Secondary Field

The Department of English offers a Secondary Field for non-concentrators. Designed to be flexible enough to accommodate every kind of interest in this broad field, it requires six courses, which may be taken in any sequence:

Course Descriptions

6 Courses

  • English 20: Literary Forms (4 credits)
  • A course focused on texts written before 1700 (4 credits)
  • A course focused on texts written between 1700 and 1900 (4 credits)
  • A course focused on texts written between 1900 and 2000 (4 credits)
  • Two electives, which may be creative writing workshops (8 credits)



Literary Forms


introduces the concepts of style, form, and genre, exploring how writers use literary language to address personal and societal concerns and challenges.




Encompassing the medieval, Renaissance, and early modern eras, this 1000-year period witnessed the emergence of English as a literary language in dialogue with multiple ethnic communities in the British Isles, Europe, and increasingly across the world. Amid cultural and political upheaval, writers created new poetic forms, engaged in protest and dissent, explored scientific discoveries, and gauged the impact of a new technology, printing.




The long transition spanning the Enlightenment, Romanticism, and Victorian eras from a feudal and political world of inherited privilege and absolute power to one of increasing democracy, often coupled with imperialism and suppression of indigenous peoples



Twentieth century writers from Modernism to Postmodernism and Postcolonialism saw the advent of suffragism, black civil rights, total war, the atom bomb, and life-altering technologies from the airplane to the Internet.   

English Electives

Two additional courses taught by English Department faculty complete the requirements. Two creative writing workshops may count toward the total of six.

Secondary Field Advising

Students pursuing a Secondary Field are urged to seek out members of the English Department faculty for advice on their specific course choices. For more information on the Secondary Field and for advising, please speak to the coordinator of the Secondary Field, Henry Vega Ortiz.

Students are free to explore the field by selecting a variety of courses; or they may focus on a genre or mode (such as poetry, drama) or a period (Medieval, Postcolonial) or any other aspect of the larger field. With the exception of Freshman Seminars, each course must be taken for a letter grade, with a minimum threshold of C-minus. 

You may count one summer school course in literary studies, or one course in literary studies taken for credit at another college or university, in the United States or abroad, toward the secondary field (as long as Harvard College gives you credit for the course). In these circumstances only one course not taught by a faculty member in Harvard’s English Department may count toward the total of six. Thus if a summer school course, for example, is taught by a Harvard English Department faculty member, it counts as would any English Department course. Any other summer school course (as with transfer credits or study abroad) will be limited to one.

Completing the Secondary Field

Students should check Secondary Field deadlines with the Registrar's Office. You may declare a Secondary Field in English once you have declared your concentration in sophomore year. 

How to Declare a Secondary Field in my.harvard