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This archived information is dated to the 2010-11 academic year only and may no longer be current.

For currently applicable policies and information, see the current Stanford Bulletin.

Bachelor of Arts in English

The English major is designed to provide students with both an understanding of the development of literatures in English and an appreciation of the variety and richness of literary texts. It offers a rigorous training in interpretive thinking and precise expression.


Prospective English majors are advised to consider IHUM 34A,B. A Life of Contemplation or Action: Debates in Western Literature and Philosophy, to satisfy their IHUM-2,3 requirements. Further recommended is any introductory seminar taught by English department faculty offered by Stanford Introductory Studies.


Because the Department of English recognizes that the needs and interests of literature students vary, it has approved several major programs of study. Each of these has different objectives and requirements; students should consider carefully which program of study corresponds most closely to their personal and intellectual objectives. The department offers the following fields of study for degrees in English:

See below for further information on these fields of study.


Those interested in majoring in English are encouraged to declare during their sophomore year, but no later than the beginning of their junior year. They are urged to discuss their plans with the undergraduate student services specialist as early as possible, and to take recommended preparatory courses for the major in their freshman and sophomore years. To declare the major, a student must fill out the Declaration of Major in Axess; choose a faculty adviser; and submit a completed program proposal form approved by the adviser. It is recommended that a student meet with the adviser at least once per quarter to discuss progress towards degree completion. Students who declared prior to September 2010 should refer to previous guidelines and requirements for the major.

With the exception of the required courses listed below, which must be taken for a letter grade, any two of the elective courses may be taken on a credit/no credit basis at the discretion of the instructor. Students may apply as many as four literature courses taken at approved universities towards the English major electives. Approval of such courses towards the major is at the discretion of the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Requests for transfer credit, including course syllabi and official transcript, should be submitted to the undergraduate student services coordinator, and to the Office of the University Registrar's external credit evaluation section.

The total number of units required to graduate for each degree option is specified in the relevant section following. All courses should be taken for 5 units. Irrespective of field of study or degree option, all English majors must complete the following requirements:

Required Courses (40 units)—

  1. Three Methodology courses
    1. ENGLISH 160. Poetry and Poetics (5 units)
    2. ENGLISH 161. Narrative and Narrative Theory (5 units)
    3. ENGLISH 162. Critical Methods (5 units)
  2. Four Historical courses
    1. ENGLISH 100A. Literary History I (5 units)
    2. ENGLISH 100B. Literary History II (5 units)
    3. ENGLISH 100C. Literary History III (5 units)
    4. One additional history of literature course (5 units, denoted by H-suffix)
  3. One Senior Seminar (5 units, denoted by S-suffix, WIM)

Rules that apply to all English majors irrespective of field of study or degree option—

  1. Courses can only be counted once, i.e. can only satisfy one requirement.
  2. Two of the elective courses may be taken on a credit/no credit basis at the discretion of the instructor.
Field of Study I. Literature

This field of study is declared in Axess. This program provides for the interests of students who wish to understand the range and historical development of British, American and Anglophone literatures and a variety of critical methods by which their texts can be interpreted. The major emphasizes the study of literary forms and genres and theories of textual analysis. In addition to degree requirements required of all majors and listed above, students must complete at least 30 additional units of courses consisting of:

  1. Six additional approved elective courses, only one of which may be a creative writing course, chosen from among those offered by the Department of English. In place of one of these six elective courses, students may choose one upper-division course in a foreign literature read in the original language.
Field of Study II. Literature with Creative Writing Emphasis

This field of study is declared in Axess. This program is designed for students who want a sound basic knowledge of the English literary tradition as a whole and at the same time want to develop skills in writing poetry or prose. In addition to degree requirements required of all majors and listed above, students must complete at least 30 additional units of approved courses including:

  1. One course in literature in English
  2. One beginning prose course: ENGLISH 90, Fiction Writing or ENGLISH 91, Creative Nonfiction
  3. One beginning poetry course: ENGLISH 92, Reading and Writing Poetry
  4. Three courses specifically designed for either the prose or poetry concentration.

Prose writers—

  1. ENGLISH 146. Development of the Short Story
  2. Two intermediate or advanced prose classes: any ENGLISH 190 series, 191 series, 198L, or 290.

Poetry writers—

  1. One literature Course in Poetry approved by a Creative Writing Professor
  2. Two intermediate or advanced poetry classes: any ENGLISH 192 series, 198L, or 292
Field of Study III. Literature with Interdisciplinary Emphasis

This field of study is declared in Axess. This program is intended for students who wish to combine the study of one broadly defined literary topic, period, genre, theme or problem with an interdisciplinary program of courses relevant to that inquiry. In addition to degree requirements required of all majors and listed above, students must complete at least 35 additional units of approved courses including:

  1. Three elective literature courses chosen from among those offered by the Department of English. Students must select two of these courses in relation to their interdisciplinary focus.
  2. Four courses related to the area of inquiry. These courses may be chosen from disciplines such as anthropology, the arts (including the practice of one of the arts), classics, comparative literature, European or other literature, feminist studies, history, modern thought and literature, political science, and African American studies. These courses should form a coherent program and must be relevant to the focus of the courses chosen by the student to meet the requirement. Each of these courses must be approved in advance by the interdisciplinary program director. In addition, students in this program must write at least one interdisciplinary paper. This may be ENGLISH 197. Senior Honors Essay; ENGLISH 199. Senior Independent Essay; ENGLISH 194 or 198. Individual Research ; or a paper integrating the material in two courses the student is taking in two different disciplines.
Field of Study IV. Literature and Foreign Language Literature

This major provides a focus in British and American literature with additional work in French literature; German literature; Italian literature; Spanish or Spanish American literature. These are interdepartmental majors declared in Axess. In addition to degree requirements required of all majors and listed above, students must complete at least 30 additional units of approved courses including:

  1. Two elective courses chosen from among those offered by the Department of English, one of which may be a creative writing course.
  2. A coherent program of four courses in the foreign language literature, read in the original language, approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies in English and by the relevant foreign language department.
Field of Study V. Literature and Philosophy

This field of study is declared in Axess. Students should meet with the undergraduate director concerning the Literature and Philosophy focus. This track is for students who wish to explore interdisciplinary studies at the intersection of literature and philosophy while acquiring knowledge of the English language literary tradition as a whole. In addition to degree requirements required of all majors and listed above, students must complete at least 35-40 additional units of approved courses (at least eight 5-unit courses of the total units required must be within the English department) including:

  1. PHIL 80. Mind, Matter, and Meaning (Writing in the Major): Prerequisite: introductory philosophy course.
  2. Gateway course: ENGLISH 81 (same as PHIL 81, CLASSGEN 81, COMPLIT 181, FRENGEN 181 and ITALGEN 181), Philosophy and Literature. This course should be taken as early as possible in the student's career, normally in the sophomore year.
  3. Aesthetics, Ethics, Political Philosophy: one course from PHIL 170 series.
  4. Language, Mind, Metaphysics, and Epistemology: one course from PHIL 180 series.
  5. History of Philosophy: one course in the history of Philosophy, numbered above PHIL 100.
  6. Two upper division courses of special relevance to the study of Philosophy and Literature. At least one of these courses needs to be in the English department. A list of approved courses is available from the Director of Undergraduate Studies in English.
  7. Capstone seminar of relevance to the study of Philosophy and Literature.


Students wishing to undertake a formal program of advanced literary criticism and scholarship, including the honors seminar and independent research, are invited to apply for the honors program in the Winter Quarter of the junior year. Any outstanding student is encouraged to engage in an honors thesis project.

Admission is selective. Provisional admission is announced in March. Permission to continue in the program is contingent upon submission, by May 15 of the junior year, of a senior honors essay proposal with a bibliography. Honors students are encouraged to complete before the start of their senior year the three methodology courses that are English major requirements: ENGLISH 160, 161, and 162.

In September before the senior year, students are encouraged to participate in the Bing Honors College. In Autumn Quarter of the senior year, students take a 3-unit honors seminar on critical approaches to literature. The senior-year seminar is designed to introduce students to the analysis and production of advanced literary scholarship. In addition, in Autumn Quarter of the senior year, honors students take a 2-unit essay workshop focused on the process of researching and writing the essay. Students who are studying at Oxford or at other institutions may be exempted from these requirements on request and with the approval of the director of the honors program.

In Winter and Spring quarters of the senior year, honors students complete the senior honors essay for 10 units under supervision of a faculty adviser.

The deadline for submitting the honors essay is May 15. Essays that receive a grade of 'A-' or above are awarded honors.

Students in the honors program complete the requirements of the major and the following:

Required Courses

ENGLISH 196A. Honors Seminar, 3 units

ENGLISH 196B. Honors Essay Workshop, 2 units

ENGLISH 197. Senior Honors Essay, 10 units


Advanced Individual Research—Students taking 100- or 200-level courses may, with the consent of the instructor, write a follow-up 5-unit paper based on the course material and due no later than the end of the succeeding quarter (register for ENGLISH 194). The research paper is written under the direct supervision of the professor; it must be submitted first in a preliminary draft and subsequently in a final version.

Senior Independent Essay—The senior independent essay gives senior English majors the opportunity to work throughout the year on a sustained piece of critical or scholarly work of around 10,000 words on a topic of their choice, with the close guidance of a faculty adviser. Each student is responsible for finding an adviser, who must approve the proposed topic before the end of the third quarter prior to expected graduation. The senior essay is read and graded by the adviser and one other member of the English faculty. Senior independent essay students register for ENGLISH 199.


The flexibility of the English major permits students to attend an overseas campus in any quarter, but it is advisable, and in some cases essential, that students spend their senior year at Stanford if they wish to participate in the Honors Program or in a special in-depth reading course. For more information on Stanford overseas programs, see the "Overseas Studies" section of this bulletin.

Students should consult their advisers and the undergraduate program officer to make sure that they can fulfill the requirements before graduation. The Stanford Program in Oxford usually offers courses which apply toward both University requirements and area requirements for the English major. In either case, students should save the syllabi from their courses if they wish to apply to use them to fulfill an English major requirement.

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