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 the Undergraduate Advisor or the Director of Undergraduate Studies (Ballantine 442A, 855-9532). When choosing courses and planning your curriculum, you may also speak with instructors with whom you are studying or have studied.
Ed Comentale, Director
REQUIREMENTS FOR THE ENGLISH MAJOR (Click here to download the PDF)
The requirements for the major are flexible enough to permit students to concentrate in areas of their choice. For students entering Indiana University in the Summer of 1998 and thereafter, the requirements are these:
L202: Literary Interpretation. Required for both the minor and the major, L202 ensures that majors in the writing track are conversant in basic issues of literary interpretation. Prerequisite: English W131 or other successful fulfillment of first-year composition requirement. (3 hours)
L371: Critical Practices. Required for the major, L371’s aim of granting "study . . . and practice in using contemporary critical methodologies" enhances student skill and sophistication in the analysis and appreciation of language. Prerequisite: English L202. This course may wisely be deferred until several 300-level courses have been completed. (3 hours)
Historical-Distribution Requirement. This is satisfied by taking at least one approved course in each historical period from the following list:
- Beginnings Through the Sixteenth Century (3 hours)
- Sixteenth Through Eighteenth Centuries (3 hours)
- The Nineteenth Century (3 hours)
- 1900 to the Present (3 hours)
English Electives at or above the 200 level (12 hours)
Total: 30 hours
COURSES SATISFYING HISTORICAL-DISTRIBUTION REQUIREMENT
Beginnings through the Sixteenth Century:
- E301: Literatures in English to 1600
- L305: Chaucer
- L306: Middle English Literature
- L307: Medieval and Tudor Drama
Sixteenth through Eighteenth Centuries:
- E302: Literatures in English, 1600-1800
- L308: Elizabethan Drama and Its Background
- L309: Elizabethan Poetry
- L313: Early Plays of Shakespeare
- L314: Late Plays of Shakespeare
- L317: English Poetry of the Early Seventeenth Century
- L318: Milton
- L320: Restoration and Early Eighteenth-Century Literature
- L327: Later Eighteenth-Century Literature
- L328: Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Drama
- L347: British Fiction to 1800
- L350: Early American Writing and Culture to 1800
The Nineteenth Century:
- E303: Literatures in English, 1800-1900
- L332: Romantic Literature
- L335: Victorian Literature
- L348: Nineteenth-Century British Fiction
- L351: American Literature 1800-1865
- L352: American Literature 1865-1914
- L355: American Fiction to 1900
- L356: American Poetry to 1900
1900 to the Present:
- E304: Literatures in English, 1900-Present
- L345: Twentieth-Century British Poetry
- L346: Twentieth-Century British Fiction
- L354: American Literature since 1914
- L357: Twentieth-Century American Poetry
- L358: American Literature, 1914-1960
- L359: American Literature, 1960-present
- L366: Modern Drama: English, Irish, American, and Post-Colonial
- L380: Literary Modernism
- L381: Recent Writing
- L383: Studies in British and Commonwealth Culture (when subject is 20th Century)
English L202 must be taken before L371 and preferably before the courses satisfying the historical-distribution requirement The historical-distribution courses can be taken in any order; taking them in chronological sequence will enhance an understanding of the evolution of issues, genres, and symbols. ENG L202 and a number of 300-level literature courses are sound preparation for ENG L371.ENG L202 develops analytic and writing skills that will be useful in all your advanced literature courses. L371 continues that development, and places critical practice in its intellectual and historical contexts, though you may wisely defer taking it until you have had several literature courses. The literary history courses introduce you to the diversity of literatures in the English language; they may lead to the discovery of writers, of cultural questions, and of other topics you may want to investigate in greater depth.
Students may include in their credit hours satisfying the major one 300-level or higher course in ancient or modern literature in another language, in English or American history, or in some other closely related field. They should inquire of the departmental advisor about any such substitutions. Double majors whose other major is not already in a related field may petition to have 3 hours of their other major included as part of their English major, if the course is closely related.
Understanding how the present curriculum came into being helps to explain the variety of options available to you, that is, why you have this particular list of courses to choose from. Traditionally, English literature has been divided into a number of historical periods, and the numbering of the 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.
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.
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 – 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 may choose to include one 400-level seminar in their English program. These courses are limited to fifteen seniors 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.
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.