Skip to main content
Indiana University Bloomington

Student asking a question in class Classroom evironment, teacher explaining, students listening, one student raises their hand to ask a question Students listening in class Classroom evironment, teacher discussing the movie A Raisin in the Sun Student reading a book and writing notes in class Classroom evironment, teacher and students sitting and talking

The English Major

This portion of the department site is designed to acquaint you with courses of study, faculty members, career opportunities, and creative activities in English at IU Bloomington. Whether you are a major in English or merely taking a few English courses, you face many choices; the information contained in these pages should help you choose wisely. Of course this site can only point out possible directions; it is not a detailed map. For more thorough and more personal advice about courses and requirements, for help in solving problems, and for guidance through the labyrinth of the university, you should see Karen Ellis or Nate Hendershott, Undergraduate Advisors, or Edward Comentale, the Director of Undergraduate Studies (Ballantine 442, 855-9532). When choosing courses and planning your curriculum, you may also speak with instructors with whom you are studying or have studied.


Arial view of campus clock tower

The requirements for the English Major help students develop deep knowledge of literary history and literary analysis even as they permit students to concentrate in areas of their choice.

The requirements for the Bachelor of Arts in English depend on when you first enrolled at Indiana University as a degree-seeking student. The requirements in effect when you enrolled will remain the same throughout your undergraduate career. Select the requirements from the year you first enrolled as a degree-seeking student on the Bloomington campus, and consult with your academic advisor. To understand your Bachelor of Arts degree requirements, select the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin for the academic year in which you first enrolled as a degree-seeking student on the Bloomington campus.

If you enrolled during the 2014-2015 academic year: Requirements for the Major in English and the College of Arts and Sciences Degree Requirements.

If you enrolled during the 2013-2014 academic year: Requirements for the Major in English and the College of Arts and Sciences Degree Requirements.

If you enrolled druing the 2011-2012 or 2012-2013 academic years: Requirements for the Major in English and the 2011-2012 College of Arts and Sciences Degree Requirements or the 2012-2013 College of Arts and Sciences Degree Requirements.

If you enrolled prior to 2011-2012*: Requirements for the Major in English and College of Arts and Sciences Degree Requirements.

*Students failing to complete a degree within eight years of matriculation will need to follow new degree requirements and should contact the College Recorder's Office for more information.


The Core Major Curriculum

English literature has traditionally been divided into a number of historical periods, and the numbering of the ENG- L300 courses reflects a chronological sequence from L305 (Chaucer) to L348 (19th-Century British Fiction). All these courses, as many titles indicate, fit into some period of literary history, though they need not be taught from an historical point of view. The L350-L363 courses comprise American literature, starting with four survey courses, again arranged in chronological order.

There are other ways of organizing a curriculum or a program. The Department offers sequences or groups of courses in creative writing, literary criticism, and English language. Another set of courses is given to the study of different genres and different kinds of writing: introductions to poetry, fiction, drama, and non-fictional prose; science fiction; literature for children and young adults. Yet another group of courses examines the relationships between literature and culture for example, women and literature, popular literature and culture, Ethnic American literature, American Jewish writers, African American literature and culture, Native American literature, and special topics in British, American, and British Commonwealth literature and culture.

One traditional and valuable way to complete an undergraduate major in English is to select a variety of courses from different groups. Such a program might contain courses in major writers, different periods of English and American literature, creative writing, a genre course, a course in one of the topics in literature and culture, and one of the interdisciplinary and theory courses. The important thing is to achieve a coherent course of study, one that develops a critical appreciation of aesthetic choices and consequences, an informed approach to the politics of cultural productions, and an overall sense of the historical perspective that readings in early and recent literatures can afford each other.

Side view of the chapel

Within this larger framework, students may wish to work out a program designed to follow up some special interest. The possibilities for concentration within the English major are as varied as the interests of the students and the faculty.

English Electives

Along with traditional studies in English and American literature the department is especially strong in its creative writing, culture, and theory offerings. The department prides itself on the variety of approaches it offers. In different courses, or even within the same course, faculty members may concern themselves and their students with a single author, or a single period of literary history, a specific genre or kind of literature, or a particular theme in literature. Some courses are designed to emphasize a particular approach Ė examining poems, novels, plays, or films by themselves or by setting them in historical context, or employing the insights of psychology, philosophy, sociology, or religion to illuminate the works.

In view of such diversity within the department, it is appropriate to define the backbone of the curriculum as training students in ways of thinking, talking, and writing about literature. Ideally, English majors should graduate having read a broad representative sampling of British and American literature and world literatures in English and having learned something about the history of those literatures and of their respective cultures. More importantly, majors should have learned to read and think for themselves in order to respond discriminatively and imaginatively not only to the books that they may read throughout a lifetime but also to other essential aspects of culture and society.

Majors entering Indiana University in the Summer of 2013 and thereafter are required to take one 400-level seminar in their English program. These courses, available to all, are limited to fifteen advanced undergraduates and offer a wide range of approaches and topics from semester to semester. They afford the senior English major an opportunity to work closely with the instructor in learning and applying specific methodologies to the study of literature and culture.

Given the flexibility inherent in such a program, the student majoring in English must make a series of important decisions. These will depend on individual interests, abilities, and future plans. Students planning to obtain a provisional teaching certificate must take a number of additional requirements, to be found in the School of Education Bulletin. Those who plan to teach above the high-school level, or for other reasons contemplate graduate work in English, may wish to choose their courses covering several historical periods and providing training in a variety of critical approaches. Those planning to write creatively, enter industry, or pursue careers in law, medicine, or advertising, may wish to enroll in several courses in language, writing, and film. Students need not make these decisions until they are well advanced in their program; students who are undecided about which course to select often find it convenient to take some required courses first and defer the choice of electives until they are more experienced with English and American literature and with the nature of the department and its faculty. The undergraduate advisor or the Director of Undergraduate Studies can often make helpful suggestions in this area.

Concentrations in the Major

Students wishing to pursue a more focused line of inquiry through the Major may elect to participate in one of the Departmentís concentrations, which reflect the specializations and unique talents of the faculty.

Concentrations in Creative Writing and Public and Professional Writing are posted on a studentís IU transcript. In addition, students may focus their inquiry and receive a certificate of concentration in one of the following areas: Poetry and Poetics; Narrative and the Novel; Drama and Performance; Race and Ethnicity; Post-colonial Literatures; Popular Culture and Cultural Studies; Gender and Sexuality; or Media/Digital Media Studies. Another option available to students is a concentration in Interdisciplinary Studies, for which the student would, with the help of a faculty advisor, design a course of study that includes coursework in English and another department in the College.

To declare any major concentration, students must meet with their advisor. Each semester a list of courses that fulfill each concentration will be provided to students.

Honors in English

A departmental Honors Program is open to selected English majors. Primarily this program offers greater latitude for the student who can most profit from independent study. The writing of a thesis in the senior year is the principal feature of this program.