First-year Focus

Why study English?

Words and stories surround us.  We’re immersed in them.  Novels, poems, plays, films—sure—but also tweets and facebook postings and websites and blogs.  Studying English at Northwestern means taking the opportunity to figure out how these stories and words and images work, how they do the things they do, tell the stories they tell.  It means getting “under the hood” to see how texts of all kinds are built. 

Being an English Literature major at Northwestern means reading literature that’s been circulating across more than 1000 years of history and nearly all the continents of the globe.  It means learning whole new ways of critical thinking about the work that literature does in the world, since it’s clear that writing doesn’t merely reflect the worlds it comes from, but also helps to shape those worlds.  Even when you may be re-reading or writing about a work you’re familiar with, you’ll come to ask a whole new set of questions about it, and to write about it in a whole new way.  Clearly, this isn’t going to be your high school English teacher’s class anymore.  The training wheels are off. 

Being a Creative Writing major at Northwestern means gaining not only a deep background in the literary tradition—since every good writer is also a good reader—but also learning the ins and outs of peer critique and work-shopping, finding ways to accept and give constructive criticism and sharing the insights of your reading.  The demands of the Creative Writing major stress craft and technique.  That mystery—was I taught? Did I learn?—may not be solved by you right now; you may not solve it until you have gone off into the world and worked in it for many years.  After all, if you already know what you’re doing before you do it, why bother doing it?  The discovery in creating is similar to the discovery in reading.

Being an English major is preparation for virtually any career you can imagine.  Our graduates have gone on to every kind of professional school—law, medicine, journalism, public policy—and have pursued graduate studies (M.A., Ph.D.) at some of the most prestigious universities in the world.  The critical thinking, reading, and writing that every English major learns is preparation for work in the world everywhere.  After all, being able to read closely, think creatively, and write clearly and effectively are skills that are applicable to jobs anywhere words are at work, whether those words are in the pages of a book or flashing by on a screen.

Welcome.  The words await.


Exam Credit

AP Exam Credit Not Applicable
Placement Exam Credit Not Applicable
Contact with Questions

Jay Grossman, Director of Undergraduate Studies


Good Classes for First-year Students

The best way to get acquainted with the English major and to begin fulfilling the requirements of both the Major and the Minor, is to begin with either of the two-quarter survey courses: English Literary Traditions (210-1 and 210-2), or American Literary Traditions (270-1 and 270-2).  After you have taken one quarter of one of these surveys, you can then enroll in a section of English 298, the Introductory Seminar in Reading and Interpretation.  These small seminars are restricted to English majors, and offer an opportunity to dive into the nuts and bolts of close reading, careful literary analysis, and critical thinking.

Alternately, you might try one of the other 200-level courses:

211 Introduction to Poetry
212 Introduction to Drama
213 Introduction to Fiction
234 Introduction to Shakespeare
273 Introduction to 20th-Century American Literature
275 Introduction to Asian American Studies


You can take a look at requirements for the Literature major, the Literature minor, the Creative Writing major, the sequence-based Creative Writing minor, and the cross-genre Creative Writing minor on our website, but if you have questions about our Literature major and courses, please contact Dave Kuzel (847-491-7294). If you have questions about the Creative Writing major or minors, please contact Jennifer Britton (847-491-7294).

For general information about Weinberg College, go to:

Upcoming Event

Medieval Colloquium- Maureen Miller
April 2, 20155:00 PM - 7:00 PM

August 16, 2010