English has long been one of the most prestigious departments at the University, and it consistently ranks among the top departments in the nation. From Edgar Allan Poe’s days on the West Range in the 1820s, through William Faulkner’s celebrated residency in the late 1950s, to the two department faculty who have served as recent U.S. Poets Laureate, Rita Dove and Charles Wright, UVa English boasts an illustrious history and stature among humanities programs worldwide.

The department studies British, American, and global Anglophone literatures from the early Middle Ages to the present day, and imparts methods of critical reading and writing. All English majors receive a firm grounding in the history of literatures in English, an expansive vision that links cultural heritage to urgent contemporary concerns. Majors become proficient at the analysis and interpretation of texts, and learn to express themselves in writing with precision, elegance, and persuasion. In addition to reading books beloved through the generations, the study of English enables students to grapple with questions of existence, beauty, desire, and power that are fundamental to the human condition.

The UVa English major delivers an esteemed and distinctive preparation for a wide range of careers and professions. Upon graduation, majors regularly and successfully enter careers in business, government, the media, the arts, teaching, and administration; many go on to graduate study in law, business, medicine, creative writing, and humanities doctoral programs. Recruiters in many fields identify the strengths for which UVa English graduates are known—critical reading and writing prowess—as highly coveted and increasingly rare in today’s emerging workforce.


With more than sixty faculty members, the department offers students the opportunity to study closely with diverse and renowned scholars and teachers. Professors specialize in every facet of literary endeavor, from historical periods of literature, to literary theory, to the practice of writing, to interdisciplinary studies. English faculty have published hundreds of influential books, edited many of the most important editions and collections of literary works, and garnered awards including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the MacArthur “Genius Grant,” and numerous Guggenheim Fellowships, N.E.H. Fellowships, and elections to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.


With around 400 majors, English is one of the larger undergraduate programs at the University.  English stands out among other programs this size in that the great majority of courses for the major are offered as professor-led seminars, rather than large lecture courses.

In addition to fostering close interaction between faculty and undergraduates in the classroom, the department offers six optional area programs within the major that allow students to pursue particular areas of interest intensively and with structure.  The department also actively supports study abroad, double majors, and other means by which students design their undergraduate educations to reflect their personal interests and goals. A faculty advisor works with each student throughout to ensure a coherent, intentional, and rewarding program of study.



The prerequisite: Students may take one of two paths into the major.

  1. In the recommended path, students complete one ENGL 2500-level course with a grade of C- or better. This course prepares students for upper-division departmental coursework, and also provides three hours of credit toward the major.

  2. In the alternative path, a student who takes any two upper-division courses in the department (3000-level or above, in literature not creative writing), with an average grade of B across those courses, may declare the major without enrolling in an ENGL 2500-level course. Again, these courses provide credit toward the major.


The program of study: The degree in English requires ten courses (30 credits), as specified below. All courses must be at the upper-division level (numbered 3000 or above), with the exception of the single ENGL 2500-level prerequisite course.


  1. Two courses in the “History of Literatures in English” sequence: ENGL 3001 and 3002.

  2. One course in literature before 1700 and one course in literature 1700-1900

  3. One 4000- or 5000-level seminar in literature.

  4. Elective courses to bring the total number of courses to ten. Most students will need five electives, not including the single ENGL 2500-level course, in addition to fulfilling the requirements above.


Additional rules:

  1. Eight of the ten courses for the major must be taken in the English department at UVa. With permission of the Director of the Undergraduate Program, up to two major electives may be taken either in other departments on campus, or as transfer credit from other institutions, including study abroad programs. Courses taken outside the department may not fulfill distribution requirements.

  2. One of the two courses from outside the department allowed to count as a major elective may be in the literature of a language other than English, taught either in that language or in translation. These courses may be taught at the 2000-level or above. Grammar and composition courses do not count.

  3. No more than three courses in total may fall under the writing program rubrics (ENWR and ENCW).

  4. A minimum GPA of 2.0 in major courses is required. Courses in which a student receives a grade lower than C- will not count toward the major.

  5. Independent study: Only one semester of independent study, in literature or writing, may be counted toward the major. Students may apply to take an independent study only if they have completed four 3000- or 4000-level courses in English and they have achieved a major GPA of at least 3.30. Both ENGL 4993 (critical projects) and ENWR 4993 (creative writing projects) allow considerable flexibility, with no formal limitations on the project’s nature, as long as a faculty member is willing to direct the independent study. To request an independent study course, students (and their faculty advisors) should apply to the Director of the Undergraduate Program in the semester prior to that in which they wish to pursue their project.



The Distinguished Majors Program


Majors who wish to be considered for a degree with distinction, high distinction, or highest distinction in English must have a GPA of 3.700 in the major and 3.600 overall by the spring of the third year, and must submit a formal application to the Director of the Distinguished Majors Program.


In addition to the standard requirements for the English major, candidates for distinction must complete

  1. A second 4000-level seminar in literature
  2. The two-semester Distinguished Majors tutoral (ENGL 4998 and ENGL 4999), taken in the fourth year. Each student in the tutorial produces a long essay (approximately 50 pages).


In awarding distinction, the departmental Honors Committee considers: two faculty evaluations of the thesis essay; the quality of the student’s work in all 4000-level seminars; and the student’s overall performance in the major.



Area Programs


The department offers five area programs. Two programs are interdisciplinary in focus:  Medieval and Renaissance Studies, and Modern and Global Studies (MGS). Two programs allow students to concentrate in the practice of writing: the Area Program in Literary Prose (APLP) and the Area Program in Poetry Writing (APPW). The fifth program, English Literature and Language for Secondary School Teaching, serves students considering a career in teaching, whether or not they are simultaneously enrolled in a degree program in the Curry School of Education.


Each area program modifies the English major program of study as specified below. Some programs admit students by application only, while others are open to all interested. If the area program is selective, students must apply for admission in the spring semester of their second year. For more information about the area programs, including the names of their directors and application procedures, please consult the English department website, english.as.virginia.edu.


The Medieval and Renaissance Studies Concentration in English

Students in the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Concentration in English take at least 30 credits for the major. These must include:

  1. ENGL 3002 History of Literatures in English II (3 credits). ENGL 3001 is encouraged, but not required. Beyond ENGL 3002, further courses in 18th and 19th century English are encouraged, but not required.

  2. At least four other courses (12 credits) in English literature written before 1700, excluding ENGL 3001. At least two of these courses should be at the 4000 or 5000 level.


Outside English: we warmly support Concentrators taking Medieval and Renaissance studies courses in other departments, for example, in Art History, History, Religious Studies, Philosophy, and in literatures in other languages. Consequently, in consultation with the Director of the Concentration, 3 such courses (9 credits) may be counted toward the 30 credits required of the Concentrator. We strongly encourage language acquisition, especially the study of Latin. Thus, language courses taken in excess of the UVa Foreign/World Language Requirement (http://college.as.virginia.edu/competency-requirements) may also be included in the up-to-9 credits students may present towards the major from outside the English Department. Here follows a partial list of courses that qualify for presentation as part of the 9-credit allowance; students should consult the Director of the Concentration about approving others that might enhance their particular plans of study. Courses in the medieval and early modern cultures of Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Africa change topics too often to be included here but are highly recommended.

  • ARTH 2154 – Early Medieval Art
  • ARTH 2154 – Early Christian and Byzantine Art
  • ARTH 2252 – High Renaissance and Mannerist Art
  • ARTH 3591 – Medieval Manuscript Illumination
  • ARTH 2282 – The Age of Rubens and Rembrandt
  • ARTH 4591 – Castles and Cathedrals of the High Middle Ages
  • ARTH 4591 – New Towns of the Middle Ages
  • FRTR 3814 – Gender, Sexuality, Identity in Premodern France
  • FREN 4110 – Medieval Saint’s Lives
  • GETR 3590 – Medieval Stories of Love and Adventure
  • HIEU 2061 – The Birth of Europe
  • HIEU 2111 – The History of England to 1688
  • HIEU 3131 – The World of Charlemagne
  • HIEU 3231 – Reformation Europe
  • HIEU 3321 – The Scientific Revolution, 1450-1700
  • HIEU 3471 – English Legal History to 1776
  • ITTR 2260 – Dante
  • LATI 3090 – Introduction to Mediaeval Latin
  • MSP 3501 – Exploring the Middle Ages
  • PHIL 2110 – History of Philosophy: Ancient and Medieval
  • PHIL 3140 – History of Medieval Philosophy
  • PLPT 3010 – Ancient and Medieval Political Theory
  • RELC 3559 – Medieval Theology
  • SPAN 3400 – Survey of Spanish Literature I, Middle Ages to 1700
  • SPAN 4711 – 1492 and the Aftermath
  • SPTR 3402 – Don Quixote in English

We encourage students in the Medieval and Renaissance Concentration to consider an independent study project with relevant faculty in order to develop specialized research ambitions and, if they are qualified, to consolidate their work by writing a thesis in the English Department’s undergraduate Distinguished Majors Program  (http://english.as.virginia.edu/distinguished-majors).


Modern and Global Studies requirements

Take at least 30 credits of English courses. These must include:

  1. ENGL 3002.

  2. Either ENGL 3001 or a pre-1700 literature class.

  3. One course in literature published between 1700-1900.

  4. Two ENGL 4561 seminars.

  5. Upto four courses outside the department, determined in consultation with the program director, that relate to a particular area of interest concerned with the study of modern and global literature and culture.  GDS 3030/ENGL 3030: Global Cultural Studies may be counted as one of the four interdisciplinary courses; students interested in global issues are especially urged to take it. All electives from other disciplines will normally have to be at the 3000- or 4000-level but some 2000- level courses can also count (usually ones in other language departments, when the literature is offered in translation).

Students are strongly encouraged to write a thesis in the independent study (ENGL 4993) or, if they are qualified, to enter the Distinguished Majors Program (ENGL 4998 and 4999).


Area Program in Literary Prose requirements

Take 30 credits of coursework.  These must include:

  1. ENGL 3001 and ENGL 3002.

  2. One pre-1800 course at the 3000-level or higher.

  3. Four upper-level workshops that must include both fiction and nonfiction and could also, with approval, include poetry.

  4. Two ENCW seminars.

  5. One ENCW senior thesis course.

In the fourth year, students will embark on a directed project that will yield a thesis (40+ pages) of original literary prose.


Area Program in Poetry Writing requirements

Take 30 credits of courses in English.  These must include:

  1. ENGL 3001 and ENGL 3002.

  2. 12 hours of upper-division (3000-level or above) ENCW poetry writing courses or independent studies. Students may count one fiction or creative non-fiction course at the 3000-level or above to fulfill this requirement.

  3. Two Poetry Writing Area Program seminars (ENCW 4820).

  4. One course in literature published before 1800 at the 3000-level or above.

  5. The Capstone Course (ENCW 4910), offered in the spring semester of the fourth year.

When offered, a prosody or other poetic forms class is also recommended.