Undergraduate Study

Overview

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).

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 with double majors outside of English as well as students seeking dual degrees.

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, African-American 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

First-Year Writing Seminars

FWS classes and substitutions, and non-creative 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.

Obtain English Credit Approval

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 were not granted College credit, they cannot be applied to the English major or minors. Transfer courses can be granted course equivalency when evaluated for College credit—if granted ENGL course equivalency, you do not need to seek further major or minor credit approval.

Send the following documents to the appropriate faculty member* and copy the Undergraduate Coordinator (Aurora Ricardo, ar2368@cornell.edu):

  1. Requisite approval of credit form:
    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

    • The Approval of Study Abroad Credit form is provided by the Office of Global Learning when they receive your official transcript after your time abroad. 
      For more information: as.cornell.edu/education/study-abroad
    • The Application for Credit from Other Institutions form is provided by the A&S Registrar, usually during your initial credit evaluation.
      For more information: as.cornell.edu/registrar/transferring-credits
  2. You must include your proposed equivalent course.
  3. Syllabus or reading list and course description from all courses for which you are requesting transfer credit.

*Department leadership members are listed on the faculty page :

Major credit & transfer credit: Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS)
Transfer credit course equivalency requests; non-ENGL Cornell course approval towards English major distribution requirements

English & MITWS minor credit: Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS)
Transfer credit courses NOT granted appropriate course equivalency; non-ENGL course approval towards English or MITWS minor

Creative Writing minor credit: Director of Creative Writing
Transfer credit courses NOT granted appropriate course equivalency; non-ENGL course approval towards creative writing minor

Activities

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 President Emily Park, eep64@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.

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