The English Major

The English Major

The English Department offers a wide array of courses in every major field of British and American literary studies. Our dynamic program strikes a balance between traditional and emerging approaches to the study of literature. We are attuned alike to literary history and literary theory, close reading and cultural context, aesthetics and politics. We teach and publish scholarly works on subjects ranging from Anglo-Saxon poetry to post-colonial film, from Shakespeare to Hemingway, Austen to Morrison, aesthetic analysis to queer theory, epic to epigram, and everything in between.

Our small class sizes encourage vigorous discussion of literature and make it possible for faculty members to work closely with students on their writing. In addition to being a foundation of a liberal arts education, the English major or minor provides an excellent platform for post-graduate study in fields including law, medicine, literature, business, and the creative and performing arts. Our majors and minors have careers in publishing, business, finance, accounting, human resources, consulting, social work, civil service, film, the arts, education, and more.

Structure of the Major

The study of literature includes analysis and interpretation of aesthetics, investigation into literary history, the placement of literature within its contemporaneous cultural contexts, and immersion in the careers and works of individual authors. The English Major curriculum draws together all these aspects of literary study, with each course emphasizing one of these approaches.

Our courses are organized by categories. Students begin with Gateway courses that survey the broad history of British and American literature and provide an introduction to literary theory. They proceed by taking courses across four groups organized by the primary approaches to literary study: courses in Genre and Aesthetics, courses that focus on History and Literary History, courses that examine Culture through literary objects, and courses that study the work of a Single Author. Students may take additional electives from any of the four groups, as well as from 300-level Writing or Creative Writing courses. When selecting upper-level group courses and electives, majors must select some courses that meet certain “overlay” requirements, including a course in pre-1800 British Literature; a course in American Literature; and a course focusing on Race, Racialization, and Racial Formation in literature.


Major Requirements (33 Hours)

Click here to see the major requirements checklist for your declaration year.

Three major gateway courses:

    • ENG 265, British Literature before 1800
    • ENG 266, British Literature 1800 to the Present, or ENG 275, American Literature (select one)
    • ENG 290, Foundations in Literary Criticism

Four 300-level English courses selected from among the following four groups*:

    • I: Genre & Aesthetics
    • II: History and Intellectual History
    • III: Culture
    • IV: Single Author

*Students who declared the major before Fall 2020 must take one course from each of the four major groupings above. Students who declare the major in Fall 2020 or later may select four courses from among the groupings without a set distribution requirement.

12 hours of English electives:

    • Nine hours of electives at the 300 level (may include up to two 300-level Creative Writing or Writing courses)
    • Three hours of any ENG course at the 100 level or above, or any Creative Writing or Writing course at the 200 level or above

Additional overlay requirements: Two of the 300-level English courses listed above must also fulfill the pre-1800 British literature “overlay” requirement. Students who declare in Fall 2021 or later will be required to fulfill two additional overlay requirements: one course in American literature, and one course that meets the department’s Race, Racialization, and Racial Formation requirement.

The group or overlay designation for a particular course number may vary from one semester to the next, depending on the instructor and topic; please consult the course descriptions posted on the English department website each semester to confirm the group or overlay designation for a specific course.

Majors and their advisers plan individual programs to meet these requirements; majors are encouraged to take their gateway requirements as early as possible in their college careers.


Minimum GPA and other major limitations

  • No more than two courses (six hours) taken elsewhere may be counted toward the 24 hours of 300-level English courses required for the major. This limitation applies to courses taught in approved non-Wake Forest programs, not to courses in programs offered or sponsored by Wake Forest.
  • A minimum grade-point average of 2.0 in courses which comprise the major or minor is required for graduation with any major or minor this department offers.
  • Students may take only one version of a given course for credit, with the exception of ENG 301 or ENG 302, which may be repeated when offered on different subjects.

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