Students read and discuss passages from a book as Ron Harris, instructional coordinator in the Department of English, teaches a class called Outstanding Figures in Literature

The English major teaches students to appreciate and use the English language and literature effectively for critical thinking, effective communication, citizenship, and career success. English majors build strong writing skills and engage in high-level critical and analytical thinking. They encounter enriching, enduring, experimental, and complex works of literature. And they grapple with perspectives far distant from their own, examining their deepest values. Instructors introduce students to a wide range of genres and cultural perspectives, and pay close attention to all aspects of student thinking and writing, from logic and evidence to originality and style. Fostering communication skills, stimulating creativity, developing cultural sensitivity, and sharpening analytical abilities, the English major prepares students for a broad range of careers.

English majors choose one of three tracks: the general major (which emphasizes literary and cultural studies), creative writing, or language and linguistics. All majors take a core curriculum that introduces them to a range of approaches to literature and language, including courses in literary and cultural history. Students who opt for the general major build on core courses with intermediate and advanced classes that focus on texts from across a range of periods and places, investigating literature and culture using multiple methods and approaches. Students pursuing the emphasis on creative writing take the core curriculum with a sequence of creative writing workshops. Students wishing to emphasize language and linguistics choose options in grammar, the history of the English language, phonology, and language acquisition.

Teaching Major

Those who wish to prepare for teaching careers at the secondary level should complete the undergraduate English major and then apply for a teaching certificate or graduate education program. For further information, students should make an appointment with the undergraduate advisor in English or the graduate advisor in curriculum and instruction.

There are no admission requirements for the major.  Students interested in declaring the major should schedule an appointment with the undergraduate academic advisor listed in the Contact Box on the right sidebar of this page.

University General Education Requirements

All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.

General Education
  • Breadth—Humanities/Literature/Arts: 6 credits
  • Breadth—Natural Science: 4 to 6 credits, consisting of one 4- or 5-credit course with a laboratory component; or two courses providing a total of 6 credits
  • Breadth—Social Studies: 3 credits
  • Communication Part A & Part B *
  • Ethnic Studies *
  • Quantitative Reasoning Part A & Part B *

* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.

College of Letters & Science Degree Requirements: Bachelor of Science (B.S.)

Students pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in the College of Letters & Science must complete all of the requirements below. The College of Letters & Science allows this major to be paired with either the Bachelor of Arts or the Bachelor of Science degree requirements.


Mathematics Complete two courses of 3+ credits at the Intermediate or Advanced level in MATH, COMP SCI, or STAT subjects. A maximum of one course in each of COMP SCI and STAT subjects counts toward this requirement.
Foreign Language Complete the third unit of a foreign language.
L&S Breadth Complete:
• 12 credits of Humanities, which must include at least 6 credits of Literature; and
• 12 credits of Social Science; and
• 12 credits of Natural Science, which must include 6 credits of Biological Science and 6 credits of Physical Science.
Liberal Arts and Science Coursework Complete at least 108 credits.
Depth of Intermediate/Advanced Coursework Complete at least 60 credits at the Intermediate or Advanced level.
Major Declare and complete at least one major.
Total Credits Complete at least 120 credits.
UW-Madison Experience Complete both:
• 30 credits in residence, overall, and
• 30 credits in residence after the 86th credit.
Quality of Work • 2.000 in all coursework at UW–Madison
• 2.000 in Intermediate/Advanced level coursework at UW–Madison


Non–L&S students who have permission from their school/college to pursue an additional major within L&S only need to fulfill the major requirements. They do not need to complete the L&S Degree Requirements above.

Requirements for the Major

30 credits in intermediate- and advanced-level ENGL courses numbered 204 and higher.1


Survey of Literature
ENGL 241 Literature and Culture I: to the 18th Century3
ENGL 242 Literature and Culture II: from the 18th Century to the Present3
American Literature (1 course)3
Vladimir Nabokov: Russian and American Writings
American Literary Cultures
Literature by American Indian Women
Women in Ethnic American Literature
A Survey of Asian American Literature
Major American Poets
Modern and Contemporary American Literature
Chicana/o and Latina/o Literatures
African and African Diaspora Literature and Culture
Topic in Early American Literature and Culture
A Study of an Outstanding Figure or Figures in American Literature
Topic in Nineteenth-Century American Literature and Culture
Topic in American Literature and Culture since 1900
Major American Writer or Writers
Three American Novelists
Topics in Ethnic and Multicultural Literature
Race and Sexuality in American Literature
Asian American Women Writers
Asian American Poetry
Topic in Contemporary Literature
Jewish Literatures in Diaspora
Feminist Theory and Women's Writing in English
Literature of Jewish Identity in America
Selected Topics in Afro-American Literature
Pre-1800 course (two course)6
You may take one (only) Shakespeare course:
Shakespearean Drama
Shakespearean Drama
Early Works of Shakespeare
Later Works of Shakespeare
You must take at least one course that is not Shakespeare:
The Sixteenth Century
Seventeenth-Century Literature and Culture
Eighteenth Century Literature and Culture
Stage and Page in the Long Eighteenth Century
Eighteenth-Century Novel
The Anglo-Saxons
Outstanding Figure(s) in Literature before 1800
Topic in Medieval Literature and Culture
Medieval Drama
Medieval Romance
Chaucers Courtly Poetry
Chaucer's Canterbury Tales
Topic in Early Modern Literature and Culture
Topic in Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture
Old English
Advanced Old English Literature
Discourses of Disability, Antiquity to 1800
Topic in Travel Writing before 1800
ENGL 245 Seminar in the Major3
Language or Composition & Rhetoric (1 course)3
Studies in Writing, Rhetoric, and Literacy
The English Language
Composition & Rhetoric In and Beyond the University
Advanced Composition
Race, Sex, and Texts (How to do things with writing)
Seminar on Tutoring Writing Across the Curriculum
Topics in Composition and Rhetoric
any course from ENGL 204-699 1
Total Credits30

 excluding ENGL 207 and ENGL 236.

Named Options

Students may complete a named option, instead of the traditional English major. These are formally printed on the transcript.


2.000 GPA in all ENGL courses and all major courses

2.000 GPA on at least 15 credits of upper-level work in the major, taken in residence2

15 credits in ENGL, taken on the UW–Madison campus


 Intermediate and Advanced level ENGL courses are considered upper level in the major.

Honors in the Major

Students may declare Honors in the English major with permission of the major advisor. All English majors, including those declared in either named option, are eligible to complete Honors in the major.


To earn Honors in the Major in English, students must satisfy both the requirements for the major and the following additional requirements:

  • Earn a 3.300 University GPA
  • Earn a 3.500 GPA in all ENGL courses and all major courses
  • Complete 12 credits, taken for Honors, with a grade of B or better to include:
    • ENGL 245 and
    • Either:
      • a two-semester Senior Honors Thesis in ENGL 681 and ENGL 682 for a total of 6 credits, or
      • a senior Honors project that includes ENGL 680 and one other 3-credit I/A ENGL course taken for Honors OR
      • ENGL 695 and one other ENGL Creative Writing Workshop taken for Honors

University Degree Requirements

Total Degree To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.
Residency Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.
Quality of Work Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.
  1. (History of literature and language) To demonstrate knowledge of major forms, techniques, social conditions, values, and genres that have shaped the history of English literature and language.
  2. (Critical thinking) To be able to discern and integrate divergent and contradictory perspectives, identify and question assumptions, and assess evidence and methods.
  3. (Creativity) To generate original ideas and texts, experimenting and taking risks, solving problems, and answering questions in a range of genres and media.
  4. (Critical writing) To write original, coherent, and compelling arguments that push beyond summary to analysis and independent and critical thinking in clear prose that meets expectations for grammatical correctness.
  5. (Citizenship) To develop empathy by learning about the experiences of others, and to gain an understanding of how we participate in communities (including the classroom) and the public sphere.

Sample Four-Year Plan

This Sample Four-Year Plan is a tool to assist students and their advisor(s). Students should use it—along with their DARS report, the Degree Planner, and Course Search & Enroll tools—to make their own four-year plan based on their placement scores, credit for transferred courses and approved examinations, and individual interests. As students become involved in athletics, honors, research, student organizations, study abroad, volunteer experiences, and/or work, they might adjust the order of their courses to accommodate these experiences. Students will likely revise their own four-year plan several times during college.

First Year
Communication A (complete during your first year)3Ethnic Studies3
Quantitative Reasoning A (complete during your first year)3Foreign Language (if required)4
Foreign Language4Social Science Breadth3
Social Science Breadth4Physical Science Breadth3
 14 16
Second Year
Quantitative Reasoning B4ENGL 201 or 207 (COM-B)3
ENGL 2413ENGL 2423
ENGL 2453English Language or Composition/Rhetoric Requirement3
Social Science Breadth3-4Social Science Breadth3
INTER-LS 2101Biological Science Breadth3
 15 15
Third Year
Declare the Major (before 86 credits)1Pre-1800 Literature Requirement3
Natural Science Breadth3English I/A Elective3
Elective3Natural Science Breadth3
American Literature3Elective3
Pre-1800 Literature Requirement23Elective3
 15 15
Fourth Year
English I/A Elective3English I/A Elective3
 15 15
Total Credits 120



Students must declare a major before 86 credits.


See your major advisor if you want to declare English/Creative Writing, Honors in the English major, or plan to study abroad.

Please refer to the Requirements tab in Guide for additional College of Letters & Science Breadth and Degree Requirements as well as Residence and Quality of Work requirements for the major.

Sample Three-Year Plan

This Sample Three-Year Plan is a tool to assist students and their advisor(s). Students should use it —along with their DARS report, the Degree Planner, and Course Search & Enroll tools — to make their own three-year plan based on their placement scores, credit for transferred courses and approved examinations, and individual interests.

Three-year plans may vary considerably from student to student, depending on their individual preparation and circumstances. Students interested in graduating in three years should meet with an advisor as early as possible to discuss feasibility, appropriate course sequencing, post-graduation plans (careers, graduate school, etc.), and opportunities they might forgo in pursuit of a three-year graduation plan.

Departmental Expectations

Students planning to graduate within three years with an English major should enter the University with a minimum of 30 advanced standing credits, and have satisfied the following requirements with course credit or via placement examination:

  • Communication Part A
  • Quantitative Reasoning Part A
  • 18 combined credits of Humanities, Social Science, and Natural Science coursework
  • 3-4 units of foreign language
First Year
Ethnic Studies3ENGL 201 or 207 (meets Communication B)3
Literature Breadth3ENGL 241 or 2423
Science Breadth3Physical Science Breadth3
Social Science Breadth3Social Science Breadth3
Foreign Language (if interested in retroactive credit or to reach 4 units) or Elective3Elective3
 15 15
Second Year
ENGL 241 or 2423Pre-1800 Literature course3
ENGL 2453ENGL Elective3
English Language or Composition & Rhetoric course3Social Science Breadth or Elective (Intermediate or Advanced level)3
Quantitative Reasoning B (if B.A.) or Elective (if B.S.)3Intermediate or Advanced COMP SCI, MATH, or STAT (if B.S.) or Elective (Intermediate or Advanced level) (if B.A.)3
Social Science Breadth3Elective (Intermediate or Advanced level)3
 15 15
Third Year
American Literature course3ENGL Elective3
Pre-1800 Literature course3ENGL Elective3
Biological Science Breadth3Intermediate or Advanced COMP SCI, MATH, or STAT (if B.S.) or Elective (Intermediate or Advanced level) (if B.A.)3
Science Breadth or Elective3Electives (Intermediate or Advanced level)6
Elective (Intermediate or Advanced level)3 
 15 15
Total Credits 90

Academic advising

The English department supports majors and perspective majors by offering a comprehensive advising team based on your personal interests. You will find us on the 7th floor of the Helen C. White Building, next to Memorial Union. Our team is here to support students holistically as they navigate their time at UW.  To meet our advisors, visit our undergraduate advising page for more information, including how to schedule an appointment.


Career & Internship Coordinator
7195E Helen C. White, 600 North Park Street
English Career Advising

The English Department encourages our majors to begin working on their career exploration and preparation soon after declaring the major. Our career advisor also partners with SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science. L&S graduates are in high demand by employers and graduate programs. It is important to us that our students are career ready at the time of graduation, and we are committed to their success.

L&S career resources

Every L&S major opens a world of possibilities.  SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science helps students turn the academic skills learned in their major, certificates, and other coursework into fulfilling lives after graduation, whether that means jobs, public service, graduate school or other career pursuits.

In addition to providing basic support like resume reviews and interview practice, SuccessWorks offers ways to explore interests and build career skills from their very first semester/term at UW all the way through graduation and beyond.

Students can explore careers in one-on-one advising, try out different career paths, complete internships, prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications, and connect with supportive alumni and even employers in the fields that inspire them.


Professors: Auerbach, Barry, Bearden, Begam, Bernard-Donals, Bow, Britland, Castronovo, A. Dharwadker, V. Dharwadker, Foys, Guyer, Hill, Johnson, Kercheval, Nguyen, Olaniyan, Ortiz-Robles, Purnell, Raimy, Sherrard-Johnson, Shreve, Wanner, M. Young, Yu, Zimmerman

Associate Professors: Allewaert, Calhoun, Cooper, Druschke, Fawaz, Neyrat, Olson, Samuels, Trotter, Vareschi, Wells, Zweck

Assistant Professors: Amine, Cho, Edoro, Fecu, Grunewald, Huang, Lagman

Writing Center

The Writing Center, located in 6171 Helen C. White Hall, offers free individualized help with writing. Students are welcome to come to the center for help with writing assignments in almost any course. In half-hour tutorials, instructors help students clarify and organize ideas and offer advice about revising a draft. The center also offers short-term classes on various facets of writing, including classes on writing about literature, writing research papers, writing book reviews, writing essay exams, and on many other topics. The Writing Center also has a computer lab.

To make an appointment, students should call 263-1992 or stop by when the center is open. During busy times of the semester, the center often is booked several days in advance, so students should plan ahead. For complete information about the center, including hours, schedules for writing assistance in the Multicultural Student Center and residence halls, extensive handouts about writing, and information about the Undergraduate Writing Fellows program, see the center website.