Undergraduate Program

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.