English

Professor Andrew Warren, Director of Undergraduate Studies

Professor Kelly Rich (fall), Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies

The undergraduate program introduces students to the full breadth of imaginative literature written in the English language from the eighth century to its more recent dispersal around the globe. Whether engaged with literary giants such as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Dickinson, Keats, and Woolf or in exploration of less famous authors, students in the English program have a rare opportunity to combine aesthetic pleasure, intellectual stimulation, and ethical deliberation in their plan of study. In their first three terms concentrators take three common ground courses that integrate genre and modes, historical periods, and geographic dispersal in a way that lends coherence to an otherwise vast field. Because of their small size, these courses offer students sustained attention that can help them learn to use the vocabulary, and the analytical tools, for discussing literature and for writing critical essays. Moving out from this foundation in the discipline, students explore English literature and language through electives, guided in their choices by a faculty adviser.

A degree in English prepares students for any field in which careful reading, clear thinking, and persuasive writing are valued. Our concentrators regularly go on to graduate school and to successful careers in business, law, education, medicine, and other fields too numerous to list. Sharpening one’s powers of discernment as well as widening one’s intellectual horizons is at the heart of a liberal education. Such an education, to which literature is central, prepares the student for life as an engaged, intelligently caring citizen of the world.

The program offers a wide array of creative writing classes in poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and work for the screen and stage. Although students are admitted by application only, the classes are open to all undergraduates, including non-concentrators.

Concentrators who pursue an honors degree have the opportunity to write a senior thesis, which may take the form of an investigation of a critical topic or a creative writing project (which requires a separate application). All theses are directed by a professor in the English faculty. Honors seniors who choose not to write a thesis have the option of taking two undergraduate seminars in place of the senior tutorial.

English concentrators can pursue either the Elective Program or the Honors Program. The Elective Program allows more scope for course selection within and outside the English Department. Students in the Honors Program engage in more intensive study through seminars and the thesis options. A grade point average of 3.40 or higher in the concentration is required in the Honors Program, beginning in the junior year. A third option, for Honors candidates only, is a joint concentration, which culminates in a thesis supervised jointly by a member of the English department and a member of the allied department (see below.) A grade point average of 3.60 or higher is required for the joint concentration.

REQUIREMENTS

Elective Program: 11 courses (44 credits)

  1. Required Courses – 3 Common Ground courses
    1. English 40-49: Literary Arrivals, 700-1700
    2. English 50-59: Poets
    3. English 60-69: Literary Migrations: America in Transnational Context
  2. Electives – 8 courses
    1. One must involve Shakespeare
    2. One must meet the Diversity in Literature requirement (see 5.B)
    3. Two may be creative writing workshops (see 5.C)
    4. Two may be related courses from outside the English Department (see 5.D)
  3. Tutorials – None
  4. Thesis – None
  5. Other information
    1. Pass/Fail and SAT/UNS: Courses counting for concentration credit must be taken for a letter grade. The only exception for Elective Program students is one Freshman Seminar, which is graded SAT/UNS, and if taught by a member of the English department faculty, may be counted for concentration credit.
    2. Diversity in Literature Requirement: Required of concentrators in the Class of 2020 and beyond. Courses meeting this requirement attend to the creative achievements associated with alternative traditions, counter-publics, and archives of dissent. Students will encounter diverse perspectives and aesthetic traditions without which it is difficult fully to understand long-canonized literatures. Topics include, but are not limited to: (1) the historical construction of markers of difference, such as race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality—and their intersections, including intersections with dialect; and (2) the imaginative and formal innovations produced by disenfranchised groups. Courses that will fulfill this distribution requirement can be found on the English Department website.
    3. Creative Writing Courses: Admission to creative writing courses is by application only. Only two creative writing courses may count toward the total number of required courses for the concentration, although students may apply for and enroll in as many as their plan of study can accommodate.
    4. Related Courses: Using courses from outside the department is a special, flexible way of fulfilling concentration elective requirements. Students may count up to two related courses (generally from other humanities departments) in their English plan. To pursue this option, you should contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies and include the course syllabus and the reason you wish to count the class for concentration credit.


Honors Program: 14 courses (56 credits)

  1. Required Courses – 3 Common Ground courses
    1. English 40-49: Literary Arrivals, 700-1700
    2. English 50-59: Poets
    3. English 60-69: Literary Migrations: America in Transnational Context
  2. Electives – 7 courses
    1. One course must involve Shakespeare
    2. One must meet the Diversity in Literature requirement (see 7.A)
    3. One course must be a 90-seminar
    4. Two may be creative writing workshops (see 7.D)
    5. Two may be related courses from outside the English Department (see 7.E)
  3. Foreign Literature – 1 course
    1. One course in which works are read in the original language (see 7.B)
  4. Tutorials – 1 course
    1. The Junior Tutorial (English 98r)
  5. Thesis Options – 2 courses
    1. Critical thesis: The two-term senior tutorial, English 99r, culminates in a completed thesis submitted in March. The process begins in April of the junior year with a thesis proposal of 300 to 500 words.
    2. Creative thesis: Like the critical thesis, a creative thesis is completed in the two terms of English 99r. Creative thesis proposals by honors juniors (out-of-phase students included) are submitted in February. Students applying for a creative writing thesis ordinarily will have completed at least one course in creative writing at Harvard before they apply. Questions about creative theses should be directed to Darcy Frey, Director of the Creative Writing Program, or to Lauren Bimmler, Undergraduate Program Administrator. Creative writing thesis information may be found on the department web site.
    3. Non-thesis option: Honors students who would rather not write a thesis may choose the option of taking two additional 90-level seminars. Students who choose this option will not be eligible to receive a departmental degree recommendation higher than "with honors."
  6. Oral Examination for Highest Departmental Honors: To be recommended for highest departmental honors, eligible seniors take a forty-five minute oral examination at the end of the senior year.
  7. Other information
    1. Diversity in Literature Requirement: Required of concentrators in the Class of 2020 and beyond. Courses meeting this requirement attend to the creative achievements associated with alternative traditions, counter-publics, and archives of dissent. Students will encounter diverse perspectives and aesthetic traditions without which it is difficult fully to understand long-canonized literatures. Topics include, but are not limited to: (1) the historical construction of markers of difference, such as race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality—and their intersections, including intersections with dialect; and (2) the imaginative and formal innovations produced by disenfranchised groups. Courses that will fulfill this distribution requirement can be found on the English Department website.
    2. The Foreign Literature Requirement for honors candidates goes beyond the College’s foreign language requirement. In simple terms, it asks honors candidates to take one course in which works of literature are read in the original language, and thus rules out basic grammar and comprehension courses. Students may, however, fulfill the requirement by taking two terms of Old English within the English Department, or by taking two terms of intermediate-level courses in another language.
    3. Pass/Fail and SAT/UNS: Courses counting for concentration credit must be taken for a letter grade. The only exceptions are the senior thesis tutorial and one Freshman Seminar, which are graded SAT/UNS. Only one Freshman Seminar, taught by a member of the English department faculty, may be counted for concentration credit.
    4. Creative Writing Courses: Admission to creative writing courses is by application only. Only two creative writing courses may count toward the total number of required courses for the concentration, although students may apply for and enroll in as many as their plan of study can accommodate.
    5. Related Courses: Using courses from outside the department is a special, flexible way of fulfilling concentration elective requirements. Students may count up to two related courses (generally from other humanities departments) in their English plan. To pursue this option, you should contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies and include the course syllabus and the reason you wish to count the class for concentration credit


Joint Concentration: 8 courses (32 credits) in English

Upon approval from the department’s Undergraduate Program Office, honors candidates may combine a concentration in English with a concentration in another department, supervised by advisers in each department. It is a challenging undertaking, in part because joint concentrators are expected to take more courses than other students. Ordinarily, only students with a concentration GPA of 3.6 or above, an overall strong record, and a clearly formulated project across two disciplines will receive approval. A joint senior thesis is required.

Joint concentrators may declare English to be either their primary or allied concentration; the requirements are the same for both. Students are expected to take the junior tutorial in English. The senior tutorial will be administered by the primary department, but even if English is the allied department, an English faculty member will be a joint adviser of the thesis. Decisions about each tutorial and the entire shape of the joint degree depend on close collaboration between the two departments at every stage.

Students interested in declaring a joint concentration must complete a change of concentration, which must be approved by both departments and by the student’s Resident Dean. For further information contact DUS Andrew Warren (warren@fas.harvard.edu).

  1. Required Courses – 3 Common Ground courses
    1. English 40-49: Literary Arrivals, 700-1700
    2. English 50-59: Poets
    3. English 60-69: Literary Migrations: America in Transnational Context
  2. Electives – 1 course
    1. One course must involve Shakespeare
  3. Foreign Literature – 1 course
    1. One course in which works are read in the original language (see 6.A)
  4. Tutorials – 1 course
    1. The Junior Tutorial (English 98r)
  5. Thesis – 2 courses
    1. Joint concentrators follow the same thesis application process as outlined in “Honors Program” 5.A & 5.B. Thesis proposals must be approved by both departments and students must secure an adviser in each department.
  6. Other Information
    1. The Foreign Literature Requirement for honors candidates goes beyond the College's foreign language requirement. In simple terms, it asks honors candidates to take one course in which works of literature are read in the original language, and thus rules out basic grammar and comprehension courses. Students may, however, fulfill the requirement by taking two terms of Old English within the English Department, or by taking two terms of intermediate-level courses in another language.
    2. Pass/Fail and SAT/UNS: Courses counting for concentration credit must be taken for a letter grade. The only exceptions are the senior tutorial and one Freshman Seminar, which are graded SAT/UNS. Only one Freshman Seminar, taught by a member of the English department faculty, may be counted for concentration credit.
    3. Creative Writing Courses: Admission to creative writing courses is by application only. Only two creative writing courses may count toward the total number of required courses for the concentration, although students may apply for and enroll in as many as their plan of study can accommodate.
    4. Related Courses: Using courses from outside the department is a special, flexible way of fulfilling concentration elective requirements. Students may count up to two related courses (generally from other humanities departments) in their English plan. To pursue this option, you should contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies and include the course syllabus and the reason you wish to count the class for concentration credit.
    5. Joint concentrators are strongly encouraged to take an additional elective that meets the Diversity in Literature requirement required of the Elective and Honors programs.

ADVISING

The English Department is committed to providing high quality advising to undergraduate concentrators, prospective concentrators and any Harvard student interested in the study of English literature. The Undergraduate Program Office assigns each sophomore, junior, and senior concentrator to a faculty adviser. All concentrators are encouraged to visit other members of the English faculty during scheduled office hours. The staff of the Undergraduate Program Office is always available during open office hours to discuss specific questions regarding the program.

RESOURCES

Child Memorial Library, located on the top floor of Widener Library, is the English Department research library. Its extensive, non-circulating collection comprises works from all areas and periods of English and American literature. Maintained and staffed by graduate students, Child Library is dedicated to providing up-to-date, scholarly editions of authors, as well as a cross-section of recent and influential criticism.

HOW TO FIND OUT MORE

The Guide for Concentrators, along with all worksheets and forms, is available on the department website

Questions may be directed to the English Department Office at 617-495-2533, or contact any member of the staff:

ENROLLMENT STATISTICS
Number of Concentrators as of December

Concentrators 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
English 236 209 197 182 159 153 163 155 144
English + another field 6 6 4 4 9 9 8 12 11
Another field + English 3 3 1 1 4 2 6 4 8