If you love to curl up with a good book, then majoring in English might be for you. But there's a lot more to studying English than just reading novels, short stories, plays, and poetry by English-speaking writers. You'll have to examine what you read and come up with opinions about it. For example, you might have to explain a book's main theme or show what it reveals about cultural stereotypes. You'll then have to share your views in class discussions and in papers.
One of the great things about majoring in English is that you can bring your personal interests into your studies. For instance, you can focus on the literature of a certain time period, location, or author.
English majors read, discuss, and write about the literature and culture of English-speaking people. They also learn about the history, structure, and use of the English language.
“I write much better essays … than a lot of people in other majors. You need to write for everything.”Anna, junior, English literature, UC Berkeley
Are You Ready To...?
- Consider studying Joyce in Dublin, Shakespeare in Cambridge, or another author in his own country
- Attend readings and participate in other related activities
- Get practical experience interning, editing or writing for the school newspaper or literary journal, or peer tutoring
- Manage your time well so you can complete all the reading and writing you are assigned
- Compare different ways of interpreting the same work
- Discuss your ideas
- Read literary criticism
- Write twenty-five-page papers
It Helps To Be...
A person who loves to read different types of texts and who enjoys analyzing this material. You should also have strong writing and speaking skills. Someone who is creative and who likes to work independently will be a good fit.
- Does the department focus on using literature to study culture?
- Does the department focus on studying literary theory?
- Does the college’s library have everything you’ll need, online and on paper, as an English major?
- Does the department offer courses in your areas of interest?
- Will you be able to design an independent study in an area of interest if courses aren't available on that subject?
Did You Know?
English students turn their attention to more than just books; you might write on material from film, journalism, and TV -- such as a script from The Simpsons.
You'll probably begin your studies by taking surveys of British and American literature. These courses often cover large stretches of literary history. For example, you may take a class that examines American literature up to 1900 or British literature up to 1700. Expect short papers and a final exam. A typical final involves matching quotes to their authors or scenes to their texts, responding to short-answer questions, and writing a short essay.