There is no set pathway through the major, but there is a general trajectory that English majors pursue. Beginning with courses stressing engagement (100 level) and courses focused on foundational issues and approaches (200 level), English majors advance through an array of topic-based courses (300 level) to courses that emphasize research, broadly defined, and extended writing (400 level). Every student is different, though, and all English majors should expect to choose, in consultation with their advisors, the courses that are best for them.
What Our "Levels" Mean
The English department’s courses are organized by level (100, 200, 300, 400) and each level houses a certain kind of course.
100-level courses are focused on learning how to participate in small seminars and how to write in college classes. Many of the students in these courses are prospective English majors but all courses at the 100 level are entirely open to students from across the college. (Most students in 100 level courses are first years, however.)
200 level courses introduce students to the larger field of literary and cultural studies by giving them a foundational experience of a specific subfield. Some 200-level courses focus on a specific literary genre, such as poetry, drama, or the novel. Others show how the discipline of English relates to neighboring disciplines, such as film studies, Black studies, Indigenous studies, or ecocriticism. Several others use the practice and study of creative writing to illuminate basic questions about what literature is and can be. All courses at the 200 level are entirely open to students from across the college. 200 level courses are often associated with sophomores, but they are actually taken by many first years, juniors, and seniors as well.
300-level courses are “topics” courses, which means that the list of 300 level courses each semester is an eclectic array of highly specific options. There really is no way of describing these courses in advance, other than to say that they are narrowed-down investigations that are meant to immerse the students in a particular subject. All courses at the 300 level are entirely open to students from across the college. Because these courses are focused more on depth than on breadth, they are often associated with juniors and seniors, but they are actually taken by many first years and sophomores as well.
400 level courses are advanced seminars for English majors—and sometimes for advanced students in other arts and humanities fields. They focus on specialized topics and introduce students to the skills they would need to complete an honors thesis in English.
What Skills are Required (and Taught) at Each Level
100-level courses assume no prior experience in college-level English. They focus on teaching you how to read closely and associatively, and they typically involve frequent writing assignments.
200-level courses are second-level introductory courses with no formal prerequisites; you can wait to take one until you have completed a 100-level course (this is often a good thing to do), but you can also take one without any prior experience in college-level English. 200-level courses usually require more reading and more extensive writing than 100-level courses do.
300-level courses usually have more complex reading assignments and more substantial writing assignments than 200-level courses do. Because they are topic-based, they often have theoretical and/or interdisciplinary components as well. There are no formal prerequisites, however. If you are unsure whether a 300-level course is right for you, just write to the professor and they will help you assess your readiness.
400-level courses presume a high level of achievement in college-level writing and aesthetic analysis. They typically require a substantial final project.
A Note on Creative Writing
Creative Writing courses are a popular component of the English Department and have limited enrollment to facilitate the workshop experience.