Undergraduate Study


The Department of Literatures in English seeks to foster critical analysis and lucid writing. We also strive to teach students to think about the nature of language and to be alert to both the rigors and the pleasures of reading texts of diverse inspiration.

Students taking courses with the department engage with English, American, and Anglophone literature of an astounding historical span and global variety, and are trained to respond to what they read in a rich and complex variety of ways—from expository essays and scholarly inquiries to class discussions and creative writing of their own.

Whether considering English as a major, a minor, or simply a field to explore, students are encouraged to consult with the department’s Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS).

What to do with an English Major? The University's Outcome Dashboard offers a dynamic overview of career outcomes, while the A&S Career Development office's Outcomes page directs visitors to more detailed reports. Current majors are encourage to review A&S Career Development Resources for Students and recent graduates may take advantage of Career Development Resources for Alumni.

English Courses

Descriptions of English courses offered each term and a link to the official Cornell Course Roster are available on the department’s website (visit Courses).

The Department of Literatures in English offers a wide range of courses—in English, American and Anglophone literature as well as in creative writing, expository writing, and film analysis—for students majoring in any field.

Literature courses focus on the close reading of texts; study of particular authors and genres; questions of critical theory and method; and the relationship of literary works to their historical contexts, modern reinterpretations, and other disciplines. Writing courses—expository or creative—typically employ the workshop method in which students develop their skills and share and critique their work with classmates and instructors, often in the context of studying the work of established writers.

First-Year Writing Seminars

As part of the university-wide First-Year Writing Seminars program administered by the John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines, the department offers a wide range of courses in literature, film, and media; nature, the environment, and climate change; culture, politics, and identity; and in community engagement—connecting students with local community partners. Students may apply any of these courses to their first-year writing seminar requirement. Detailed course descriptions may be found in the first-year writing seminar program listings, available through the Knight Institute in August for the fall semester and in November for the spring semester.

The Major

The English major provides a foundation in reading, writing, research, critical theory, and critical thinking relevant to a vast variety of fields, including journalism, publishing, authoring fiction and non-fiction, the arts and sciences, law, business, and medicine. The department welcomes students who seek double majors.

Students who major in English develop their own programs of study in consultation with their major advisors. Some focus on a particular historical period or literary genre, or combine sustained work in creative writing with the study of literature. Others pursue interests in such areas as women’s literature, regional literature, literature and the visual arts, or critical theory. 

English Major Guide

The Minors

The Department of Literatures in English offers three minors, open to any student at Cornell with any major (except English): ”Creative Writing,” “English,” and “Minority, Indigenous, and Third World Studies” (MITWS). 

Successful completion of the minor will be noted on students’ official transcripts.

English Minors Guide

How to Obtain Transfer Credit

Please note: The department can only grant approval to transfer courses that have received, or are in the process of receiving A&S College credit. If transfer courses are not granted College credit, they cannot be applied to the English major or minors.

First-Year Writing Seminars

FWS classes and substitutions, and non-creative intro to writing courses taken at other institutions (such as courses with a WRIT subject code), fall under the purview of the Knight Institute. Visit the "AP & Transfer Credit" or "FWS Substitutions" section of the John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines website for information and instructions.

Study Abroad

For more information: as.cornell.edu/education/study-abroad

Major Credit: The online Approval of Study Abroad Credit form is provided by A&S Student Services and automatically sent to the department. If you hope to apply a course to a specific major distribution requirement (i.e., pre-1800 or literature of the global south), you must include this request in the notes on your study abroad application. After you return from abroad and your transcript is received, the process will repeat and the department will be able to give final approval.
Minor Credit: Follow instructions below for transfer credit, minus the A&S form.

Transfer Credit

For more information: as.cornell.edu/registrar/transferring-credits

Major & Minor Credit: 

  1. Send the following documents to the Undergraduate Coordinator (Aurora Ricardo, ar2368@cornell.edu):
    • *Application for Credit from Other Institutions form (provided by the A&S Registrar, usually during your initial credit evaluation). You must include your proposed equivalent course if you wish to be granted course equivalency (i.e.; you want an intro to creative writing course to fulfill the pre-requisite for enrollment in our intermediate or advanced courses). 

      *Not applicable to non-A&S students, or students seeking approval for a non-English Cornell course to be used towards the English major or minors

    • Syllabus or reading list and course description from all courses for which you are requesting transfer credit.

    • Brief explanation of what type of credit you are seeking and why, along with any major/minor distribution requirements you hope the course can be applied to (if applicable). 

  2. The undergraduate coordinator will process and submit your credit request to the appropriate faculty member*, inform you of the decision or requests for further information, and return the signed form to you for submission to the College, if applicable. Credit requests must be approved through the undergraduate coordinator in order to be recorded with the department; approval directly from a faculty member is not valid.


Many students supplement their formal course work in English by attending public lectures and poetry readings sponsored by the department or by writing for campus literary magazines.

The Cornell Literary Society

Organized by and for English majors and enthusiasts, the Literary Society plans events each semester such as panel discussions with department professors, student poetry readings, book club discussions, and sponsors free tickets to movies and theater productions at Cornell Cinema and the Schwartz Center. The society's ultimate goals are to inspire interest in the major and minor, establish strong relationships with Department of Literatures in English faculty, and foster a united community among English enthusiasts of a variety of concentrations and disciplines. Anyone with a love for reading is encouraged to join the listserv and attend the society's monthly mixer-meetings, where students chat in the English Lounge over refreshments.

Membership is open to ALL undergraduates. For further information, contact literarysocietyatcornell@cornell.edu or visit their website.

Rainy Day

Rainy Day is an undergraduate publication sponsored by Cornell University. Published biannually since 1969, Rainy Day presents the finest student literary works from undergraduates across the country. 

For further information, contact rainydaycornell@gmail.com or visit their website.

Department Events

The Department of Literatures in English coordinates a number of events featuring renowned creative writers and scholars each semester.

Visit the English Events and Zalaznick Reading Series webpages for more information.

Society for the Humanities

To stay informed about humanities events from other departments and programs, subscribe to the Society for the Humanities weekly Cornell humanities events digest. 

Humanities Scholars Program

The Humanities Scholars Program (HSP) is an undergraduate program of the Cornell University College of Arts & Sciences that fosters independent, interdisciplinary undergraduate research in the humanities, and provides a supportive community, through a series of curated courses, structured mentorship, special programming, and research opportunities and funding. The program is housed in the historic Andrew Dickson White House on central campus.

Digital CoLab

The purpose of Digital Scholarship Services and the Digital CoLab is to support digital scholarly activity, particularly in the humanities and interpretive social sciences. Some opportunities and events will be for graduate students only, but their co-working sessions (Weekly CoLab Office Hours) are open to undergraduates. To stay informed about their offerings, subscribe to the Digital Scholarship Newsletter.