English Major

Students in classroom.

The English major offers students the tools of close reading, formal analysis, literary history, critical theory, research strategies, and rigorous, respectful debate. We train students to discuss and write critically about the ways literature and language have profoundly influenced the values and lived experience of societies over centuries and across geographical boundaries.

When Iowa English majors head out into the world, we expect that they will carry with them a passion for reading, a commitment to use language self-consciously and ethically, and a readiness to embrace the new experiences that wide reading encourages. We believe the education our majors gain as readers and writers will be invaluable whether they work in education, the arts, business, the nonprofit sector, government, or in other careers. We also believe that lifelong engagement with literature is one of our best hopes for the critical thinking, compassion, inspiration, and action that are crucial to a just society and global community.

As of Fall 2016 there are two majors available.  "English" and "English and Creative Writing".   Please read below to see the difference in requirements.  Both offer similar advantages for employment and graduate school and your choice of major is entirely based on your interest, focus and time in your schedule. 

Quick View:

Major in English:  36 semester hours (approximately 12 courses) including a minimum of 7 literature courses and 1 writing course.  The remaining courses may be made into a concentration in any area (American literature, Literary Theory, British literature, Medieval literature, Transnational and Postcolonial literature or writing). 

Detailed Course Requirements for the English Major 

The major in English requires a minimum of 36 s.h. of coursework (12 courses). Students may count up to 6 s.h. of courses with the prefix CW toward the English major; additional CW courses may be taken as elective credit toward graduation. Coursework is divided into six areas and three historical periods. The area and historical period that each regularly offered course fulfills is identified in the course description on MyUI. Information and course lists are also available from the English advisor and on the department’s website.

All English majors must complete ENGL:2010 Foundations the English Major: Histories, Literatures, Pleasures.

At least one course from each of the following six areas is required:

  • Literary theory and interdisciplinary studies

  • Medieval and early modern literature and culture

  • Modern British literature and culture

  • American literature and culture

  • Transnational literature and postcolonial studies

  • Nonfiction and creative writing

Each student chooses one of the six areas as a concentration area and takes an additional two courses in that area, for a total of three courses (9 or more s.h.) in one area.

Students also must take at least two courses from each of the following three historical periods:

  • Early literatures through the 17th century

  • 18th/19th-century literature

  • 20th/21st-century literature

Since most courses satisfy both an area and a historical period, most students complete the historical period requirements as they complete the area requirements and are able to choose additional elective coursework to complete the major. Of the 36 s.h. required for the major, 15 s.h. may be transferred from another institution. We do not accept online coursework or community college coursework towards the major.  At least 21 s.h. in the major must be taken in residence at The University of Iowa.

Sample Four-Year Graduation Plan for English Major

Sample Four-Year Graduation Plan for English Major emphasizing Creative Writing


Extra-Curriculars for all English majors

English Society (student organization): English Society members are excited to introduce a variety of new initiatives, looking to increase fellowship among English majors and minors and provide service opportunities for literary-minded undergraduates.  In addition to holding monthly meetings and study breaks during finals, the student-run organization will be hosting tea parties where students and professors can enjoy tea and conversation outside the classroom.  This past Fall, the Society unveiled their first ever Gothic Lit Writing contest, allowing students an outlet for their creative efforts and a chance to win a gift card to Prairie Lights and participate in a public reading.  Due to its success, the Society held a Winter Writing contest as well.  Be sure to attend a general meeting on in Gerber Lounge, and keep an eye out on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr for more exciting programming from the English Society in the coming months. The first meeting of 2016 will be Monday, September 12th in Gerber Lounge (304 EPB) at 9 p.m.