Requirements of the Major

After a year of broad discussions with students, faculty and the Yale College Committee on Majors, the English Department is pleased to announce a revised set of requirements for the major. These new requirements reflect the department’s sense of the breadth and value inherent in a twenty-first century education in Anglophone literature.

The new structure of requirements gives our students a strong foundation in the history of writing in English over the millennia, while introducing them to writers and periods whose cultures and perspectives might seem remote from their own. The new curriculum is designed to be inclusive in historical and generic range, open to an array of writerly voices and scholarly perspectives, and welcoming to students from different backgrounds with a variety of interests and commitments. The faculty enthusiastically endorses this curriculum and is committed to teaching it to our majors and all other interested students.

A new slate of four foundational courses sits at the heart of the revised major. These courses—in the long tradition of English poetry, in American literature, and in global Anglophone literature—build in diverse perspectives and great cultural and geographical range. Students will choose three of four foundational courses, selecting from ENGL 125 and 126 (English Poetry), ENGL 127 (American Literature) and ENGL 128 (the new course in Global Anglophone Literature). Having taken three of those four, every English major will be prepared for further study in English, American, and world Anglophone literary traditions. ENGL 125 and 126—historic courses that have long been a centerpiece of the curriculum—remain as foundational courses, now embedded in a structure that honors the range and depth of the whole Anglophone tradition.

The revised requirement for historical breadth on the advanced level equally represents the value of the whole body of writing in English. Instead of requiring only work in the early periods, as the major used to do, we now ask students to make sure they read literature across a wide historical spectrum, from the medieval to the 21st century. Each graduating major will have taken one course from each of four broadly-defined periods—including the modern—a plan that both encourages some degree of range and also allows for each student to develop a specific focus and a coherent plan of study.

These changes build on longstanding strengths of our teaching—including our training of students in close reading, especially but not only of poetry, our seminar-style introductory courses with a common curriculum, our historical range, and our interdisciplinary interests—while expanding our course offerings and requirements to reflect the increasing diversity of Anglophone literature.

The new requirements will take effect for the class of 2021. Students currently at Yale will be able to choose between the requirements that were in place when they arrived and the new requirements, as best fits their preferences and coursework to date.