To study literature in English at Yale is to encounter writing of all genres and periods throughout the history of the language. Whether students choose to study medieval dream visions, Shakespeare’s plays, American slave narratives, modernist poetry, digital literature, or contemporary Anglophone novels from around the world, they gain deeper insight into human experience and emerge as stronger writers and more powerful analytical thinkers.
The undergraduate program in English teaches students foundational research and writing skills while cultivating their powers of argument and analysis. Through the major’s structure—moving from introductory courses in literature and writing to advanced independent research in the junior and senior years—students develop a strong sense of history as it touches, and is expressed within, the verbal arts.
Students interested in creative writing find their studies of literature paired with an array of courses taught by renowned professional writers. Yale’s creative writing program—part of the English major, and not a separate program—is known as one of the strongest in the United States not only for the successes of its faculty, students and alumni, but also for the dedication of its teachers. Yale’s student writers are individually challenged to stretch themselves on the page, to discover in reading, research and their own experience the materials for narrative and lyric innovation. Student writers work in all of the major genres—fiction, poetry, play and film writing, nonfiction prose, journalism—and often enjoy the satisfactions of publication or performance, for both local and national audiences.
The ability to write remains a rare but prized skill in almost every domain of our world, and graduates in English go on to careers in every field of endeavor. Analytic talents honed in the major take them to law school, venture capital, medicine and policy-making. Their skills as writers and speakers lead them to careers in advocacy, publishing, teaching, and the arts. Their knowledge of history and culture allows them to understand the complex social worlds they encounter in their work and family life, in their home countries or abroad.