About the Major How to Major in English

Students who major in English can pursue a variety of careers, and a new one-credit course, English 290, introduces majors to potential careers. If you are thinking of majoring in English, first take one of the department's 200-level offerings (Shakespeare, Film, one of the topical courses, or the Novel, Poetry, Southern American Literature, etc.). These courses also fulfill the FDR HL requirement. You may also take a 200-level creative writing workshop for HA credit (201, 202, 203, 204, 206, 207, 210, 215). You may begin this work at the 200-level as soon as you have fulfilled FDR FW with an AP score of 5 or a WRIT 100 course.

Students who are serious about the English major should take two 200-level courses (one between 201 and 295 and one between 222 and 299) as preparation for 300-level course work in English.

Next, get an adviser in the major. This person may be your initial adviser, or one of your professors, or another member of the department. That professor will guide you through the major. When you fill out the Registrar's declaration of major form, you will be asked to select an adviser in the major. You can get an adviser in English prior to declaring a major by using the same form: at the bottom, it allows you to change advisers.

After taking two 200-level courses, you will be ready to try upper-level work in English. Any student who has taken one course between 201 and 295 and one between 222 and 299 is eligible for upper-level English courses; typically only upper-level creative writing workshops and the Shenandoah internship (453) require instructor consent. Non-majors should contact individual instructors directly. A student who is serious about getting into a class always appears on the first day!

English majors are required to distribute their 300-level courses in several areas: literature before 1700 (2); literature from 1700-1900 (1); literature after 1900 (1); and counter-traditional literature (1). An English major requires completion of 33 credits, which allows for double-majoring and studying abroad, both of which are encouraged by the English Department. Students may also choose to pursue secondary school teaching certification, in the Teacher Education Program. See Professor Haley Sigler for details.

English majors are encouraged to study abroad.

English majors are encouraged to study abroad. In addition to Spring Term courses in London and Ireland, English majors can undertake summer study at The Virginia Program at Oxford, a Washington and Lee-sponsored, interdisciplinary summer school program based in St. Anne's College, Oxford University. The program, which is open to rising sophomores through seniors of any major, examines the history and literature of Renaissance England and follows the English system of higher education, combining daily lectures by renowned, British scholars with small, weekly tutorials. Students earn three credits in History and three credits in English, which may be applied towards the English major in the Early British distribution category. Every year some English majors study for a term or two at Advanced Studies in England in Bath or in other British or Irish universities. See the Department Study Abroad liaison, Prof. Holly Pickett, for advice about course credits.

Every year, the English Department hosts several special events for its students. In the fall, the annual Shannon-Clark lecture is delivered by a distinguished visitor, with whom majors discuss literature in a retreat, held at House Mountain Inn. A series of festive gatherings mark the completion of senior theses, the Creative Writing minor and English 413 capstone projects. Towards the end of spring term, departmental prizes are awarded at a ceremony for faculty and students. The Glasgow Endowment sponsors readings of poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction throughout the year. Recently, Jamie O'Neill, Lev Grossman, Natasha Tretheway, Mary O'Malley, and Luisa A. Igloria have read. In 2012-13, Washington and Lee hosted a number of New Zealand poets. Up-to-date information on events, lectures, and readings can be found on the departmental homepage.

Choose between a capstone seminar or a senior honors thesis.

In the senior year, English majors complete their coursework and undertake their capstone writing project. Capstones take two forms, senior honors theses and capstone papers written for English 413. Some seniors write a thesis; preparation to do so begins in the winter and spring of the junior year. The two-term honors thesis is not a requirement for graduation, but an option for those who have the requisite GPA and 300-level course work. Applicants must put in a proposal with the approval of a thesis adviser by Feb. 1st of the junior year. Most majors find it rewarding to study in the department's regular seminars and courses and to take as a capstone writing project English 413, Senior Research and Writing, of which at least three sections are offered in fall and winter. (Independent reading courses can also be arranged in consultation with individual faculty members, though these do not fulfill the capstone requirement.) The combination of course distribution and the capstone paper or the senior honors thesis provide exceptional preparation for graduate study in English.