a common area of interest, such as a given literary form or historical period, a topic that cuts across several periods, an issue in literary theory, a topic that connects literary and cultural issues, a comparative literature or interdisciplinary topic. Students are encouraged to propose specialization topics of their own devising. The following examples are meant only to suggest the kinds of topics appropriate to a critical specialization: lyric traditions, postmodern narrative, magic realism, Dante and modern literature, Freud and literature, the poet as citizen, new historicist approaches to literature, feminist film criticism.

In addition to reading primary works, the student is expected to read secondary sources, which describe or define issues critical to the area of specialization. The formal prospectus, a 2- to 3-page description of the project, should specify the area and range of the study, the issues likely to be explored, and the methods to be used for their investigation. This prospectus should also describe the relation between previous course work and the proposed specialization, and include a brief bibliography of secondary works. The pursuit of the specialization route requires the following: (1) writing a set of three essays, each about 10 pages long (a page being approximately 250 words), which together advance a flexibly-related set of arguments. The first two essays are due by the end of the fall semester, and the third by the end of winter study; (2) developing an extended annotated bibliography (about 4-5 pages long) of selected secondary sources, explaining their importance to the area of specialization (due mid-February); (3) meeting with the three faculty evaluators (one of whom is the advisor) during the last two weeks in February to discuss the trio of essays and the annotated bibliography; (4) writing a fourth essay of 10-12 pages, the purpose of which is to consider matters that arose during the faculty-student discussion and to reflect on the evolution and outcome of the intellectual journey undertaken by the student. This final essay is due on the second Friday after spring break.

The same three faculty members are involved throughout the assessment process, and the standards and methods of evaluation are the same as for other kinds of honors projects, with the following exception: For the specialization route, the evaluation will also include the student's performance in the discussion with the three faculty readers, and that discussion will include not only the student's writing but also secondary sources.


100-LEVEL COURSES (except English 150)

Through small class discussions (limited in size to 19 students per section) and frequent writing assignments, 100-level English courses ask students to develop their skills as readers and as analytical writers. Each course assigns 20 pages of writing in various forms. These courses are prerequisites for taking most other English courses. Students who receive a 5 on the AP English Literature exam may take upper-level courses without first taking a 100-level. All 100-level English courses are writing intensive.



200-level "Gateway" courses are designed for first- and second-year students contemplating the major or intending to pursue more advanced work in the department; these courses focus on analytical writing skills while introducing students to critical and historical approaches that will prove fruitful in later courses. (Note: a Gateway course can fulfill a Period or Criticism requirement as well as a Gateway requirement.)



Students interested in taking a creative writing course should preregister and be sure to attend the first class meeting. Class size is limited; final selections will be made by the instructor shortly after the first class meeting. Preregistration does not guarantee a place in the class. Students with questions should consult the appropriate instructor.