Literature Major Frequently Asked Questions

The “Old” English Major

Who has the option of completing the “old” major requirements rather than the “new” major requirements?

Students who matriculated prior to Fall 2013 can choose to satisfy either the “old” or the “new” major requirements. Students matriculating in or after Fall 2013 must satisfy the “new” major requirements.

What are the “old” major requirements?

The “old” major requires students to take at least 15 courses: three introductory courses, ten additional literature courses, and two related courses.

Are the introductory courses the same in “old” and “new” majors?

Yes. You still have to complete either English Literary Traditions (English 210-1 and 210-2) or American Literary Traditions (English 270-1 and English 270-2) plus English 300 (previously English 298).

Are the additional literature courses the same in the “old” major?

The general rules governing the additional literature courses are the same. Instead of satisfying the new TTC and ICSP requirements, however, students must satisfy the old Theory and Criticism requirement. Courses satisfying this requirement are clearly identified in English Course Listings.

In addition, courses in the “old” major are divided into pre-1798 and post-1798 rather than pre-1830 and post-1830. In general, the only major author affected by this change is Jane Austen, whose most important works were written post-1798 but pre-1830. If you are confused about how to categorize a particular course, please consult the DUS.

What are related courses?

Related courses are humanities and social science courses whose primary subject matter is not literature.  Students commonly use courses in departments such as Art History, Classics, Gender Studies, History, and Political Science to satisfy the related courses requirement. Related courses can be at the 200 level or 300 level but not at the 100 level.

Can I use the same course to satisfy a WCAS distribution requirement and as a related course for the English major?

Yes.

How do I formally designate certain courses as my related courses for the English major?

Contact the DUS, either in person or via email. Many students designate their related courses when filling out their petitions to graduate. 

Does English 397 count towards the “old” major?

Although students doing the “old” major are not required to take English 397, they are strongly encouraged to do so. English 397 counts as a core course for the “old” major, including counting as a pre-1798 or post-1798 course as appropriate.

Major Requirements

How do I know whether a course counts as TTC, ICSP, etc.?

The course descriptions in English Course Listings specify whether a given course counts as pre-1830 or post-1830, and whether it satisfies the TTC or ICSP requirement. In addition, the opening pages of English Course Listings contain quarter-by-quarter lists of all the courses fulfilling the pre-1830, post-1830, TTC, ICSP, and American Literature requirements.

I’m going to use a 200-level course as one of my additional literature courses. Can it satisfy requirements such as pre/post-1830, TTC, ICSP?

Yes. All additional literature courses, along with English 397 can be used to satisfy the pre/post-1830, TTC, ICSP, and American literature requirements.  Each are clearly designated in English Course Listings.

Can the same course satisfy multiple major requirements?

Yes. A course on medieval women’s writing, for example, can count as both a pre-1830 course and an ICSP course.

I think a particular course should count as TTC or ICSP, but it’s not marked as such in English Course Listings. What should I do?

Consult with the DUS. Be sure to bring a copy of the course description and syllabus. Final decisions about course requirements rest with the English Department faculty rather than with individual students. But we do listen to reason!

When should I take English 397?

You’re ready for English 397 when your regular 300-level courses no longer feel like a stretch – that is to say, when you feel that you’ve mastered the skills required for a typical 300-level English class. You will usually reach that milestone after you’ve taken between four and six 300-level literature courses. If you are considering applying to the English literature honors program, make sure to take English 397 during your junior year, ideally in fall or winter quarter.

I know I’ve taken a TTC (or ICSP) course, but according to my academic progress report in CAESAR that requirement is still unsatisfied. What should I do?

Consult the DUS. Errors in CAESAR’s academic progress reports are unfortunately quite common, but the DUS should be able to straighten everything out. It’s important to make sure that your academic progress report accurately reflects your progress through the major when you file your petition to graduate.

Literature and Creative Writing

I’m interested in studying English literature, but I’m also interested in the English department’s major in creative writing. Where should I start?

The best place to start for both majors is either English Literary Traditions (English 210-1 and 210-2) or American Literary Traditions (English 270-1 and 270-2). You are required to complete one of these sequences for the literature major. These courses are also strongly recommended for and count towards the creative writing major: students are allowed to substitute the two-quarter English Literary Traditions sequence or the two-quarter American Literary Traditions sequence for one 300-level literature class. By exposing you to a broad range of literary forms and genres, these courses will help you to improve your own writing – and thus increase your chances of admission to the creative writing major.

Another good way to get started is by taking one or both of your first-year seminars with English department faculty members.

I’m currently an English literature major but I’m hoping to be admitted to the creative writing major. Should I take English 300?

You may.  In addition to being a required course for the literature major, English 300 counts as a 300-level literature course toward the creative writing major.  We encourage students to take it as early as possible because it teaches the writing and analytical skills they will need in their other 300-level literature classes, regardless of which major they decide to pursue. For the same reason, students usually don’t get much out of English 300 if they postpone taking it until senior year.

Does declaring the English literature major allow me to pre-register for creative writing courses?

No. There is no pre-registration for creative writing courses. Note, too, that first-year students are not allowed to register for English 206, the first prerequisite to the creative writing major, until winter quarter. 

Does declaring the English literature major help me at all towards a creative writing major?

Some intended creative writing majors declare an English literature major in order to pre-register for 300-level literature courses. That’s not a bad idea, but we do not recommend that you simply jump into 300-level literature courses without any preparation. By definition, 300-level literature courses expect you to be comfortable with college-level literary analysis and with writing extended argumentative essays. It’s a good idea to take English Literary Traditions or American Literary Traditions before embarking on 300-level literature classes (see above.) You can also help to prepare yourself for 300-level literature courses by taking one or both of your first-year seminars with English department faculty members.

I don’t know whether I’ll be admitted to the creative writing major. Should I declare a major in English literature “just in case”?

As you probably know, admission to the creative writing major is competitive, with an average acceptance rate of about 60%. As a result, every student who plans to apply to the creative writing major also needs a contingency plan, whether a major in English literature or in some other field.

You can make progress in both the English literature and the creative writing major by taking English Literary Traditions (English 210-1 and 210-2) or American Literary Traditions (English 270-1 or English 270-2), and the two majors also overlap in their 300-level literature requirements. For these and other reasons, many prospective creative writing students choose English literature as their “back-up” major.

Can I double major or major/minor in English literature and creative writing?

Sadly, no. There is too much overlap between the two sets of major requirements. But we do encourage literature students to take creative writing courses, and vice versa.

Introductory Courses

How should I start the English Major?

Your first step should be to begin either the English Literary Traditions sequence (English 210-1 and 210-2) or the American Literary Traditions Sequence (English 270-1 and 270-2). It’s okay to take your chosen sequence out of order.

Your second step should be to take the remaining half of the same sequence and English 300, either concurrently or in quick succession. It’s okay to take English 300 with just one quarter of your chosen sequence under your belt. Sometimes it even makes sense to take 300 concurrently with the first quarter of your chosen sequence.

Your third step should be to begin taking 300-level English literature courses. It’s best to begin these advanced courses after you’ve completed English 300. English 300 teaches you how to write the standard eight-page analytical paper required for most 300-level literature classes.

When should I take English 300?

As early as possible in your career as an English major. English 300 teaches you how to write the standard eight-page analytical paper required for most 300-level literature classes. Taking it early on will save you lots of painful trial and error! By the same logic, the class will probably seem pretty pointless if you put it off until senior year.

Can I take a “mixed” sequence, i.e. one quarter of English Literary Traditions and one quarter of American Literary Traditions?

No. The major requires you to take either the entire English literature sequence (210-1 and 210-2) or the entire American literature sequence (270-1 and 270-2). But you can count up to two 200-level courses – including an “extra” sequence course – as two of your additional courses for the literature major.

I took English 213 (Intro to Fiction) or another “non-sequence” 200-level literature course. Does it count towards the English major?

Yes. You can count up to two 200-level literature courses towards the 10 additional courses requirement.

Advanced Courses

I’ve enjoyed my 300-level English courses, but now I’m ready for a greater challenge. What’s the next step?

Consider applying to the honors program in English literature. As a rule of thumb, successful applicants usually have an English major GPA of at least 3.75. 

It doesn’t look as if the honors program is going to work for me, either for reasons of scheduling or because my GPA isn’t high enough. Are there any other options?

Consider applying for an independent study (English 399), in which you work with a faculty member on a topic of your choice. 

Independent studies are open to junior and senior English literature majors with strong departmental records. A student who wishes to pursue an independent study must find a faculty sponsor for his or her project and submit a completed application before the end of Registration Week for the quarter in which you’d like to take the Independent Study. The application should include a substantial syllabus, including reading assignments and due dates for writing assignments. Any member of the English department faculty may sponsor a 399 project. Teaching assistants are not eligible to guide Independent Study projects.

Are there any other possibilities?

Exceptional undergraduate English majors are sometimes allowed to enroll in graduate-level literature courses. If you’re interested, consult with the course instructor and the DUS.

Additional Literature Courses

When should I start taking 300-level English literature courses?

As soon as you’ve successfully completed English 300 (see above).

Do all of my additional literature courses have to be at the 300 level?

No.  Up to two additional literatures courses may be a 200-level literature course, including English 206.  The rest must be 300-level literature courses. 

Can I count courses taken at other institutions towards the English major?

The DUS evaluates courses taken at other institutions on a case-by-case basis. In order to be considered for English department credit, courses must be equivalent in rigor to NU English courses, and must be taken face-to-face rather than online.

Can literature courses taken outside the English Department count as additional courses?

All literature courses taught by English Department faculty in departments and programs such as African American Studies and Comparative Literary Studies count as core courses. In addition, students may count up to two courses on literary texts not originally written in English, read either in the original language or in translation. These courses need not be taught by English department faculty.

Can I receive credit for multiple courses with the same course number?

Sometimes. You can receive credit for multiple versions of courses with general titles such as “Studies in Medieval Literature” or “American Novel” as long as each version of the course has a distinct topic. If you aren’t sure whether topics are sufficiently distinct, consult the course instructor or the DUS.

Can I count a composition course (e.g., English 205, 304, 305) or a creative writing course (e.g. English 206, 207, 208) towards the English literature major? How about Chicago Field Studies?

No composition or creative writing courses may count toward the English Literature major with the exception of English 206.

Can I count a study abroad course as an additional literature course?

You can count up to two literature courses from a one-quarter study abroad program as additional literature courses. These courses must be approved by the DUS as equivalent in rigor to NU’s 300-level literature courses. As a rule of thumb, equivalent courses generally assign at least five novels (or a comparable amount of drama, poetry, etc.) and at least fifteen pages of critical writing.

English majors studying abroad for longer than a quarter can sometimes count more than two study abroad courses as core courses. Consult with the DUS.

Can I count an Independent Study (English 399) as one of my additional literature courses?

Yes, you can count one Independent Study as an additional course for the English literature major.

Can I count the same course towards more than one major?

Not usually. But if you are experiencing unusual hardship and need an exception to this policy for one course, please consult with the DUS.