6: College of Arts and Sciences

General Information | Academic Information | Departments and Programs | Faculty

Afro-American and African Studies | Anthropology | Archaeology | Art | Asian and Middle Eastern
Asian Studies | Astronomy | Biology | Chemistry | Classics | Cognitive Science | Comparative Literature
Drama | Economics | English | Environmental Sciences | French | German | Government and Foreign Affairs
History | Latin American Studies | Linguistics | Mathematics | Medieval Studies
Middle East Studies | Music | Personal Skills | Philosophy | Physics | Political and Social Thought
Psychology | Religious Studies | Service Physical Education | Slavic | Sociology
Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese | Statistics | University Seminars | Women's Studies

Department of English Language and Literature

Course Descriptions | Faculty

Overview   From Geoffrey Chaucer's bawdy Wife of Bath to James Joyce's stately, plump Buck Mulligan, from Elizabeth Bishop's "manmoth" to Toni Morrison's Milkman, the study of imaginative literature is justified not only by the greatness of individual works but by the insights such works give into the origins of cultures, individuals, and modes of perception. Students study literary achievement both in its own terms and in the context of the many cultural traditions that co-exist under the word English (African-American, feminist, Irish, Anglo-Saxon, for example). With one of the most distinguished faculties in the country, the department provides a great multiplicity of approaches to English and American literature, offering courses not only in the major literary periods, but in particular genres (novel, lyric, epic, comedy), in individual authors, in comparative literature, in literary theory, and in such specialized areas as linguistics, film, and folklore. The writing program includes courses in poetry and fiction writing, as well as advanced composition and journalism.

Faculty   English majors have access to a large and varied group of internationally renowned experts engaged in exploring different aspects of literature. The number of publications, grants, and fellowships of the faculty constitutes one of the most impressive compilations of any department in the country. The department has never tried to concentrate on any one area of literature or on a single critical orientation. Rather, the department has gathered a lively diversity of professors with strengths in every facet of literary endeavor. In addition to those who concentrate their study in historical periods from medieval to modern, the faculty also contains folklore specialists, linguistic specialists, film critics, psychoanalytic critics, biographers, philosophers of the theory of criticism, and specialists in the relation of literature to culture. For those students who wish to develop special skills in writing, the faculty includes practicing journalists, fiction writers, and poets, some of whose awards include the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and membership in the Academy of Arts and Letters.

Since there is a large faculty, the student-faculty ratio in the department is low, at approximately 8:1. In many cases, students who demonstrate initiative and potential may work on an independent study basis with a faculty member. This mentor relationship can prove to be invaluable in developing research skills.

Students   With nearly 400 majors, English is one of the largest departments at the University. This is in part due to the outstanding reputation the department enjoys around the country and around the world. It is also due to the exceptionally varied offerings of the department.

Students begin their study of English with an introductory seminar. These are limited to twenty-two students and their focus can be quite broad (e.g., Studies in Poetry) or relatively narrow (e.g., The Black Image in the White Mind). Majors then move on to upper-level survey courses and advanced seminars. The 300-level survey courses tend to be lecture courses covering broad topics (e.g., American Literature before 1865; Literature of the Renaissance); their enrollments range from under 40 to over 200. Very large lecture courses are supplemented by discussion sections, which are limited to twenty students and led by Ph.D. candidates in the department. Advanced (400-level) seminars are limited to twenty students. All 300- and 400-level courses are taught by faculty.

Students taking courses in the department learn to write effectively and clearly, to think critically and analytically, and to question the works and the world around them. Students are prepared to communicate in a world in which competing discourses proliferate and grow more complex daily.

The skills that majors learn are applicable to virtually any future career choice, although the majority of students use English as preparation for graduate work. Approximately 60 percent of the students who major in English go on to professional or graduate school. Many enter law school, often at top ten programs. Others use English as solid preparation for business school, and an increasingly large number are using it as a humanistic preparation for medicine. A significant number of undergraduate majors go on to study English either in Ph.D. or in M.F.A. programs. Those who do not pursue graduate school find the study of English an excellent preparation for government service, business careers, international agencies, and secondary school teaching.

Prerequisites for Entry into the Department   To declare a major in English, students must achieve a grade of C or better in ENWR 101 (or the equivalent). In addition, all students must achieve a grade of C or better in any ENLT 200-level course which has been designated as satisfying the prerequisite for the English major. Such courses are indicated in each semester's Course Offering Directory by the letter M after their course number (e.g., ENLT 226M). Students should consult the directory (or the department's booklet of course descriptions) to ascertain what ENLT “M” courses are currently being offered.

Requirements for Major   A student planning to declare a major in English should first read the booklet “Undergraduate Study in English,” available in the Undergraduate English Office (236 Bryan Hall). They should then make an appointment to see the Director of Undergraduate Studies in English or one of the two undergraduate advisors.

For a degree in English, a student must take ten upper-division courses (those numbered 300 or above). The prerequisite ENLT M course is not included among these ten courses. All majors must take the three-semester survey sequence, ENGL 381, 382, 383 (History of Literatures in English). Majors must also take:

  1. Shakespeare (ENRN 321, 322, 323 or a 400-level seminar).
  2. One course in medieval (ENMD), Renaissance (ENRN), or eighteenth-century (ENEC) literature. Courses in Shakespeare may not be used to satisfy this requirement.
  3. One course in nineteenth-century (ENNC), twentieth-century (ENTC), or American (ENAM) literature.
  4. One 400-level seminar.

Students may offer three credits of course work in the literature of another language (taught in translation or in the original) or CPLT 201/ENLT 215 or CPLT 202/ENLT 216 for credit toward their English major. No more than nine credits offered toward the English major may be in any one of the distribution categories (ENMD, ENRN, ENEC, ENNC, ENTC, ENAM, ENCR, ENGN, ENGL, ENWR, ENSP). However, students participating in the Distinguished Majors Program are allowed to take a fourth course in the ENGL category, while students enrolled in an area program (e.g., modern studies) may take a fourth course under an appropriate rubric. Students who elect to take more than 32 credits of English may, of course, go over the nine credit limit in any category in choosing their electives. Normally, only courses numbered through the 500-level are open to undergraduates.

Majors must maintain at least a 2.0 in their English courses each semester. Students who fail to maintain this average are put on departmental probation. If the problem continues, they may be invited to declare a different major.

Special Programs in English
Enrollment   Admission to advanced creative writing undergraduate seminars is by permission of the instructor only. Students should apply to the instructor during registration. Students wishing to take Independent Study (ENGL 493, 494, or ENWR 495, 496) should apply to the Director of the Undergraduate Program. Students wishing to write an honors thesis (ENGL 491-492) should apply to the Director of the Distinguished Majors Program.

Independent Study   Only one semester of independent study (in writing or literature) can be counted toward the English major; students should apply to the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the semester before the semester in which they wish to pursue their project.

For students who want to work on an individual critical enterprise under the direction of a faculty member, ENGL 493 or 494 allows considerable flexibility. There are no formal limitations on the project's nature, so long as a faculty member is willing to direct it and so long as the proposed course of study does not duplicate what is already available in regular courses. The student and faculty member determine the length of the reading list and the nature of the written or oral work required. Students may register for this course only if they have completed four 300- or 400-level courses and have a GPA in English of at least 3.3. They should have their projects at least roughly defined when they submit their applications to the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Students who wish to pursue an independent project in creative writing may do so under the rubrics ENWR 495, 496. Once they have found a faculty member who is willing to direct their work, they should apply to the Director of Undergraduate Studies for approval of their plans. Students who wish to enroll in ENWR 495 or 496 must have completed four 300- or 400-level courses and have better than a 3.3 GPA in the major.

Distinguished Majors Program   Majors who wish to be considered for a degree with distinction, high distinction, or highest distinction in English are expected to complete at least two 400-level seminars and the two-semester distinguished majors tutorial (ENGL 491, 492). In the tutorial, these students pursue a project of their own devising which they would not have the opportunity to develop in the department's regularly scheduled courses. The reading requirements for the project are determined by the student and the faculty member who has agreed to direct the enterprise, and each student produces a long essay (approximately 50 pages), carefully revised for final submission to the Honors Committee. In awarding honors, the committee considers (1) two faculty evaluations of the thesis; (2) the quality of the student's work in any 400-level English seminars taken; and (3) the student's overall performance in the major. Using these criteria, the committee recommends either no distinction, distinction, high distinction, or highest distinction.

Students who wish to be admitted to the Distinguished Majors Program must have a GPA of 3.6 in the major and 3.4 overall, and must submit a formal application to the Director of the Distinguished Majors Program in early April of their third year.

Requirements for Minor   Students wishing to minor in English must complete 21 credits of upper-division English courses (numbered 300 or above). The 21 credits must include the three-semester sequence ENGL 381, 382 and 383, (History of Literatures in English). With the exception of ENGL, no more than six credits may be in any one of the following distribution categories: ENMD, ENRN, ENEC, ENNC, ENTC, ENAM, ENCR, ENGN, ENWR, and ENSP.

Area Programs in English   The English department's area programs are interdisciplinary in focus and offer majors the opportunity to examine the interrelationships between literature and history, religion, philosophy and the fine arts. Each area program has its own formal requirements, but all of them ask the student to take courses both in the English department and in other departments of the University. All of them include special seminars and colloquia—sometimes limited to students enrolled in the area program—which are expressly designed to help students formulate the methods of interdisciplinary study, and to synthesize material from other areas.

The area programs currently offered are medieval and Renaissance studies, American studies, and modern studies. These programs are very demanding and may require more credits than the regular English major. Students should ideally apply to them no later than the end of their second year. A full description of each program's individual requirements and the names of their current directors may be found in the handbook Undergraduate Study in English.

Additional Information   For more information, contact Pam Marcantel, Undergraduate Secretary, Department of English, 236 Bryan Hall, Charlottesville, VA 22903; (804) 924-7887; Fax: (804) 924-1478; mpm3a@virginia.edu.

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