About the Major
The Department of English offers courses that foster critical thinking about the relationships among literature, culture, and history. Students of English become adept critics of poetry, novels, essays, and plays. They develop knowledge of the history of literary culture and about the evolving genres, forms, and ideologies of literary expression. They study the relation of literary texts to their historical contexts, and they learn to read both literary and nonliterary texts critically. As they develop their knowledge, students of English hone their skills as critical writers and explore their potential as creative voices.
The department offers several FYS courses especially designed for first-year students. First-year students may also be admitted to many other department courses; please check individual listings for details. ENGL130 The English Essay is a writing course intended for students whose native language is not English, but it is also open to others.
Students considering majoring in English should consult the department website. Potential majors must take ENGL201 Ways of Reading while they are sophomores. Students who have taken the course and received a grade of B- or better will be admitted as majors during the spring term of their sophomore year. Students who take the course during that term will be admitted provisionally, pending the receipt of a grade of B- or better. In exceptional circumstances, and with the approval of the department chair, students who have not taken ENGL201 by the end of the sophomore year may be admitted to the major contingent on completion of ENGL201 in the junior year.
The English major at Wesleyan consists of 10 full-credit courses at the 200-level or higher, or the equivalent of half-credit courses. All but three of these credits, and all courses taken to meet the literary history, literatures of difference, and theory requirements, must be taken at Wesleyan or in the department’s Sussex Program. With approval of a major advisor, one upper-level course from outside the department that bears on the study of literature may also be counted toward the minimum 10 credits. Appropriate credits transferred from other institutions may also be counted toward the 10-credit requirement.
A major program consists of the gateway course, Ways of Reading (ENGL201) and three overlapping sets of courses: requirements, concentration, and electives.
- Required Courses: In addition to ENGL201 Ways of Reading, one course in literary history I, one course in literary history II, one course in literatures of difference, and one theory course are required. Fuller descriptions are available on the department web site.
- Concentration: Four courses in any one of these specialized areas of study: American literature, British literature, creative writing, race and ethnicity, theory and literary forms. Fuller descriptions are available on the department website.
- Electives: Any 200-level or higher courses beyond required courses and courses taken to fulfill a concentration that contribute to the 10-credit requirement of the major
The English Department encourages its majors to consider the valuable experience of study abroad. Since 1990 the English Department has sponsored a Spring Semester Study Abroad program at the University of Sussex in Brighton, England. The program is limited to a select group of English majors who study with regular Sussex students for two full British terms, earning five Wesleyan credits. Sussex courses may be counted toward department requirements. Students pay Wesleyan tuition and receive Wesleyan financial aid.
Students may also wish to consider enrolling in study-abroad programs at any of the many universities across the globe open to visitors from schools in the U.S. English majors who wish to study abroad outside the Sussex program should discuss their plans with their advisors as early as possible. Particular care in planning to complete the major must be taken if a student wishes to study abroad for an entire year and/or if the student is a double major. English majors considering study abroad should keep in mind the following guidelines:
- Written preapproval of the proposed course of study abroad must be obtained by the student's departmental advisor.
- Portfolio review may be required for some programs.
- Study-abroad courses eligible for credit in the English Department must be upper-level courses on topics suitable to the curriculum of a U.S. English department. Such courses might focus on literature written in English or on literary genres, movements, or theories that often appear in English department curricula.
- Courses in literature in translation are not otherwise eligible for study-abroad credit, although, with permission of the major advisor, students majoring in English may choose one such course as the single credit from outside the department eligible toward completion of the major.
- Up to 3 credits taken abroad—or 5 credits from the Sussex program—may count toward the major. With the exception of courses taken at Sussex, courses taken in study abroad may not apply toward the required courses in the English major.
English majors may undertake capstone experiences in several ways. Students who are eligible and who qualify to be candidates for honors may enroll in a two-semester honors tutorial that culminates in the submission of an honors thesis. With the approval of a faculty advisor, students who are not candidates for honors may propose a one-semester senior essay project. In addition, in each of the major concentrations, students are encouraged to complete a 300-level seminar. This seminar may be taken before the senior year.
The bachelor's degree with honors in English is awarded on the basis of an outstanding academic record and an honors thesis written during the senior year. Students are eligible to write a critical thesis if they have an average of 91.7 in the courses counting toward the major (at least six courses by the end of the junior year) and have completed a substantial research paper in a departmental course designated research or research option. Students wishing to write a creative thesis need not fulfill the research requirement, but they must have a 91.7 average in courses counting toward the major and have received an A- or better in at least two creative writing courses that count toward the major. A detailed description of the process for earning honors can be found on the department website.
Students with AP scores of 4 or 5 in either English Literature or English Composition, or with scores of 5-7 on an English A1 or English A2 International Baccalaureate exam, will receive one course credit. No extra credit is given for taking more than one exam. This credit may not be used to fulfill major requirements.
The English Department annually gives out an array of academic awards, fellowships, and prizes. Departmental awards are based solely on the academic achievements of senior English majors and are voted upon by the department faculty. Fellowships and writing prizes may require applications and submission of writing samples. Fuller explanation available at the department website.
Students may obtain transfer credit in English for courses taken at other universities in the U.S. in the summer or during a leave of absence. Courses must be approved by the English Department faculty member responsible for transfer of credit. Students should expect to provide documentation from a course catalog to receive advance permission. In most cases, on completion of courses taken at other universities, students will need to show additional documentation (e.g., syllabi and assignments) demonstrating their course work to receive transfer credit. No more than two credits may be earned during a summer.