Department of English

  • Chair

    William A. Gleason

  • Associate Chair


    Diana J. Fuss

  • Departmental Representative

    Sophie Gee

  • Director of Graduate Studies

    Sarah Rivett

  • Professor

    Eduardo L. Cadava

    Anne A. Cheng, also American Studies

    Andrew Cole

    Bradin Cormack

    Maria A. DiBattista, also Comparative Literature

    Jill S. Dolan, also Lewis Center for the Arts, Theater

    Jeffrey Dolven

    Diana J. Fuss

    Simon E. Gikandi

    William A Gleason

    Claudia L. Johnson

    Lee C. Mitchell

    Robert Nixon, also Princeton Environmental Institute

    Deborah E. Nord

    Jeff E. Nunokawa

    Esther H. Schor

    D. Vance Smith

    Nigel Smith

    Susan A. Stewart

    Clair  E. Wills

    Susan J. Wolfson

  • Visiting Professor

    Frances Ferguson


  • Associate Professor

    Zahid R. Chaudhary

    Sophie G. Gee

    Joshua I. Kotin

    Meredith Anne Martin

    Sarah Rivett

    Gayle M. Salamon

    Tamsen O. Wolff

  • Assistant Professor

    Sarah Chihaya

    Russell J. Leo

    Christina A. León

    Kinohi Nishikawa, also African American Studies

    Autumn M. Womack, also African American Studies

  • Lecturer

    Sarah M. Anderson

    Nijah Cunningham, also Council of the Humanities and African American Studies

    Monica Huerta, also Council of the Humanities

    Robert N. Sandberg, Lewis Center for the Arts, Theater

  • Associated Faculty

    April Alliston, Comparative Literature

    Leonard Barkan, Comparative Literature

    Anne McClintock, Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies


Information and Departmental Plan of Study

In the Department of English, students read widely across the genres and periods of British, American, and Anglophone literature and explore approaches to literary study with a distinguished, internationally renowned faculty. The department's ranks include historicists and formalists, theorists and poets, and postcolonialists and feminists; the faculty teach not only poetry, prose, and drama, but film, music, art, architecture, and technology. The department is united by a passion for works of the imagination and for thinking about what they mean and the difference they make in the world.

The department offers courses that cover more than two millennia of literature and culture, in settings ranging from large lectures to small seminars to one-on-one advising. A typical program of study embraces new and experimental writing, important rediscoveries, and the most hallowed texts of the Western literary tradition, the "news that stays news." The department cultivates a common critical vocabulary and joins in debating enduring questions about art, language, and society. The junior year begins with a diverse array of junior seminars, which couple the study of a specific subject with methodological training in critical reading and writing. Juniors and seniors pursue independent work on subjects of their choosing in collaboration with the faculty, and they may elect tracks in British, American, or Anglophone literatures, arts and media, theory and criticism, creative writing, theater and performance studies, or comparative literatures. The department also encourages concentrators who wish to pursue interdisciplinary work through certificate programs.

English concentrators graduate as incisive readers, cogent thinkers, and persuasive writers. They carry with them a lasting ability to take informed pleasure in all forms of literature, in the process of writing, and in the meanings and powers of culture. Graduates go on to become leaders in such fields as education, law, medicine, journalism, business, politics, and the creative arts. Simply put, learning to read closely and write fluently--the twin pillars of the discipline--are among the most valuable skills graduates can bring to the world's work.


English department prerequisites provide a background in literary history and familiarity with one of the major genres. Concentrators take both ENG 200 (British Literature from the 14th to the 18th Centuries) and one of the 200-level Reading Literature courses: ENG 205 (Poetry), ENG 206 (Fiction), ENG 207 (Drama), or ENG 208 (The Essay) or ENG 209 (Theory).

Program of Study

English concentrators must take a total of 11 courses: two 200-level prerequisites, the Junior Seminar, and eight departmental courses, seven of which must be at the 300 level or above. With the permission of the departmental representative, concentrators may count one cognate course from another department, where that course adds depth or perspective to their studies in English. (Some optional tracks may permit more cognates or specify their nature: see below.)

Distribution Requirements. Departmental distribution requirements ensure historical and generic breadth in each concentrator's program of study. Foundations (two courses in British literature before 1800, only one of which can be Shakespeare, and one course in American literature before 1900) grounds concentrators in the history of English. Modernity (one course in literature after 1800) brings them up to date. Diasporas (one course in Anglophone or U.S. minority literatures) explores the racial, cultural, and geographical diversities that inform literary tradition. Theory and Criticism (one course) provides tools for thinking critically across all these periods, identities, and genres. Each semester, the department offers a wide variety of courses in each area, and a full list is available on the department website. (By arrangement with the departmental representative, some courses may satisfy two requirements simultaneously.)

A few rules regarding departmental courses:

  • Concentrators may not pass/D/fail English courses. This includes cross-listed courses, even if English is not the home department.
  • Students who study abroad may count two courses per semester abroad toward your departmentals. The exception to this is the Junior Seminar in London: students may count two classes plus the seminar.
  • Cross-listed courses do not count against the Rule of 12 so long as the home department is not English.
  • In the Department of English, it is not permissible to drop the lowest-graded departmental course from your average.


Optional tracks offer the chance for students with special interests to focus their programs of study within the discipline of English and on questions that lie between disciplines. Concentrators may elect a track at any time: a junior may already know she wants to focus on literary theory; a second-semester senior may realize he has been writing about literature and the arts all along. Some tracks, however, have more requirements than others (arts and media, theater and performance studies, and creative writing in particular), and students are advised to make a start as early as the sophomore year.

Literature, Culture, Language
Concentrators may focus on a particular national or international body of work: British, American, or Anglophone.

Literature and culture of the British Isles. Requirements: four courses in British literature; one junior paper and the senior thesis on a British topic. One cognate course in another department (history, art and archaeology, etc.) on a British topic may be counted.

Literature and culture of the territories that became the United States, from native peoples and the first European settlers to the present day. Requirements: four courses in American literature (including at least one of ENG 201, ENG 353, or ENG 366); one junior paper and the senior thesis on an American topic. One cognate course in another department (history, art and archaeology, etc.) on an American topic may be counted. This track is often combined with a certificate in American studies or African American studies.

Literature and culture of English as a global language. Requirements: four courses in Anglophone literature; one junior paper and the senior thesis on an Anglophone topic. Up to two cognate courses in another department (history, art and archaeology, etc.) on an Anglophone topic may be counted.

Arts and Media
Literature in relation to other arts, including architecture, visual art, film, photography, music (classical, popular, or other); and/or in relation to its circumstances of production and transmission, from manuscript to print to radio, television, and the Internet. Requirements: three courses in topics related to the arts and media, including up to two cognates from other departments; one junior paper and the senior thesis on a related topic.

Comparative Literatures
English in relation to the literature of another language. Requirements: at least three and no more than four 300-level courses in a single foreign language (with no other cognates permitted); one junior paper and the senior thesis on a comparative topic (including translation). With permission of the departmental representative, some foreign language classes may be used to satisfy the departmental distribution requirements.

Theory and Criticism
For students interested in thinking about the underlying principles by which we understand literature. Considers the history and theory of literary interpretation from Plato to the present, including such methods and movements as linguistics, structuralism, feminism, psychoanalysis, Marxism, cultural studies, gender and sexuality studies, race studies, postcolonial studies, and deconstruction. Requirements: three courses in literary or cultural theory and literary criticism, including either ENG 305 or ENG 306; one junior paper and the senior thesis on a topic in theory and criticism, or making imaginative use of critical methodologies.

Theater and Performance Studies
A home for the study of dramatic literature, performance culture, and/or performance studies. Includes traditional theater, live and recorded music, popular culture performances, avant-garde arts, stand-up comedy, street theater, contemporary dance, and slam poetry. Requirements: one introductory class in theater by the end of sophomore year; at least two and not more than three 300- or 400-level courses in theater, counted as departmental courses (no other cognates are allowed); departmental courses must also include one upper-level Shakespeare course, one course in drama and/or performance before 1700, and one course in drama and/or performance after 1700; one junior paper and the senior thesis on a related topic.

Creative Writing
Students elect the creative writing track provisionally; final admission depends on the permission of the Program in Creative Writing to write a creative thesis. The Department of English recommends that students take at least one 200-level creative writing course by the end of sophomore year. Requirements: a minimum of two and a maximum of three courses at the 300 level or above in creative writing counted as departmental courses (no other cognates are allowed); creative thesis. Students not approved to write a creative thesis revert to one of the other tracks. One 300-level creative writing class may be used as a cognate.

Individual Program of Study
By special arrangement with the departmental representative, students may design an interdisciplinary track in an area not covered by the above, counting two cognates taken in other departments toward their eight departmentals.

Cognates. Concentrators are ordinarily allowed one cognate course (a course in another department that is counted toward the requirements of the Department of English). Cognates should have a bearing on your studies in English (a history course in a period or place whose literature you have studied, a course in related literature of another language, etc.), and they must be approved by the departmental representative. (You can request approval by email.)

Independent Work

Concentrators write one junior paper, which is begun in conjunction with the fall junior seminar but completed in the spring semester of the junior year. The senior thesis is written with an adviser chosen in the spring of junior year.

The Junior Seminar. An introduction to the methods of research and the arts of criticism, taken in the fall of junior year. Concentrators choose one from a menu of five or six seminars when they sign into the department as sophomores. The courses are topical (ranging from Emily Dickinson to "Theater and Sacrifice"), but all of them involve intensive practice in the reading and writing of literary criticism. The fall junior paper is begun in conjunction with the seminar, with the seminar instructor continuing as adviser throughout the spring.

During the junior fall, students should plan a program of departmental courses for the next two years.The planned course work for the junior spring and senior year should be discussed with the junior seminar leader, who signs the TiberHub (link is external) sheet and acts as the junior adviser during the fall term.

The Senior Theses. For English concentrators, senior theses are 60-75 pages in length, on a topic chosen in collaboration with the thesis adviser and approved by the committee of departmental studies. One chapter or 20 pages of the thesis is due in December.


Comprehensive examinations are set at the end of the senior year, in two four-hour parts on successive days. The first day consists of 15 to 20 passages from the full range of genres, periods, and geographies taught in the department; students write about three. The second day poses questions on period, genre, and theory.

The Rule of 12 
A student in the A.B. program is limited to 12 one-term courses (plus independent work) in a given department, plus up to two departmental prerequisites taken during the freshman or sophomore year. Students who exceed the 31-course requirement for graduation may exceed the Rule of 12 by as many courses (e.g., if you take 32 courses total, you can exceed the rule of 12 by one course). For most English concentrators, this means only 12 courses primarily designated as English courses (ENG courses or cross-listed courses where ENG comes first--e.g., ENG 327/GSS 332). Departmental cognates do not count against the Rule of 12.

Honors in English at graduation are computed according to the following percentages:

  • Departmentals (excluding the Junior Seminar) 50%
  • Thesis 25%
  • Junior Independent Work: 10% junior paper; 5% Junior Seminar
  • Comprehensives 10 percent

Further Information, consult the departmental representative and the department's website.

Study Abroad

The department encourages students to consider studying abroad for a semester or a year. We especially invite students to consider the junior fall term at University College London. There students attend a special Junior Seminar with a visiting Princeton professor and receive direct supervision for the fall junior paper while also attending courses taught through the University of London.

Courses taken abroad may, with approval, receive both departmental and distribution credit (in general, the department can accept two or three courses for each semester abroad). Students considering study abroad should consult the departmental representative at an early stage.

Certificate Programs
The department encourages concentrators to pursue certificates from other programs in conjunction with their studies in English. The creative writing and theater and performance studies tracks are specifically designed to accommodate students seeking the relevant certificates, and most students who specialize in comparative literatures get a certificate in their second language. Concentrators who specialize in American literature, culture, and language will find the program fits well with certificates in American studies or African American studies, but students in almost any track will find that their work in English can be profitably combined with such certificates as gender and sexuality studies, Judaic studies, Latin American studies, medieval studies, visual arts, environmental studies, or other programs.