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.

Why be an English major? See our FAQ! 

Learn more about Honors in English here.


Structure of the Major

Intro to the MajorMajor RequirementsMajor Gateway Courses

The English 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. They proceed by taking at least one course in each of 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. Two of the courses students select from these groups must focus on literature written before 1800. Students may take additional electives from any of the four groups, as well as from 300-level Writing or Creative Writing courses. Students conclude their major with a required Senior Seminar course.*

All English majors, except late declarers, must pre-register in the spring of their sophomore year for the major seminar. Majors and their advisers plan individual programs to meet these requirements and to include work in the major literary genres.

Note: 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 declaring the major in academic year 2018-19 and following will not be required to take a Senior Seminar course (ENG 399). Instead, they will be required to take ENG 290, “Foundations in Literary Criticism,” as early as possible in their academic career.

Major Requirements

The major in English requires a minimum of 33 hours in courses ENG 150 and above. (WRI 105 and 111, basic writing requirements, do not count toward the major or minor nor count as a divisional requirement.) The courses for the major must include the gateway courses ENG 265 and ENG 290*; either of the two gateway courses ENG 266 or ENG 275; one 300-level English from each of four groups (I: Genre and Aesthetics; II: History and Literary History; III: Culture; IV. Single Author), the senior seminar ENG 399*, and 9 additional hours of electives at the 300 level, which may include up to two 300-level Creative Writing or Writing courses. The remaining 3 hours for the major may be fulfilled with any ENG course at the 100 level or above, or with a 3-hour 200-level course in either Creative Writing or Writing. All English majors who declared before Fall 2018 must pre-register in the spring of their junior year for the senior seminar ENG 399.*

Two of the 300-level ENG courses taken for the major must be in pre-1800 British literature. Designated courses fulfill both a Group requirement and the pre-1800 British requirement.

Majors and their advisers plan individual programs to meet these requirements: majors are urged to take their gateway requirements as early as possible in their college careers. No more than two courses (6 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.

For a checklist of requirements for the major, click here. 

*Students who declared the major in Fall 2018 or later are required to take ENG 290 instead of ENG 399, the Senior Seminar. Majors who declared before Fall 2018 must complete ENG 399 and have the option of taking ENG 290 for elective credit.


Major Gateway Courses

The courses for the English major must include the gateway course ENG 265; and either of the two gateway courses ENG 266 or ENG 275.  All prospective English majors should take ENG 265, 266 or 275 for their Division II literature requirement, rather than the 100 level courses (ENG 150, 165, 175, 185, 190).

ENG 265. British Literature Before 1800 and Introduction to the Major. (3h) Gateway course for the major. Significant works from the British literary tradition before 1800 and introduction to key ideas in literary interpretation. Required for all majors. (D)

ENG 266.  British literature 1800 to the Present. (3h) Gateway course for the major. Significant works from the British and postcolonial literary traditions since 1800. Either 266 or 275 required for all majors. (D)

ENG 275.  American Literature. (3h) Gateway course for the major. Significant works from the American literary tradition. Either 275 or 266 required for all majors. (D)

ENG 290. Foundations in Literary Criticism. (3h) Gateway course that considers figures and schools of thought significant in the history of literary criticism. Required for all majors.*(D)


*Students who declared the major in academic year in Fall 2018 or later must take ENG 290. For those students who declared earlier, the course is available as an elective in the major. 


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