Undergraduate Studies in Literature

Human beings live in language. Many religious traditions and quite a few modern archaeologists hold that we became human when we began to use language, and we certainly cannot imagine human life without language. Yet with all the emphasis on the tangible tools used in twenty-first century scientific and technical fields, it can be easy to forget that language is perhaps the most fundamental tool of all. It allows us to think figuratively and abstractly, thereby allowing us to gain conceptual purchase on ourselves and the world around us. And it allows us to communicate with other human beings, opening up the possibility of cooperative action in place of comparatively ineffectual individual efforts.

In studying English literature, you will be honing your ability to use language as a tool for analysis and communication. That is to say, you will deepen your literacy to the point where you can make literal and figurative sense of virtually any English-language text. You will sharpen your skills in research and critical analysis in order to reach reasoned judgments – and your skills in writing and oral argumentation in order to persuade others of the validity of your positions. And you will do all this by studying some of the most aesthetically beautiful creations in the English language, from Beowulf to Beloved, from faculty members who have won teaching award after teaching award from Northwestern University, Weinberg College, and the Associated Student Government.

Given these credentials, it’s not surprising that Northwestern English majors have achieved success in a wide variety of fields. Top employers for our recent graduates range from Teach for America and Chicago Public Schools to Buzzfeed and the Washington Post to Google and Deloitte. In the last few years, our alumni have also gone on to nearly every kind of professional school—including business, law, medicine, education, public policy—and have pursued graduate studies in literature at some of the best universities in the world. All of these organizations, and many more, value the top-notch analytical and communication skills you will learn in your Northwestern English classes.

In this section, prospective and current undergraduates can find detailed guidance on majoring and minoring in English literature, as well as information about careers for English majors and minors. To keep up with department news and events of interest to undergraduates, please email the Undergraduate Program Assistant to join the department listserv. The department’s facebook group hosts more informal discussions of literary topics, as well as information about events across Northwestern and in the wider Evanston and Chicago communities of potential interest to literature students. You are welcome to join us!