The Major Course of Study

The English Department 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. As they develop their knowledge, students in English hone their skills as critical writers and explore their potential as creative voices. At Wesleyan, English faculty and students work together to produce new knowledge about literature and to create new literary texts.

COURSES FOR NON-MAJORS: The Department offers several FYS courses designed for first-year students. First-year students may also be admitted to many other departmental courses; please check individual listings for details. 

ADMISSION TO THE MAJOR: Potential majors must take ENGL201: Ways of Reading. Students who have taken the course and received a grade of B- of 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.

Major Requirement Information

The English major at Wesleyan consists of 10 credits in courses at the 200-level or higher, all but three of which must be taken at Wesleyan or through the Department’s Sussex Program. (Students who believe that courses they have taken or that they will take at other universities should fulfill core course requirements may "petition" the Department for an exception to this rule.) The requirements for completing the major are changing beginning with the Class of 2023 and beyond. Please note changes below.


Major Requirements: Classes of '20,'21, & '22

  • Core courses:  These courses must be taken in the Department or at the Department’s Sussex Program. An individual course may fulfill up to two core requirements, and it may be counted toward both a core requirement and the concentration.
      • ENGL201: Ways of Reading
      • Literary History I
      • Literary History II
      • Literatures of Difference
      • Theory
  • The Concentration: four courses at the intermediate and advanced level in any one of these specialized areas of study: American Literature, British Literature, Creative Writing, Race and Ethnicity, and Theory and Literary Forms.
  • Electives:
    • Students may count toward the major any other 200-level or higher courses taken in the English Department or at Sussex. They may also count up to three courses taken at other universities provided that the course(s) focus on literature in English or on subjects that often appear in the Department’s curriculum. Upon special review, a fourth course taken at a previous university may count towards the major for students who transfer into Wesleyan during their junior year.
    • One course in a related area of study taken may be taken outside the Department, whether at Wesleyan or at another university. This elective course is normally in literature in translation or in another language, and may be counted toward the major only with the permission of the major advisor.
    • One English FYS may count toward the major as an elective.

Major Requirements for Class of '23 and beyond:

CORE COURSESAn individual course may fulfill up to two core requirements.

  • ENGL201: Ways of Reading--English Major Gateway Course
  • Literary History: 3 courses
    --Literary History 1: to 1660
    --Literary History 2: 1660-1870
    --Literary History 3: 1870--present
  • Literary Geography: 3 courses
    --World Literature
    --British Literature
    --American Literature
  • Theory
  • Creative Writing
  • Literature: Core Requirements (see above) plus 4 Literature-based English courses numbered above 201 with at least one 300 level course.
  • Creative Writing: Core Requirements (see above) plus 4 creative writing courses that meet the following criteria:
    1.) One Creative Writing course at any level. (Completion of the Creative Writing core requirement noted above fulfills this requirement.)
    2.) Two 300-level Creative Writing courses (Workshops and Special Topics) with minimum grade of B+.
    3.) One Upper Level Creative Writing Workshop with minimum grade of B+.

Other English Major Information

Creative Writing

  • Some Creative Writing Workshops and Special Topics courses are enrolled by permission of instructor (POI) through an application process explained on the course pages in WesMaps.
  • Students may count no more than any three Advanced or Intermediate Workshops toward completion of the English major.
  • An Advanced or Intermediate Workshop may be repeated for credit.
  • Students may apply for more than one POI course in a term. However, if accepted into more than one creative writing class, it is highly recommended that students take only one per semester due to the amount of writing intensive work involved in each course.  
  • Completion of current Creative Writing Concentration: Acceptance to POI courses and therefore completion of the current concentration is not guaranteed. Students should keep alternative concentrations in mind. Nearly all Creative Writing courses also contribute to the Theory and Literary Forms concentration, but students are free to pursue any of the other concentrations.

General Information

  • ENGL 491 and 492: Ford Seminars and Teaching Apprentice Tutorials:  When they designate Ford Seminars for writing tutors, these courses may be counted for the major only if the actual tutoring is associated with an upper-level English course that the tutor has not taken. When they designate Teaching Apprentice tutorials associated with a course in English, they may be counted whether or not the teaching apprentice has taken the course.
  • Student forum classes do not count toward the major.
  • Honors thesis credits do not count toward the 10 credit minimum required for the major.
  • Individual and group tutorials may not be used to fulfill the literary history, literatures of difference, and theory requirements. Individual tutorial projects usually taken in the Senior year are not for Honors. They may be counted toward the concentration.
  • AP Credit.  Students who scored 4 or 5 on the AP in English Literature or English Composition or bothor 5, 6, or 7 on the English A1 or AS IB exam, will automatically receive a total of one credit.  The same credit is awarded for taking one exam as for taking more than one.  This credit counts toward graduation but not toward General Education expectations or the English major.  
  • Oversubscription:  University rules state that no more than 14 course credits (or 16.00 credits with a two-term Honors thesis) in any single department may be counted toward the 32 credits required for graduation. Cross-listed courses count toward the oversubscription limit regardless of which department listing a student chooses at the time of registration.  Students who wish to take more than the maximum allowed number of English credits (16.00) courses (14 numbered 201 or above, 16 with a two-term Honors thesis) must be aware that these courses cannot count toward the 32 credits required for the B.A.  The maximum of 16.00 credits for purposes of oversubscription can be comprised of department credits, University of Sussex-English Department Exchange Program credits, and, with departmental approval, prematriculant, study abroad, and/or transfer credits.
  • Capstone Experience: English majors may undertake capstone experiences in several ways. Students who are eligible for Honors and wish to may write two-semester Honors theses. More information about the Department’s Honors Program is available here. With the approval of a faculty advisor, students who are not candidates for Honors may pursue a one-semester Senior Essay project. In addition, each current concentration requires a 300-level seminar.

Study Abroad: For information about study abroad and the department's Wesleyan-Sussex Exchange Program click here.

Prizes: For information about English writing prizes and fellowships click here.

Transfer Credit: For information about  credit transfer click here.