BA in English

The central mission of BU’s English department is the study of literature in all its richness and diversity, from the ever-evolving canon of past works in their stylistic and social complexity to the emerging cultural, media, graphic, and digital forms of the 21st century. Our students encounter medieval romances and Shakespearean tragedies, biting social satires and meditative lyrics, realist novels and avant-garde writing, Hollywood movies, graphic novels, slave narratives, and performance art—among many other forms. In exploring such works and different theories of literary and cultural study, English students develop the critical, linguistic, and imaginative skills required to grasp not only the histories of earlier cultures, but also how these histories have influenced the cultural productions that define our contemporary world.

Most English courses are seminar-size (under 20 students), offering individual attention and energetic dialogue with peers. Our courses emphasize attentive reading, rigorous analysis, original thinking, effective writing, and careful research. Students develop these capacities with some of the best teachers at BU: our faculty have won over a dozen teaching and advising awards, including several Metcalf Awards, the University’s highest teaching honor.

As English majors or minors, students choose from a wide range of courses and paths. Our major requires 10 English courses, structured to include a variety of texts, traditions, and theories. Minors take a total of six English courses.

Many students in English pursue internships or study abroad, including in London, Sydney, and Dublin. Information on BU’s Global Programs is available here.

Many majors and minors take courses in the department’s distinguished Creative Writing Program and our nationally renowned Playwriting Program. Numerous English faculty members are affiliated with other programs, such as the Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program; the Core Curriculum; the African Studies Center; African American Studies; Cinema & Media Studies; American & New England Studies; Medieval Studies; the College of Fine Arts; and Boston Playwrights’ Theatre. These affiliations make our department a vital hub for interdisciplinary discussions of gender, race, performance, media, the environment, writing and rhetoric, medicine, migration and diaspora, and social justice.

The skills that our students acquire—patient interpretive reading, lucid persuasive writing, confidence in discussions, thinking outside the box—prepare them for a variety of professional fields, from law and education to journalism, medicine, business, and entertainment. These skills also enable our students to confront the personal and social questions that permeate our lives: What kind of person do I want to be? What values will guide my life? What kind of a future world can we imagine?

Visit the English department’s website for more information about programs, faculty, and up-to-date course listings.

Learning Outcomes

Students graduating with a major in English are expected to demonstrate:

  • A critical understanding of English and American literary culture and its traditions.
  • A critical understanding of at least one area of literary study outside of the English and American canons.
  • Proficiency in written literary analysis, interpretation, and research.
  • Proficiency in the oral discussion of literature.
  • A deepened understanding of literary culture through study abroad, if that is feasible.


All BU undergraduate students, including both entering first-year and transfer students, will pursue coursework in the BU Hub, the University’s general education program that is integrated into the entire undergraduate experience. BU Hub requirements can be satisfied in a number of ways, including coursework in and beyond the major as well as through cocurricular activities. Students majoring in English will ordinarily, through coursework in the major, satisfy many BU Hub requirements in Philosophical Inquiry and Life’s Meanings; Aesthetic Exploration; Historical Consciousness; Individual in Community; Global Citizenship and Intercultural Literacy; Ethical Reasoning; Oral and/or Signed Communication; Digital/Multimedia Expression; Critical Thinking; Writing-Intensive Course; and Research & Information Literacy. Remaining BU Hub requirements will be satisfied by selecting from a wide range of available courses or cocurricular activities outside the major.

For students who declare the major in fall 2022 or after, the English major requires a total of 10 courses (4 credits each), all completed with a minimum grade of C.

All English majors must complete:

  • CAS EN 101 Encounters: Reading across Time and Space
  • CAS EN 220 Seminar in Literature

English majors should consult the Undergraduate Coordinator in English to determine which faculty member will serve as their advisor. With the aid of their advisors, students should design a coherent major of at least eight courses beyond CAS EN 101 and CAS EN 220. One course numbered CAS EN 121–201, 203–215, or 221 may count toward the eight additional courses. Of the eight additional courses, at least one course numbered 300 or higher must fall in each of the following four groups.

  • Literature pre-1700: CAS EN 322, 363, 364, 368, 516, 521–526, 551, 552, 561, 565, 566, 577; or courses specified as equivalent in any year.
  • Literature 1700–1900: CAS EN 323, 331–334, 343, 394, 396, 527–534, 545, 553, 573, 581, 589; or courses specified as equivalent in any year.
  • Power, Identity & Difference: CAS EN 326, 347, 370, 371, 386, 393, 396, 481, 484, 537, 572, 586, 587, 588, or any courses specified as equivalent in any year.
  • Concepts and Methods: CAS EN 404, 406–490, 493–498; or courses specified as equivalent in any year.

Upon approval of their advisor and the director of undergraduate studies, students may elect to substitute an upper-level literature course from Classical Studies, Romance Studies, the Editorial Institute, or World Languages & Literatures for one of their eight upper-division course requirements outside of the four categories specified above.

Independent Work for Departmental Honors

Independent Work for Departmental Honors (IWDH) is an opportunity for English majors to conduct in-depth research in an area that interests them during the two semesters of their senior year. The student begins by consulting with a faculty project advisor, who is usually a professor with whom the student has already studied. Together they design a reading and writing schedule as well as complete the IWDH application, due on May 15 of the student’s junior year.

To graduate with departmental honors, students must complete a thesis, which will be presented to a committee of English department faculty at the end of the academic year. The committee will consider both the thesis and the result of the oral examination to determine whether the student will receive honors in the major. A grade of B+ or better in each semester is required to receive departmental honors.