Department of English
- Simon Gikandi
Director of Undergraduate Studies
Tamsen O. Wolff
Director of Graduate Studies
- Eduardo Cadava
- Eduardo L. Cadava
- Anne Cheng
- Andrew Cole
- Bradin T. Cormack
- Maria A. DiBattista
- Jeffrey A. Dolven
- Diana J. Fuss
- Simon E. Gikandi
- William A. Gleason
- Claudia L. Johnson
- Lee C. Mitchell
- Robert Nixon
- Deborah E. Nord
- Jeffrey E. Nunokawa
- Sarah Rivett
- Gayle M. Salamon
- Esther H. Schor
- Nigel Smith
- D. V. Smith
- Susan A. Stewart
- Susan J. Wolfson
- Zahid R. Chaudhary
- Sophie G. Gee
- Joshua I. Kotin
- Russ J. Leo
- Meredith A. Martin
- Tamsen O. Wolff
- Sarah A. Chihaya
- Monica Huerta
- Christina A. Leon
- Paul Nadal
- Kinohi Nishikawa
- Autumn M. Womack
- Sarah M. Anderson
- Alfred Bendixen
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. 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.
There are no specific prerequisite courses for the concentration in English, but prospective concentrators should take at least one course in English in the first and second years. The department offers several 200-level Gateway Courses each year, both lectures and seminars, which are a particularly good way to begin, although they can be taken at any time.
Program of Study
English concentrators must take a total of 10 courses: the Junior Seminar (ENG 300), one designated course in Literary and Cultural History (LCH), and eight departmental courses. The Junior Seminar is a topical introduction to research methods in the discipline, and prepares students for their independent work. Literary and Cultural History (LCH) courses ask questions about tradition and transmission over longer periods, and provide background for more specialized study.
Departmental distribution requirements ensure breadth in each concentrator's program of study. Everyone must take at least one course in each of the following areas:
- Literature and Culture before 1700 (pre-1700)
- Literature and Culture from 1700-1900 (1700-1900)
- Literature and Culture from 1900-present (post-1900)
- Difference and Diversity (D&D)
- Theory and Criticism (T&C)
Each semester, the department offers a wide variety of courses in each area, and a full list is available on the department website. The course you designate to fulfill your Literary and Cultural History (LCH) requirement cannot be used to satisfy one of the other eight departmental distribution requirements. Beginning with the Class of 2021, a single course cannot be used to satisfy two distribution requirements simultaneously.
A few rules regarding departmental courses:
- Concentrators may not pass/D/fail (P/D/F) English courses. This includes cross-listed courses, even if English is not the home department.
- Students who study abroad may count up to two courses taken abroad as departmental courses. 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.
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 first year 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.
Tracks and Certificate Programs
Tracks in Creative Writing and Theater. The English Department has many concentrators with a strong interest in Creative Writing and Theater, and offers special programs for students pursuing certificates in those closely related subjects.
- Creative Writing: students accepted to the certificate program in Creative Writing may cognate two CWR courses as departmental courses in English and may substitute a thesis in CWR for the thesis in English.
Theater: students accepted to the certificate program in theater may cognate two THR courses as departmental courses in English.
Certificate Programs. English encourages students with interdisciplinary interests to bring them to the Department, and to pursue connections with literary and cultural studies. Students who will receive a certificate in another discipline, and who can show (in their coursework or independent work) vital connections with their studies in English, may count one course in that discipline toward their studies in English, by permission of the Departmental Representative.
The Junior Seminar (ENG 300). The JRS is an introduction to the methods of research and the arts of criticism, taken in the fall of the junior year. During the Sophomore Sign-ins, concentrators can apply to study abroad in London to complete their junior seminar, or they can participate in a lotto draw for placement into one of four seminars at Princeton. The Junior Seminar instructor advises each member of the seminar on class selection for the spring.
The Junior Paper. English requires one 20-30 page JP, which is begun in conjunction with the Junior Seminar, with the seminar instructor continuing as the independet work adviser throughout the spring.
The Senior Thesis. Theses are 60-75 pages in length, on a topic chosen in collaboration with the thesis adviser. One chapter or 20 pages of the thesis is due in December.
Senior Departmental Examination
Comprehensive examinations are set at the end of the senior year, in two four-hour parts on consecutive 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.
Honors in English are computed at graduation according to the following percentages:
- Departmental courses (excluding the Junior Seminar): 50%
- Thesis: 25%
- Junior Independent Work: 10% junior paper; 5% Junior Seminar
- Comprehensive Exams: 10% percent
Note that in English, it is not permissible to drop the lowest-graded departmental course from your average; all departmental courses are counted.
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 courses for study abroad). Students considering study abroad should consult the departmental representative at an early stage.