English Department

The English Department offers majors in English, in English with a concentration in literature and the environment, and in English with a concentration in creative writing. It also offers minors in English and in creative writing.

The Colby English and Creative Writing department fosters engagement with multiple media as objects of study and making. We encourage students to embrace contemporary writing while fostering critical engagement with past literatures and cultures. We support the study of global Anglophone literatures and environmental /ecological understanding. Our courses represent wide-ranging, diverse creative and critical practices.

The English Department offers a range of courses that emphasize the study of literature as an artistic tradition and the study of language more generally as a crucial component of cultural production and civic engagement. Students develop skills directly applicable to the further study of law, politics, journalism and publishing, leadership, and stewardship. In medical school admissions, students in English and humanities do very well in comparison to students in other fields.

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 Creative Writing Program offers fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry courses at the introductory, intermediate, and advanced levels. The department offers special-topics courses and supervises numerous independent studies and honors projects. Our students frequently pursue internships and study abroad.

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 nonprofits, business, and government. Some majors become teachers; some become writers; some go into journalism, library science, or publishing. Students interested in teaching in private and public schools 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 departments of American Studies; Performance, Theater, and Dance; Cinema Studies; Environmental Studies; and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.

Learning Outcomes

Students and faculty in English and creative writing become active learners engaged in

  • Sustaining a reshaped literary canon
  • Reading and making across genres, platforms, and media
  • Integrating making and analysis
  • Building community and listening across differences
  • Writing with others at Colby, in Waterville, and far beyond
  • Understanding how representation shapes the world
  • Bringing both analytical and creative skills to global histories and ecological challenges
  • Finding pleasure and personal meaning in reading and writing together


Co-Chairs, Associate Professors Megan Cook and Katherine Stubbs
Professors Adrian Blevins, Cedric Gael Bryant, Michael Burke, Mary Ellis Gibson, and Debra Spark; Associate Professors Megan Cook, Aaron Hanlon, Elizabeth Sagaser, Matthew Schneider-Mayerson, and Katherine Stubbs; Assistant Professors Sarah Braunstein, Samantha Plasencia, Mohammad Shabangu, Dyani Johns Taff, Christopher Walker, and Arisa White; Visiting Assistant Professor Erin Spampinato

Requirements +

Requirements for the Major in Literature Written in English

The English Department offers an 11-course major in English and a 12-course major in English in the two concentrations: literature and the environment and creative writing. The 11 courses required for the core major consist of the following:

  • English 200, 271, and one other 200-level course (including introductory creative writing courses: English 278, 279, and 280)
  • Five English 300-level or 400-level courses (excluding creative writing courses—see electives)
  • English 493, the senior seminar
  • Two electives in these categories: English literature courses or creative writing workshops at the 200, 300, or 400 level; approved courses in a foreign literature in that language or in translation, approved Performance, Theater, and Dance electives, or selected Cinema Studies courses. All cross-listed courses count only in this category.

Our distribution field requirements within these 11 courses include:

  • One poetry course at any level, either in literary study or creative writing (P)
  • Two early literatures in English courses (E)
  • Two diaspora/crossroads courses that explore the literatures of underrepresented groups, or courses that address alternative literatures in ethnic American, diasporic works, world literatures, or postcolonial literatures; these courses might set these literatures in dialogue with works across the curriculum (D)
  • Two comparative literatures and media courses that cross national boundaries, cross historical periods, or intermix media forms (C)

See course descriptions for P, E, D, and C designations. Please note that one course taken in the Colby English Department may fulfill no more than two distribution requirements.

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.

Requirements for the English Major with a Concentration in Literature and the Environment (ENLE)

In addition to the requirements for the English major, students concentrating in ENLE will take EN283 Introduction to Environmental Humanities and EN357 Literature and the Environment plus two courses drawn from the ENLE concentration list, one of which may be EN493 Senior Seminar when the topic is approved. Students must take one approved course outside the department in Environmental Studies (ES) or in the area of environmental humanities. Approved courses are listed on the department website.

Requirements for the Major with a Concentration in Creative Writing (ENCR)

The English major with a concentration in creative writing requires 12 courses. Four courses must be creative writing workshops at the 200 level or above (English 278, 279, 280, 378, 379, 380, 382, and 386). 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 is only an option for students whose declared major is not English. Students may count Performance, Theater, and Dance 141 (Beginning Playwriting) as one of their creative writing courses. Students are encouraged to take at least one course in a genre other than their sequence genre. Note: To complete the major with 12 courses, the 200 level course requirement must be met with a Creative Writing workshop (EN 278, 279 or 280).

Requirements for the Minor in Literature Written in English

The English minor requires a total of six courses. These must include:

  • English 200 and 271
  • Two English courses at the 300 or 400 level, excluding creative writing workshop courses
  • English 493, a senior seminar
  • One elective from these categories: English literature courses or creative writing workshops at the 200, 300, or 400 level, literature at the 200 level or above in a foreign language or in translation chosen in consultation with the minor advisor.

Within these six courses, minors must meet the following distribution field requirements:

  • One poetry course at any level, either literary study or creative writing (P)
  • One early literature in English course at any level (E)
  • One diaspora and crossroads course at any level (D)

Requirements for the Minor in Creative Writing

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

Honors in English

Students who meet the prerequisite, define a project, and secure the support of an honors project advisor and a second reader may elect to take English 482 (the two-credit Honors Proseminar), 483, 484, the Honors Thesis, and, upon successful completion, graduate with “Honors in English.” Students seeking honors in English will complete 12 courses, and students seeking honors in English with a creative writing concentration will complete 13 courses.

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 an appropriate curriculum. They should be proficient in at least one foreign language. Most universities require two languages for the Ph.D. 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.