The University of Iowa

Major in English

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.

Course Requirements

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 08C (CW) toward the English major; additional 08C (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 ISIS. Information and course lists are also available from the English advisor and on the department’s website.

All English majors must complete 008:005 (ENGL:2010) Introduction to the English Major: The Theory and Practice of Literary Study.

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. At least 21 s.h. in the major must be taken in residence at The University of Iowa.