The English Major and Minor

Major in English

The program presupposes the completion of the general education requirement in the Humanities (or its equivalent), in which basic training is provided in the methods, problems, and disciplines of humanistic study. 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.

Summary of Requirements

The Department of English requires a total of thirteen courses: eleven courses in the Department of English and two language courses or their equivalent, as well as a Cluster Statement to be submitted by the end of the third week of Spring Quarter of a student’s third year. By Spring Quarter of their third year, all students are required to meet with with the Student Affairs Administrator to complete the English Requirements Worksheet. Additional forms can be found on the Resources and Department Forms page.

  • Two quarters of study at the second-year level in a language other than English OR credit for the equivalent as determined by petition OR two quarters of a computer language OR two quarters of coursework outside the English department in literature originally written in a language other than English. Students should consult the following list of courses that have been approved to fulfill this requirement. 
  • One English genre fundamentals course (fiction, poetry, drama, or theory) or "Approaches to Theater" course
  • One English course in fiction
  • One English course in poetry
  • One English course in drama
  • One English course on literature composed before 1650
  • One English course on literature composed between 1650 and 1830
  • One English course on literature composed between 1830 and 1990
  • One English course in literary or critical theory
  • 0 - 7  English electives (for a total of eleven courses in the department; may include ENGL 29900)
  • Concentration statement
  • BA project (optional)
  • Thirteen* total courses

* The total of thirteen required courses must include eleven courses in the Department of English and two language courses. 

NOTE: Some courses satisfy several genre and period requirements. For details about the requirements met by specific courses, students should consult the Student Affairs Administrator or the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

As of Autumn 2013, the following course combinations may be taken to satisfy the language requirement:

  • CMSC 12100 & CMSC 12200
  • CMSC 15100 & CMSC 15200
  • CMSC 16100 & CMSC 16200


Students majoring in English must receive quality grades (not P/F) in all 13 courses taken to meet the requirements of the program. Non-majors may take English courses for P/F grading with consent of instructor.

Concentration Statement

The purpose of the concentration statement is to help students organize and give coherence to their individual program of study. Students will design a concentration of at least five courses that share a conceptual focus.  By the end of the third week in Spring Quarter of their junior year, students submit a one-to-two page statement to their faculty Departmental Advisor and the Student Affairs Administrator outlining their interests in and describing how at least five completed and/or proposed future courses coheres as a cluster. Up to two of the five courses in the cluster can be courses offered outside of the Department of English.

Students should devise an individual course of study that falls within one of the following four broad cluster categories: 1) Literary and Critical Theory; 2) Form/Genre/Medium; 3) Literature in History; 4) Literature and Culture(s). For more information on the cluster and a list of example program topics, please contact the Student Affairs Administrator.


Students are encouraged to declare an intention to major in English to their College Advisers as soon as possible, preferably by the end of the second year of study. After declaring the major, students should first meet with the Student Affairs Assistant in English who will direct them to a faculty advisor and help students fill out the English Requirement Worksheet. After this, students should meet with their faculty advisor at least twice a year in year three, and once in year four, to discuss their academic interests, progress in the major, and long-term career goals. The Student Affairs Assistant and Director of Undergraduate Studies are also available to assist students. Students should meet with the Student Affairs Administrator early in their final quarter to be sure they have fulfilled all requirements.

Courses Outside the Department Taken for Program Credit

A maximum of three courses outside the Department of English may count toward the total number of courses required by the major. The student must submit a petition for course approval from the Director of Undergraduate Studies before taking courses outside the department for credit toward the major. Such courses may be selected from related areas in the University (history, philosophy, religious studies, social sciences, etc.), or they may be taken from a study abroad program. Up to four English courses that originate in Creative Writing (CRWR) may be counted toward the elective requirement without a petition. 

Transfer credits for courses taken at another institution are subject to approval by the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Transferred courses do not contribute to the student's University of Chicago grade point average for the purpose of computing an overall GPA, Dean's List, or honors. NOTE: The Office of the Dean of Students in the College must approve the transfer of all courses taken at institutions other than those in which students are enrolled as part of a University sponsored study abroad program. For details, visit Examination Credit and Transfer Credit.

Per College requirements, more than half of the requirements for a major or minor must be met by registering for courses bearing University of Chicago course numbers.

Double Majors in English and Creative Writing

It is college policy that students pursuing double majors may double-count four courses maximum towards both majors. Students who double major in Creative Writing and English typically double-count courses to fulfill the Creative Writing major's four literature requirements: 1 literary genre course (in a primary genre), 1 literary theory course, 1 pre-20th-century literature course, and 1 general elective. The two research background electives required for the Creative Writing major can also be English classes, as long as the student observes the shared four-course maximum. 

Beyond the maximum, students may continue counting Creative Writing courses towards the English major, so long as the course is only counted towards the English major and not Creative Writing.

Students who are pursuing only the English Language and Literature major may count up to four CRWR courses towards the major in English as electives without a petition. However, when students are pursuing a double major in English Language and Literature and Creative Writing, they must observe the shared four-course maximum, so any eligible CRWR courses beyond this cap must be counted towards English only.

Minor in English and Creative Writing

Undergraduate students who are not majoring in English may enter a minor program in English and Creative Writing. These students should declare their intention to enter the minor program by the end of Spring Quarter of their third year. Students choose courses in consultation with the Program Manager in Creative Writing and must submit a minor program consent form to their College Adviser in order to declare the minor. Students completing this minor must follow all relevant admission procedures described in the Creative Writing website.

Courses in the minor may not be double counted with the student's major(s) or with other minors and may not be counted toward general education requirements. Courses in the minor must be taken for quality letter grades, and all of the requirements for the minor must be met by registering for courses bearing University of Chicago course numbers.
Here are the requirements for the minor program:

  • 1 Fundamentals in Creative Writing Seminar
  • 2 Workshops
  • 1 Beginning Workshop
  • 1 Advanced Workshop in the same genre
  • 3 CRWR or ENGL electives

For a more detailed breakdown of requirements, please visit Creative Writing's page.

Reading Courses

Upon prior approval by the Director of Undergraduate Studies, undergraduate reading courses (ENGL 29700 Reading Course & ENGL 29900 Independent BA Paper Preparation) may be used to fulfill requirements for the major if they are taken for a quality grade (not P/F) and include a final paper assignment. No student may use more than two reading courses in the major, and only one of those may be an Independent BA Paper Preparation course. Critical BA writers who wish to register for the senior project preparation course (ENGL 29900 Independent BA Paper Preparation) must arrange for appropriate faculty supervision and obtain the permission of the Director of Undergraduate Studies. ENGL 29900 Independent BA Paper Preparation counts as an English elective but not as one of the courses fulfilling distribution requirements for the major.

NOTE: Reading courses are special research opportunities that must be justified by the quality of the proposed plan of study; they also depend upon the availability of faculty supervision. No student can expect a reading course to be arranged automatically. For alternative approaches to preparing a BA paper, see the section on honors work.


Students who wish to be considered for departmental honors must complete a BA Project. However, completion of a BA Project does not guarantee a recommendation for departmental honors. For honors candidacy, a student must have at least a 3.25 grade point average overall and a 3.6 GPA in the major (grades received for transfer credit courses are not included into this calculation). 

To be eligible for honors, a student's BA project must be judged to be of the highest quality by the graduate student preceptor, faculty advisor, and Director of Undergraduate Studies. Honors recommendations are made to the Master of the Humanities Collegiate Division by the department and it is the Master of the Humanities Collegiate Division who makes the final decision.