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The Academic Program

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The Major

The English major requires at least 10 semester courses.

The requirements for a major in English aim to provide majors with a broad understanding of literatures in English, acquaint them with the key questions and intellectual strategies that shape the discipline of literary study, and offer them the opportunity to work independently at an advanced level.

I Major in English with a Literature Emphasis

  1. Gateway requirement: all majors take English 199 and either English 200 or English 231. English 199 (Methods of Literary Study) provides foundational methodological training in interpretation; English 200 (The English Literary Tradition I) offers an historical survey of English literature from its origins through the 18th century; English 231 (Inventing America) tracks the development of an American literary tradition from its beginnings through the Civil War.

  2. Because their writing has been so crucial to the history of literary study and so generative for later writers, we require at least one course wholly devoted to works by Chaucer, Shakespeare, or Milton.

  3. Because the spread of the British Empire has made English a global language with a rich array of divergent postcolonial literary traditions, and because multiple racial formations in North America have generated different ethnic American and diasporic literatures, we require at least one course at the 200-level (or above) in literature in English with a focus on the global/racial as a central category of analysis.
  4. To encourage our students to move toward independence and sophistication as they pursue their studies, we require, as capstone experiences, one 300-level seminar in literature and one of the following: a second seminar; a 4-credit special studies course; a relevant 4-credit concentration capstone course; or an honors thesis, to be completed in the senior year. 
  5. At least four additional courses, one of which may be in creative writing.

II Major in English with a Creative Writing Emphasis

  1. Gateway requirement: all majors take English 199 (Methods of Literary Study), and either English 200 (The English Literary Tradition I) or English 231 (Inventing America).
  2. At least one course wholly devoted to works by Chaucer, Shakespeare, or Milton.
  3. At least one course at the 200-level or above in literature in English with a focus on the global/racial as a central category of analysis.
  4. At least three writing workshops, two of which must be at the 200 or 300 level.
  5. At least one additional course in literature at the 200- level or above.
  6. As capstone experiences, one 300-level seminar in literature and one of the following: a second seminar; an additional writing workshop at the 200- or 300- level; a 4-credit special studies course; a relevant 4-credit concentration capstone course; or a thesis in creative writing, to be completed in the senior year.

We also ask students to develop a deliberative plan for their major in consultation with their advisers, to be revised and updated every semester. Students may if they wish design a special focus within the major by choosing three courses related by genre (such as poetry, fiction, drama), historical period, methodological approach, or any other category of interest.

Please see this advising checklist as you plan your major (or minor).

Courses that fulfill requirement #3 above include but are not limited to ENG, AFR, and WLT offerings in Postcolonial, African American, Latinx, and Native American literatures.

One course in a foreign literature, taught in the original language, may count toward the major. While only one course in creative writing may count toward the ten required courses for the literature emphasis, we encourage majors with interests in creative writing to choose additional courses in this area. Only one elective first-level course (e.g., ENG 120, ENG 135) or one FYS taught by a member of the English Department may count towards the major. ENG 118 does not count. We strongly recommend that all students take at least one historical sequence: ENG 200, 201; ENG 202, 203; or ENG 231, 233, 235. 

Normally, no course counting toward the major may be taken for an S/U grade. However, in the year 2020-2021, students may take up to two courses for an S/U grade that will count towards the English major.

Note: Students in the classes of 2020 and 2021 may count one course in film, a foreign or comparative literature, or dramatic literature taught in the theatre department toward the major; courses in these categories that are cross-listed in English do not count against the limit.

Students interested in graduate school in English literature would be well advised to take a course in literary theory and should be aware that most doctoral programs in English require a reading knowledge of two foreign languages. Students interested in high school teaching would be well advised to take both the English (200, 201) and the American (231, 233) literature surveys and a course in literature in English outside Britain and America. Those considering an MFA program in creative writing would be well advised to take literature courses in their chosen form or forms and to consult with their advisers about building a portfolio of selected writings.

The Minor

The minor in English consists of six courses to be distributed as follows: two gateway courses (ENG 199, and either ENG 200 or 231); three additional English courses (no more than two of which can be writing workshops) chosen in consultation with the minor adviser; one seminar. Only one elective first-level course (e.g., ENG 120, ENG 135) or one FYS taught by a member of the English Department may count toward the minor. No course counting toward the minor may be taken for an S/U grade.


Course Offerings

Search the Smith College Course Catalog for current course offerings. You can also find courses within the Five Colleges.


Honors

Applicants to honors must have an average of B+ or above in the courses they count toward the major, and an average of B or above in all other courses. During the senior year they will present a thesis, of which the first complete formal draft will be due in the third week of the second semester. After the readers of the thesis have provided students with their evaluations of this draft, the student will have time to revise her work in response to their suggestions. The final complete version of the thesis will be due after spring vacation, to be followed during April by the student’s oral presentation and discussion of her work. See our section on honors for more information.