Program Building Blocks:
Common Ground Courses and Shakespeare
The English concentration encourages students to develop their own interests while searching out unfamiliar and challenging areas of study. Besides introducing students to some of the greatest works of literature in English, the Common Ground courses and Shakespeare requirement should be seen as invitations to further exploration in the areas and approaches around which they move.
Every concentrator takes three Common Ground courses, each of which investigates important works of English literature from its own perspective, and a course in Shakespeare, the key figure of the English literary canon. Arrivals introduces students to the first thousand years of the English literary tradition, up to 1700: this is a course in literary history. Poets teaches the methods required to read and interpret a variety of kinds of poetry: this is a course in literary form. Migrations follows the spread of English literature to the Americas and beyond from 1700 to the present: this is a course in literary topography and geography.
Each syllabus is individually designed by the professor teaching it, which means that no two Common Ground courses are exactly alike. For most courses, enrollment is limited to ensure that students gain the benefit of close contact with the professor. Preference is given to English concentrators. Enrollments are determined after the first class meeting, so if you are interested in any of the Common Ground courses, please attend the first day of class.
The Common Ground and Shakespeare courses do not pretend to offer a complete map of the field of English studies. They do, however, create a basic template on which students can extend their own maps, while promoting the attentive reading and sharpened writing in literary analysis required by the program.
English 40-49: Literary Arrivals, 700-1700
These courses introduce the literature of medieval and early modern Britain, from the earliest written English poems, such as Beowulf, to the masterpieces of the seventeenth century, such as Paradise Lost. Students learn to read this literature both formally and culturally, in relation to the charged and constantly changing social, political, religious, and linguistic landscape of premodern Britain. Arrivals attends to the early history of literary forms, to the developing idea of a vernacular literary canon, and to the category of the literary itself.
English 50-59: Poets
These courses develop close reading, explication, and the interpretation of poems; consideration of voice, speaker, mood, and tone; and familiarity with lyric, dramatic, meditative, and narrative poetic forms. Students develop a vocabulary to talk about poems, poetic structure, and elements of prosody. Attention is paid to thematic and formal elements as they work together, to tradition and innovation in verse forms, and to the relationships among poems across time. These courses examine poets in more than one period or style.
English 60-69: Literary Migrations: America in Transnational Context
These courses attend to the spread, and the transformation, of literature in English as it became established in North America and other English-speaking sites around the globe. All Migrations courses include American literature from more than one century, and all include, without being restricted to, the literature of the United States, read within a variety of possible transnational contexts. Within these parameters, courses vary widely. Central works of the American literary canon will be studied alongside other literatures or in relation to specific themes.
The study of Shakespeare has always been central to English departments. If the study of literature concerns its history, its array of forms, its creation of a canon, its methods of analysis, and its dispersal to the ends of the earth, Shakespeare looms large in all of these areas: indeed some of our analytical methods have come into being precisely for the sake of understanding what he did. Shakespeare courses strive to put Shakespeare in the literary-historical, theatrical, and critical contexts in which the shape of his genius can be most clearly felt.
90-level seminars are introductions to the specialized study of literature and are restricted to undergraduates. Enrollment is limited to 15, but any English concentrator may be admitted with permission from the course head. All honors concentrators are required to take at least one 90-level seminar within the department. While some preference is given to English concentrators, no seats are guaranteed, so we encourage you to begin seminars before senior year.
English 91r: Supervised Reading and Research
English 98r: Junior Tutorial
English 99r: Senior Tutorial
The Supervising Reading and Research tutorial is a type of student-driven independent study offering individual instruction in subjects of special interest that cannot be studied in regular courses. English 91r is supervised by a member of the English Department faculty. It is a graded course and may not be taken more than twice, and only once for concentration credit. Students must submit a proposal and get approval from the faculty member with whom they wish to work.
The Junior Tutorial is a unique experience within the English Department and provides an opportunity to pursue focused, but flexible, study in a topic of shared interest to tutees and tutors. Encouraging in-depth exploration of topics not normally covered in the English curriculum, the Junior Tutorial also enables students to consolidate and refine critical skills grained in Common Ground courses while at the same time exploring possible thesis topics. Rising juniors have the opportunity to identify a thematic, historical, or chronological literary subject they might like to study in their Junior Tutorial. The tutorial is required of all honors concentrators.
The Senior Tutorial is the Senior Thesis, which may take the form of an investigation of a critical topic or a creative writing project.
100-level lectures are open enrollment, have a weekly section or discussion session, and are open to undergraduates and graduates.
Graduate Seminars, Reading, and Research
These seminars are primarily for graduate students. Interested undergraduates should consult the course head for more information.
ENGLISH 301-310 (“Doctoral Conferences”): Course numbers for graduate colloquia
ENGLISH 397 (“Directed Study”): Filler course numbers for G1s and G2s who wish to take fewer than four courses in a given term, or G3s who are studying for their Fields Exams
ENGLISH 398 (“Direction of Doctoral Dissertations”): Filler course numbers for G3+s who have passed their Fields Exams
ENGLISH 399 (“Reading and Research”): Not a substitute for time; an Independent Study which must be approved by the DGS
For more details about 300-levels and filling out your study card as a graduate student, please review the Graduate Study Card Tips document.
Sometimes English Department faculty teach courses outside of the English Department. Most of these courses may be counted for English concentration credit. Students seeking concentration credit should check with the Undergraduate Program staff before registering.
English Department faculty often teach General Education courses in the Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding, Culture and Belief, and United States in the World categories. These offerings by English faculty count toward concentration and secondary field credit.
Freshman Seminars taught by English Department faculty count toward concentration elective credit and secondary field seminar or elective credit.
Course locations can be found within the description text of each course. For a complete list of all course locations, please see the Course Meetings Report listing on the FAS Registrar’s website.