Undergraduate Program

Upcoming Changes to the English Major

The following changes will take effect in the 2019-20 academic year:

  1. Foreign Language Requirement
    For students graduating in quarters after Spring 2019, the Language Requirement will be as follows:

    Because literary study itself attends to language and is enriched by some knowledge of other cultural expressions, the major in English requires students to extend their work in a language other than English beyond the level required of all College students. All students must complete one of the following:

    • Two quarters of study at the second-year level in a language other than English (or credit for the equivalent as determined by petition);
    • Two quarters of coursework outside the English department in literature originally written in a language other than English*;
    • Two quarters of a computer language as outlined on our departmental website

    * Students should consult the following list of courses that have been approved to fulfill this requirement. Courses taken prior to 2019-20 or otherwise not on this list must be approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies (Benjamin Morgan).

  2. Changes to Terminology
    The cluster statement will now be called the "statement of concentration in the major," or "concentration statement" for short. We want to emphasize that this statement is less about identifying a cluster of classes that fill a requirement, and more about identifying and articulating your focus within the major. Gateway courses will now be called "Genre Fundamentals" courses. We want to emphasize that these courses are not points of entry into the major (most students will have taken an English course or two already); instead they are opportunities to focus attention on a specific genre--poetry, fiction, drama--in a variety of historical and cultural contexts.

Why Major in English?

Serious intellectual endeavor starts with passion and curiosity. The Department of English is a place where faculty and students intensely discuss what they love—novels, poems, plays, paintings, films, comics, video games, and other art forms—along with theoretical and philosophical questions related to the study of literature and culture. As part of a course of intensive study, these conversations spark immediate intellectual excitement while building toward the larger end of a liberal education.  Through the wide variety of literary-critical approaches they encounter in classes, English majors cultivate the analytical capacities that will continue to serve them in their personal and professional lives long after graduation.

Studying English at the University of Chicago is very much like attending a liberal arts college: most courses are small, discussion-based classes, and professors, along with graduate student teaching assistants and preceptors, closely mentor undergraduate students’ writing and intellectual development. At the same time, our undergraduates enjoy the intellectual benefits associated with studying at a major research university. Undergraduate majors can take some of their classes alongside graduate students, and all students learn cutting-edge scholarship that has expanded the boundaries of the field from professors with international reputations.

The mission of the Department of English undergraduate curriculum is to provide students with a thorough grounding in humanistic knowledge. Our students analyze fundamental questions about such topics as the formal qualities of individual works and literary genres, the status of literature within culture, the achievements of a particular author, the methods of literary scholarship and research, and the application of theory to literature. The department is also an intellectual melting pot: classes in everything from Medieval Epic to Shakespeare to Radical Documentary to the Literature of 9/11 accommodate majors and non-majors with a large range of interests across methodologies and disciplines. Drawing on the interdisciplinary tradition of the University of Chicago, the department encourages our students to integrate the concerns of other fields into their English studies and therefore maintains close links with the Committee on Creative Writing, Cinema and Media Studies, and TAPS (Theater and Performance Studies), along with other academic programs.

Just Declared an English Major?

For those who have recently declared a major in English, congratulations! To get introduced to the department and our program requirements, please contact the English Department staff at English Support or the Student Affairs Administrator, Katie Kahal. Please also subscribe to the following UChicago email lists at lists.uchicago.edu to receive important departmental information:

  • ugrad-english@lists.uchicago.edu: For updates on departmental deadlines, courses, requirements, etc.
  • english-undergraduate-events@lists.uchicago.edu: For updates on events, jobs and internships, and other opportunities of interest to English majors/minors.