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About the Major

How to Major in English

Students who major in English can pursue a variety of careers. If you are thinking of majoring in English, first take one of the department's 200-level offerings (Shakespeare, 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 203 or 204, creative writing, for HA credit. 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.

Test out the major by taking English 299. Multiple sections with different topics occur in fall and winter.

Students who are serious about the English major (having completed one 200-level English course) should take English 299, the gateway seminar into upper-level work in the major. English 299 serves as the pre-requisite for 300-level course work in English. Topics, instructors, and times vary each term. At least one 299 seminar is offered in fall and winter terms. First-year students who have taken a 200-level English course are welcome in a winter 299 section. Most majors take English 299 as sophomores, but late-joining juniors may also register for the gateway seminar. Junior majors may take 299 as a co-requisite with a 300-level English course. This may require instructor consent, so please check before registration gets underway.

Next, get an adviser in the major. This person may be your initial adviser, or one of your teachers, 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 English 299 and at least one other 200-level course, you will be ready to try upper-level work in English. Any student who has taken English 299 is eligible for upper-level English courses; typically only upper-level creative writing workshops 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 6 of their 300-level courses in three areas: earlier British Literature; later British Literature (including world literature written in English); and American literature. Student take at least two courses in each area (See major requirements). 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 Lenna Ojure 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. Edward Adams, 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 thesesCreative 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. 14 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 six 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 makes the major an exceptional preparation for graduate study in English.

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