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The Major In English

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 1830, at least one of which must be on literature written primarily before 1600; one course in American literature; one course designated New Traditions, and one course of Poetry.

New Traditions courses: "focuse on works by North American and/or British writers/artists of color, world Anglophone writers/artists, or writers/artists of a range of identity categories (involving gender, sexuality, disability, and class) who reflect upon-and are in dialogue about-the differentials of social power and their representation."

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.


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.


Program Requirements

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

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 1830, at least one of which must be on literature written primarily before 1600
  • One course in American literature
  • One course designated New Traditions
    New Traditions courses: "focuse on works by North American and/or British writers/artists of color, world Anglophone writers/artists, or writers/artists of a range of identity categories (involving gender, sexuality, disability, and class) who reflect upon-and are in dialogue about-the differentials of social power and their representation."
  • One course of Poetry

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 one of the pre-1830 requirements. English Majors should note that no more than one course 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.


Areas of Specialization

Students considering the major in English should consult with an English major advisor. Appointments can be scheduled by visiting the Advising section of our website. If possible, students planning to major in English should elect English 298 during their sophomore year. Also during the sophomore year, students should meet with a major advisor in order to declare their major and discuss their academic program. While working to fulfill the major requirements, English Majors may elect classes that will provide a course of study they find most helpful and satisfying. We have designed these Areas of Specialization to help English Majors identify the variety of fields currently taught within the English Department, and to assist English Majors in arranging their upper-division courses with greater coherence. English Majors are strongly encouraged to select three upper-division courses within one of the Areas of Specialization (or one designed by the student and an advisor).

The Areas of Specialization are organized into the following groups:

  • Historical, Cultural and Geographic Frameworks
  • Analytic Frameworks.

Click here for a list of the Areas of Specialization as well as courses that fulfill these areas. For assistance in designing specific paths of study, students should see the English Department's Handbook for English Majors (update coming soon) or contact a major advisor. Students are also encouraged to consult with professors whose interests match their own for guidance on designing an academic program.

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.


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.



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.


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.


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