Undergraduate Program

Undergraduates who major or minor in English explore literature as both readers and writers in small classes focusing on the individual student. Our department's commitment to blending creative and critical literacy is genuine and longstanding. Home to one of the top-ten MFA programs in the United States, we offer an undergraduate minor in writing as well as a major with a concentration in creative writing. English students frequently participate in poetry and fiction-writing workshops and hands-on classes in advanced rhetoric.  

If you are ready to dive in beginning with your first semester, freshman seminars of fifteen or fewer students are led by distinguished faculty on subjects such as immigrant fiction, literature and justice, the invention of romantic love, and the art and business of writing in the age of the Internet. Comparably sized sophomore seminars follow for curious students in their second year. Every semester, we offer a wide array of course topics and intellectual approaches spanning Britain, the United States, and the diverse English-speaking world beyond them. 

We welcome undergraduates into a vibrant community of literary readings and discussions and encourage English majors to join our honors society, Sigma Tau Delta. Majors aiming for honors degrees pursue original research through one-on-one faculty tutorials. If you choose to take your love of English off-campus, we sponsor opportunities to study abroad at some of the best and best-situated British, Irish, and Australian universities, Oxford, Edinburgh, Trinity College in Dublin, King’s College in London, and the University of Sydney among them. 

While some may wonder what can be done with a degree in English, reading, writing, and reasoning well have never been more marketable, and our recent graduates have found quick success in law, medicine, media, and publishing as well as in teaching, scholarship, and professional writing. If you are curious about your career path, please consult our alumni surveys and stories. 

Major/Minor Information

Major Track

The English major is solidly built on the materials of literary history, stretching from Chaucer and Shakespeare to David Foster Wallace and Toni Morrison. It is designed to develop writing skills in tandem with the study of literary works. A concentration in Creative Writing is also available to English majors.

Learn more about the English major

Minor Tracks

Learn more about the requirements needed for the minors in English and Writing.

Learn more about the English minors

Honors in English

Interested in taking your English major to the next level? Learn more about the Honors track and requirements.

Learn More About the Honors Track

First-Year & Sophomore Seminars

Every semester, the English department offers a number of first-year seminars that explore the art and significance of literature from a variety of intellectual perspectives. These seminars are designed as small-group experiences for 15 students or fewer, and are led by experienced professors who specialize in their subjects. They introduce students to critical reading and writing at the college level by examining the shifting contexts in which literature has celebrated and scrutinized the non-quantifiable aspects of human experience. Recent first-year seminars have included classes in science fiction, creative writing, literature and celebrity, immigration and exile, American road narratives, the literature of post-adolescence, and literature, spirituality, and religion.

Beginning with the fall of 2019, the English department also offers a sophomore seminar each semester, like its first-year equivalent an intimate introductory class capped at 15. Students who go on to major in English may apply either one freshman or one sophomore seminar class to the major’s elective requirement.    

Explore our First-Year Seminars

Honor Society

Sigma Tau Delta is a distinguished international honor society established in 1924 “to confer distinction for high achievement in English language, literature, and writing.” Through its scholarships, internships, conferences, and publishing venues, the society opens scholarly doors and professional opportunities for its members. Washington University’s active, student-led chapter of Sigma Tau Delta hosts intellectual and social events that allow English majors and professors to interact in a casual setting. All are invited to the society’s Bowling and Trivia Nights, in which students compete with their teachers. Coffee hours held throughout the academic year provide a pleasant study break and communicate the latest news about readings and lectures on campus.

Learn More About Sigma Tau Delta

Study Abroad





We strongly recommend that English majors consider study abroad if they are able. Returning students from our overseas programs speak warmly about their experience, regularly using words such as “wonderful” and “transformative.” The English department offers an ample choice of recommended foreign programs. Some extend for one full academic year (or three terms of eight weeks, starting in October and finishing in June) at Keble College, Oxford. Some cover one or two semesters at Trinity College, Dublin, the University of Edinburgh, or the Middlebury Oxford Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at the University of Oxford. Others involve a single semester at the University of Sydney in Australia and at King's College, Queen Mary, or University College of the University of London. The department may grant credit for other programs in exceptional circumstances, but those named above have been vetted and approved for our students. Students in London, Edinburgh, and Dublin are hosted by Arcadia University.

Each of these universities is located in a place that offers many intellectual attractions as well as easy opportunities for further travel. Your interests may draw you to one institution or city rather than another, and the programs have different characters and particular strengths, so it’s a good idea to seek advice from our Study Abroad Advisor, Professor David Lawton, when making the choice best suited to you.


If you still have questions, contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Email Professor Maxwell