English Department

The English Department offers a range of courses on literary productions and cultural representations written in or translated into English. Courses emphasize diversity in historical periods, genres, authors, cultures, and themes. The majority of courses in the major are seminar-style with limited enrollment emphasizing active student participation, critical thinking, analysis, and writing skills. The major in English focuses on the investigation of the central cultural, political, and ideological issues occasioned by texts and representations, particularly issues of race, gender, and class. The major considers various critical approaches, methods of inquiry, and strategies of interpretation. The Creative Writing Program offers fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry courses at the introductory, intermediate, and advanced levels. The department also offers special-topics courses and supervises about 50 independent study projects and 15 honors theses each year. English is one of the most useful majors for those who want to attend professional schools of law, medicine, and business, as well as for those seeking jobs in commerce, industry, and government. Some majors become teachers; some become writers; some go into journalism, library science, or publishing. Students interested in teaching, private and public, are urged to read the “Education” section of the catalogue and to contact a member of the Education Program. The department also encourages interdepartmental and interdisciplinary studies and supports the programs in the American Studies Program, the Theater and Dance Department, the Cinema Studies Program, and the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program.


Chair, Professor Laurie E. Osborne
Professors Cedric Gael Bryant, Michael Burke, Peter Harris, Laurie Osborne, Debra Spark, and David Suchoff; Associate Professors Adrian Blevins, Natalie Harris, Tilar Mazzeo, Anindyo Roy, Elizabeth Sagaser, and Katherine Stubbs; Assistant Professors Megan Cook, Aaron Hanlon, and J.C. Sibara; Adjunct Assistant Professor David Mills; Visiting Assistant Professors Rachel Flynn, Chris Hallman, Jamison Kantor, and Kyle Stevens; Faculty Fellows Sarah Braunstein and Vivek Freitas; Director of the Colby Writing Program Stacey Sheriff; Director of the Farnham Writers’ Center Paula Harrington

Requirements +

Requirements for the Major in Literature Written in English

English 172 and 271; four 200- or 300-level courses; two 400-level studies in special subjects; two additional courses, which may be chosen from Cinema Studies 142, or advanced courses in English or American literature, creative writing, or literature in other languages or in translation; one additional 300- or 400-level English course; one senior seminar (English 493). At least three must be courses in which the major focus is upon literature written in English before 1800 and at least three must focus upon literature written in English after 1800. All choices of advanced courses should be planned carefully with the major advisor, who must approve them. As an alternative to English 172, students may take 120 plus a 200-level English survey course (e.g., 251, 252, 255, 256, 264, 268) as the gateway to the major. Courses that do not count toward the major are English 214 and 474. Two of the cross-listed theater and dance courses may count toward the English major. The point scale for retention of the major applies to all English courses that may be used to fulfill major requirements. No requirement for the major may be taken satisfactory/unsatisfactory.

Honors in English

Students who meet the prerequisite, define a project, and secure the support of a department tutor and a second reader may elect to take English 483, 484, the Honors Thesis, and, upon successful completion, graduate with “Honors in English.”

Preparation for Graduate School

Students planning to continue the study of English in graduate school should confer with their advisors to be sure that they have planned a substantial and adequate curriculum. They should be proficient in at least one foreign language. Most universities require two languages, and some require a classical language as well. Work in classical or foreign literature, history, philosophy, art, music, and some of the social sciences reinforces preparation in the major and enhances one’s chances for success in graduate study.

Requirements for the Concentration in Creative Writing

In addition to the requirements for the English major, requires four writing workshops at the 200 level or above. These courses include 278, 279, 280, 378, 379, 380, 382, 386, 478, and 479. Students may count Beginning Playwriting (Theater and Dance 141) as one of their creative writing courses. English majors wishing to pursue a concentration in creative writing should declare the English major with a concentration in creative writing; the creative writing minor only exists for students whose declared major is not English. Students are encouraged to take at least one course in a genre other than their sequence genre. Students should note that creative nonfiction courses are not offered as frequently as fiction and poetry courses.

A minor in creative writing is described in the “Creative Writing” section of the catalogue.