English Major FAQ

Getting Started

I am considering a major in English, but am not sure. What should I take?

Take a sophomore seminar, or the Art of the Poetry (L 14 357), or the Art of the Novel (L 14 356), or, most revealing of all, one of our prerequisite introductory courses for the major: Early Texts and Contexts (L 14 2151) or Modern Texts and Contexts (L 14 2152). During the semester, speak with the instructor about your developing interests, and feel free to discuss the English major with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Prof. William J. Maxwell.

As a first-year student, what can I take?

You can take a specially designed 100-level English seminar, capped at fifteen students and open to first-years only, or any one of our 200-level courses.

The Major Path

How do I declare a major?

You can easily declare your English major or minor online through WebSTAC, and then follow up by meeting with Sarah Hennessey, the department’s academic coordinator, or the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Prof. William J. Maxwell.

May I choose my advisor?

You may request a particular professor as your English advisor. Requests will be granted unless the faculty member’s roster is full and he or she is unable to advise additional students.

Which Writing courses count toward the major?

Up to nine units of expository, argumentative, or creative writing courses, bearing a number L 13 300 or above, may be counted toward the English major. If you are inspired to take more than nine units of writing courses, you should consider the English major with a concentration in creative writing or a writing minor in addition to your major.

How can I get the most out of my major?

Your English major advisor can help you achieve goals of depth and diversity in preparation for graduate school or various fields of employment. English majors are encouraged to consult with their advisors before the end of junior year about plans for fulfilling remaining requirements. Discussion of your projected program of study with your advisor will enable you to complete the major on the basis of thoughtful choice rather than last-minute chance.

I really love writing. How can I incorporate that into my English major?

Students with a special interest in creative, argumentative, or expository writing may count toward the English major up to nine upper-division units in courses labeled Writing (L 13). Those devoted to poetry, fiction, or creative non-fiction may opt for the English major with a full-fledged concentration in creative writing, in which students pursue a three-course sequence in the genre of their choice at the 200, 300, and 400 level. Alternatively, particularly dedicated students may wish to take a writing minor of 15 units in addition to an English major.

What's the difference between 300- and 400-level courses?

Courses at the 400 level assume greater skill and knowledge of critical reading and writing than do those on the 300 level. They generally require more extensive reading before each class session, and are designed for advanced undergraduates, seniors in particular, as well as first-year graduate students.

Study Abroad & Transfer Credits

If I decide to participate in a Study Abroad Program, do the credits earned count toward the English Major?

Yes, in most cases, but you should talk in advance with your major advisor and the English department’s Study Abroad Advisor about how courses taken overseas may apply to English major requirements. Final evaluation of your transcript and course work materials will be made by the Study Abroad Advisor and the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the semester following your return.

Can I take courses in the Summer School or University College?

Yes, you can, but a student may count no more than six units of University College and/or Summer School courses toward the English major. Before registering for any such units, permission from the Director of Undergraduate Studies must be obtained.

Only one required prerequisite for the major may be taken in University College or Summer School, subject to departmental approval.

Can I count credits from the UK, Irish, and Australian study abroad programs?

Students seeking credit toward the major for course work done in the UK, Ireland, or Australia must complete their 200-level prerequisite courses and at least two upper-level courses in English literature before going abroad. In order to realize the benefits of overseas study, visitors should aim at preparation comparable to that of local students.

How many transfer credits can count towards my major?

At least half of the courses at the level of 300 or above required for any major or minor in the College of Arts and Sciences must be completed in residence at Washington University.

General Policies

Can I count foreign language literature courses towards my English major?

A student may count three units of 300- or 400-level course work in the literature of another language toward English major electives as long as the reading for the course was done in the original language and the course in question is not also being counted toward another major or minor.

Do I have to receive a certain grade for a course to count towards my major?

For a course to fulfill the requirements for a major or minor in English, a student must receive a grade of C or better.