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Undergraduate

The Major In English

NOTE: Students who have declared the English major prior to Winter 2016, you will follow the previous requirements (PDF).

The General Program

Students in the General Program must successfully complete 30 credits in English courses numbered 300 or above. The courses must include: three courses on literature written primarily before 1900, at least one of which must be on literature written primarily before 1642; one course in American literature; one course designated Identity and Difference, and one course of Poetry.

Identity and Difference courses: "These courses ensure that English majors will study literary, rhetorical, and cultural productions originating outside of dominant social groups and formations. Focusing on matters of race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, class, gender, sexuality, and disability, “Identity and Difference” courses raise questions important to a diverse and democratic society about representation, publicity, canonicity, inclusivity, separatism, pluralism, dissent and political struggle."

A list of courses that fulfill a given requirement will be available each term in the Undergraduate Course Information section of this website.

Learning Goals for an Undergraduate Major in English Language and Literature

The University of Michigan’s English department, like other English departments in the U.S., has long been called upon to pursue four different projects: to survey and analyze the broad range of texts in the English language; to study the history of that language: to foster creative as well as critical writing; and to study and teach composition.  To be sure, as the profession of literary studies has developed over the past century, all four of these endeavors have undergone shifts in emphasis. Historical philology has been supplemented by literary interpretation; literary history has been enriched by theory, by the critical study of culture, by the methods and approaches of other disciplines; the study of language has embraced the vitality of real speaking communities, past and present; creative writing, commonly thought of as fiction and poetry, has expanded to include creative non-fiction, drama, film, and even performance; composition studies have looked closely at the socio-cultural and cognitive aspects of the writing process.  Even as we seek to respond to these ongoing developments in our field, and the debates they generate, we continue to maintain our commitment to all four of these endeavors.  Indeed, we consider them to be the basis not only of our rich intellectual life, and of our excellence as a research faculty, but also of our success as a teaching faculty serving large numbers of students in the College and the University.

The undergraduate major in English Language and Literature asks students to achieve:

  • Breadth of knowledge
    A broad critical understanding of literary culture, including canons, alternative canons, and critical histories of literatures in English; the variety of critical perspectives on literature; the history and theory of language; the history and theory of genres (or literary modes); modes of production; and the connection between literary culture and socio/historical contexts.
  • Depth of knowledge
    Mastery of a coherent body of more specialized knowledge that the student helps to formulate.
  • Heightened awareness of language as a medium
    The skills needed to recognize, analyze, and appreciate rhetorical, poetic, and other uses and functions of language; to produce close and critical readings of a wide variety of texts; to write clearly and effectively in a variety of modes; to develop and articulate a persuasive argument in speech and in writing; and, for some, to write creatively in various genres.

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Why Major in English?

English as a field of study focuses especially on language as a medium of communication, and on the analysis and enjoyment of works of imaginative literature. The study of English is at the heart of a humane education; as such its value is intrinsic to the molding of the self as a person and as part of society. English Majors study the structure and content of works of literature, whether in the form of poetry, prose, or drama; explore theories of language and literature; and develop the ability to mold and interpret language in speech and writing. In addition, students learn strategies for producing, understanding, evaluating, and enjoying language in all its socially significant forms. Graduates with a B.A. in English have pursued careers in business, academia, and public service. While an English degree prepares students directly for a variety of careers involving the abilities to teach, write, speak, and analyze, the degree also provides excellent preparation for advanced graduate study or for professional study in law, medicine, business administration, and other fields.

To view a number of examples of how our alumni are using their English studies to pursue their passions and interests professionally, take a look at our Careers in English site.

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Program Requirements

Prerequisites to the major : Students who wish to major in English must elect as a prerequisite English 298-Introduction to Literary Studies.

This course introduces students to the discipline of literary analysis. It is designed to increase your ability to interpret a range of literary texts and to foster your skill in presenting that interpretation as a written argument. There are three key learning goals of this course: first, to hone foundational skills of literary analysis including “close reading” and the ability to use key analytical categories (such as, for example, genre, form, audience, media/mediation, metaphor) to develop an interpretation. The second is to become aware of some of the methods and approaches used in literary scholarship and to become attentive to the way that they yield different interpretations. This class will help you understand how an interpretation emerges from a choice about approach, and how a single text can sustain many different interpretations when approached through different methods. The third goal is to develop your ability to write about literature, including generating questions that lead to strong arguments and using literary analysis to substantiate your claims; it will also foster your ability to organize and present your ideas in writing more generally.

In English 298 you will:

  1. Develop an understanding of some key practices of interpretation, including strategies for “close reading” (analysis focused on specific passages of a text) and for using key analytical categories, which may include, for example, form, genre, audience, representation, figurative language, performance, media/mediation.
  2. Become aware of some of the methods and approaches used in literary scholarship and become attentive to the way that they yield different interpretations. This class will help you understand how an interpretation emerges from a choice about approach, and how a single text can sustain many different interpretations when approached through different methods.
  3. Develop your ability to write about literature, as well as develop your skill as a writer in general. Important skills you will hone include:
    • how to develop a question or topic about a literary text that will lead to a strong argument
    • how to recognize an interpretation as an argument
    • how to use textual evidence effectively
    • how to articulate the stakes of your argument to your audience
  4. Develop your ability to participate in discussions that explore diverse interpretations of literary texts. The ability to present your ideas orally and respond to ideas presented by others is an essential skill in English courses and far beyond the university classroom. The capacity of literature to sustain multiple interpretations makes it an ideal forum for honing your skills in oral self-presentation and, especially, the collaborative intellectual project of class discussion.

Major requirements : Students in the General Program must successfully complete 30 credits in English courses numbered 300 or above. These courses must include at a minimum:

  • Three courses on literature written primarily before 1900, at least one of which must be on literature written primarily before 1642
  • One course in American literature
  • One course of Poetry
  • One course designated Identity and Difference
    Identity and Difference courses: "These courses ensure that English majors will study literary, rhetorical, and cultural productions originating outside of dominant social groups and formations. Focusing on matters of race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, class, gender, sexuality, and disability, “Identity and Difference” courses raise questions important to a diverse and democratic society about representation, publicity, canonicity, inclusivity, separatism, pluralism, dissent and political struggle."

Click here for a complete listing of courses fulfilling the major requirements. In fulfilling this general pattern, students are urged to elect a course in Shakespeare, such as English 367, which fulfills the pre-1642 requirement. English Majors should note that no more than two courses in expository or creative writing may be counted toward the minimum 30 credits at the upper level required for the major, although students may elect any number of such courses, subject to availability of spaces and to College limits on total elections of courses in any one department. Also, no more than six upper-level credits of Independent Study may count towards the major.

English Undergraduate Waitlist Policy

If you want to try to get into a course that is full /closed, place your name on the waitlist. The College has instituted an electronic override and waitlist system. Once you place your name on the waitlist list for a specific course, you will be automatically moved up the list in chronological order if a seat becomes available. The system will then issue an override that will expire in 48 hours. You will receive an email notifying you to register for the course. If you do NOT register within the 48 hour time frame, the system will drop you automatically from that course. You will then have to place your name back onto the waitlist. Please be aware that your name will be placed at the end of the waitlist and the waitlist process begins again.

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Graduation Procedures

English Majors preparing to graduate need to have a major release completed from all departments in which they have a major and/or a minor. Departmental advisors will confirm that students have met all of the major/minor requirements for graduation.

Students must also take the step of officially applying to graduate. This is done using the Student Center in Wolverine Access and officially indicates to the college that a student is planning to graduate.

Students are also encouraged to meet with their LSA (or other college advisor) to confirm that they have met the degree requirements for their specific school or college.

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Teaching Certification

If you are interested in seeking certification to become a teacher, the School of Education offers a complementary program. Applications are accepted once a year and the deadline is January 15 for the following fall. To receive application materials, go to the Office of Student Affairs (1225) in the School of Education. Application materials are also available online at http://www.soe.umich.edu/prospectivestudents/. If you have questions about the application process, you may wish to confer with a School of Education advisor by calling (734) 764-7563. SOE advisors are available in the LSA Advising Center. Please call for specific day and time. The handout, Teaching Certificate in English and English Professional Semester, will answer many of your questions about requirements for the Certificate Program. It is available online by clicking the above link, in the Undergraduate Office (3187 Angell), and in 2014 SEB.

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Internships

The English department believes that English is one of the most versatile majors you can choose as an undergraduate at Michigan. We understand, too, that a number of our English majors receive opportunities to work in various internship placements, especially over the summer months, putting their skills as writers and speakers to work in placements outside the classroom. Most businesses and organizations that allow internships require that the students receive some academic credit for their work (the students are not hired as regular employees of the company), and the English department is pleased to offer students one upper-level credit that can be counted toward an English major. For more information, please see our page regarding Internships in the Department of English.

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For More Information

A Handbook for English Majors (update coming soon) offers answers to most common questions about English major. For answers to specific questions on the General Program or any other aspect of the Department of English, please feel free to contact the Department's Undergraduate Studies Office at: 734/763-6726.

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Dept. of English Language and Literature

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435 S. State Street, 3187 Angell Hall
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1003
Phone: (734) 764-6330 Fax: (734) 763-3128