The English Major and Minor

The English Major

The English major at Mount Holyoke offers students an opportunity to study a diverse range of texts written in English, both those comprising the tradition of British and American literature as well as the work of writers from other parts of the world. A student of English should be acquainted with texts from different historical periods and different national traditions, as well as with works in a variety of genres, including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama.

English is a complex field with a variety of intellectual-interpretive approaches. The English department expects each major to take advantage of the variety of departmental offerings by thoughtfully devising her own path of study while gaining familiarity with all genres. Certain core requirements insure exposure to a body of material and a range of critical methodologies generally held to be essential to the mastery of the field.

We encourage our majors to explore the creative process by taking writing courses. We also urge them to link the study of literature in English with the study of history, art, and other literatures. Courses in classical and modern languages and literatures, art history, philosophy, religion, and history complement and supplement courses in English.

The English chapter of the course catalog provides details on credit and course requirements for the major.

The English Minor

Students who minor in English take a minimum of 16 credits (four courses): two courses at the 200 level and two courses at the 300 level. The choice of courses is at the discretion of the student, with no departmental approval required. Members of the department are, of course, available for consultation about possible minor programs, and the approval of the chair is necessary for any exception to the requirements.

The English chapter of the course catalog provides details on credit and course requirements for the minor.

Teacher Licensure in English

Students interested in pursuing licensure in the field of English can combine their course work in English with a minor in education. In some instances course work in the major coincides with course work required for licensure; in other cases, it does not. For specific course requirements for licensure within the major of English, please consult the chair of the English department. For information about the requirements for the minor in education, please consult Teacher Licensure in the Other Degree and Certificate Programs chapter of the course catalog.  Licensure also requires a formal application as well as passing scores on the Massachusetts Test of Educator Licensure (MTEL) in both the literacy component and the subject matter component. Copies of the test objectives for the MTEL are available in the Department of Psychology and Education. Information and materials are available on the Teacher Licensure application website.



English courses at Mount Holyoke offer students an opportunity to study texts and writers from the many cultural traditions that have shaped, and been shaped by, the English language. Our offerings range from Anglo-Saxon England through the twenty-first century and encompass multiple national, racial, and cultural identities. The department’s courses cultivate skills in close reading, critical thinking, and persuasive writing. For students interested in writing, a number of courses offer practical instruction in the techniques of fiction, poetry, and other literary genres, as well as journalism. The major helps prepare students for a wide range of careers, including teaching at all levels, law, business, and graduate study in literature and culture.

The department reflects in its offerings a balanced variety of historical and theoretical approaches to the study of language, literature, and culture. Many courses locate British and American literary texts within their historical contexts; many courses employ approaches drawn from gender studies, queer theory, and postcolonial theory. We regularly offer courses on African American, Asian American, and other ethnically defined American literatures, as well as on writings from Africa, Asia, the Pacific Rim, and Ireland. Some members of the department study visual culture in many different media, including film. The department expects its majors to study texts from a variety of historical periods and challenges students to respond to new questions about the theoretical relationships of literary and cultural forms and historical transformation.