An English major offers you the opportunity to study works that stretch from Beowulf and Shakespeare to Jane Austen and Toni Morrison, from canonical to minority to world literatures, and from strictly literary to non-literary texts. In encountering this breadth of writing in English, you’ll be trained to become an informed and critical reader. You’ll learn to analyze linguistic expression in a sophisticated manner that makes clear how literature—and writing more generally—reflect upon the moral, ethical, social, and political dilemmas of the human situation.
CULTIVATE CULTURAL AND CRITICAL AWARENESS
In studying literature across time and geographical space, you gain an appreciation of the manifold variety of human experience, fostering a more critical stance toward the verities asserted in one particular time and place. The English major fosters critical thinking and cross-disciplinary engagement with a range of complementary areas of study.
IMPROVE YOUR COMMUNICATION SKILLS
The English major devotes concentrated attention on your ability to process and convey complex forms of information. As an English major you will have the opportunity to strengthen and improve your ability to:
- read intelligently—both analytically and critically
- speak effectively—employing the persuasive power of language
- write creatively—in a variety of genres and forms
English at Washington University
WORK WITH INTERNATIONALLY RECOGNIZED SCHOLARS AND WRITERS
The English faculty is a community of active, widely published literary critics and authors who teach a broad range of courses. You’ll have the opportunity to attend courses, lectures, and readings by our faculty, as well as an ever-changing array of visiting writers and scholar-critics. Recent visitors include fiction writers such as Lydia Davis, George Saunders, and Richard Powers, the poets Louise Glück, Paul Muldoon, and Frank Bidart, and the scholars Slavoj Zizek, Amy Hollywood, Jonathan Culler, and Simon Gikandi.
ENJOY SMALLER CLASSES
The English department prides itself on offering small discussion classes and workshops led by individual professors. Our freshman seminars and prerequisite classes at the sophomore level have enrollments limited to 15 students. Almost all upper-level classes are limited to 25 students or fewer and creative writing workshops are capped at 12 students.
RECEIVE PERSONALIZED ADVISING AND MENTORING
As an English major, you will be assigned a professor to be your academic major advisor. This faculty member will act as a mentor, helping you discern your academic interests and goals, and then guiding you in reaching them. Small class sizes also make it easy to meet with professors individually in their office hours, allowing you to pursue your interests under the direct guidance of an impressive range of expert faculty.
PUBLISH YOUR OWN WORK
All students at Washington University have the opportunity to submit work to a range of on-campus, student-run literary and journalistic publications, including Spires, Student Life, and the Washington University Political Review, as well as Sigma Tau Delta’s intercollegiate journals the Review and the Rectangle. As an English major, you’ll be encouraged to take advantage of these possibilities—or even to start your own literary magazine.
SELECT FROM A WIDE VARIETY OF COURSES
In any one semester, there are typically between 40 and 50 undergraduate English and writing courses offered, covering a range of historical periods, genres, and themes. With very few set courses required for the major, the department is able to revise its offerings regularly in order to reflect contemporary developments in both the outside world and the discipline itself, while also maintaining coverage of the fundamental, canonical works of literature in English.
CREATE A PROGRAM THAT MEETS YOUR GOALS
While certain requirements are intended to encourage breadth of study for both English majors and minors, the selection of courses is left primarily up to you. Such flexibility means that, with the help of a faculty advisor, you can choose courses reflecting your own interests and objectives.
Requirements for a major in English are kept flexible enough to accommodate you whether you seek a broad liberal arts education or wish to prepare yourself for specific careers. Majors offered are:
- English with a concentration in creative writing
The regular English major involves two prerequisites at the 200 level that provide a survey of historical periods and critical methods fundamental to the study of literature, accompanied by eight upper division courses with a highly flexible framework that allows you considerable say in the direction your coursework takes. The addition of a concentration in creative writing involves specialization in one genre—fiction, poetry, or nonfiction—in which you will take an entire three-course cycle of workshop-style classes. Two other courses, at least one of which needs to be in a different genre, are also required.
You can also choose to complete a minor in English or writing, as a complement to other courses of study. Completing either of these minors will allow you to develop your skills in critical analysis and verbal communication. Minors offered are:
The English minor provides a core of work in literary history and critical methods, plus electives that fit your major program or career plans. The writing minor involves one core craft class (Argumentation or Exposition), plus electives that can range between rhetoric, creative writing, analytic writing, and journalism courses.
The English department regularly cross-lists courses from a wide array of other departments and programs, so you’ll have the opportunity to connect your interests in literature with related studies in disciplines such as: African and African American Studies; American Culture Studies; Comparative Literature; Digital Humanities; Film and Media Studies; International and Area Studies; Performing Arts; Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.
The English department includes a nationally ranked writing program offering courses in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction taught by such authors as:
- Mary Jo Bang (The Bride of E, Elegy)
- Kathryn Davis (Duplex, The Thin Place)
- Danielle Dutton (SRRAWL, Attempts at a Life)
- Kathleen Finneran (The Tender Land)
- Marshall Klimasewski (Tyrants, The Cottagers)
- Edward McPherson (Buster Keaton: Tempest in a Flat Hat)
- Carl Phillips (Double Shadow, Quiver of Arrows)
Creative writing and literary study are closely integrated in the department, and creative writing professors teach literary-critical and craft courses in addition to workshops.
PARTICIPATE IN AN HONORARY SOCIETY
Washington University has a chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the national honorary society for English majors. In our department, this is a student-run organization that doubles as a social club for majors and minors. In addition to offering opportunities to publish either critical or creative work and to receive internships for literary-professional work, Sigma Tau Delta organizes activities such as student/faculty readings, guest speakers, career workshops, film showings, trivia contests, and a semesterly bowling night with professors.
The English department offers an honors program for eligible seniors. Should your coursework in the department be outstanding, you will be encouraged to apply for honors at the end of your junior year. To receive Latin honors, you must meet certain overall academic requirements, complete extra units of advanced English courses, and successfully write and defend an honors thesis.
COMPETE FOR DEPARTMENTAL WRITING AWARDS
Every spring, student writers of fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and literary criticism are recognized for their talents by a host of departmental prizes, all of which include monetary awards. These prizes include:
- The Academy of American Poets Prize
- The F. Ward Denys Prize
- The Harriet Schwenk Kluver Prize for Excellence in Writing
- The Leanna Boysko Essay Prize
- The Dramatics Club of St. Louis Prize
- The James Merrill Prize for Poetry
- The Howard Nemerov Creative Writing Award
PREPARE FOR A WIDE VARIETY OF JOBS
The structure of our majors and minors is flexible enough to allow you to tailor your coursework to you own specifications. Credit at the 200 level is offered for many different types of (unpaid) internships related to writing, marketing, and journalism, and many students also develop their skills by working at various student-run media organizations on campus.
Our department has now developed an alumni directory of English majors, listing recent graduates along with their current jobs and contact information, thus providing a large and growing network to take advantage of as you plan for your future. Go to our department’s homepage—http://english.artsci.wustl.edu—and click on “Careers” to view the incredible diversity of careers on which our recent graduates have embarked.
FIND THE PATH TO MANY CAREERS
- Advertising Manager
- Business Manager
- Copy Editor
- Expository Writer
- Fiction Writer
- Fund Raiser
- Grant Writer
- Literary Agent
- Literary Critic
- Manuscript Reader
- Press Secretary
- Public Relations Specialist
- Public Speaker
- Speech Writer
- TV Producer