English Literature (B.A.)

English Literature (B.A.)

English literature students in group discussion

What is English literature?

English literature is the study of literature written in the English language. In this degree program, you’ll become a skilled reader and interpreter of literary works, films, media creations and cultural phenomena. Understanding literature is multidimensional, and includes the consideration of the artistic, historical, cultural and theoretical contexts that inform imaginative creations. The literature major is well suited for students interested in graduate studies in English or law school.

Why study English literature at UNH?

Our small class sizes allow you to work closely with faculty while exploring English literature in depth. We also offer a variety of special programs, including opportunities abroad studying literature at Cambridge University and travel writing in London. In our Writers and Speakers Series, you’ll hear published writers and prominent literary scholars from around the country talk about their work. Our 3+3 program offers the possibility of earning both a bachelor's degree and a law degree in six – rather than seven – years of study.

Potential careers

  • Business executive
  • Critic
  • Editor
  • Government consultant
  • Lawyer
  • Professor
  • Publisher
  • Writer

Contact

  • English Literature Major and Master of Liberal Studies | Professor
    As an undergrad, I chose literature as my major. I chose it because I love literature. At the time, people didn't think too highly of literature majors. In the workplace today, our critical thinking skills are highly valued. The classes I had in the English Department and Women's Studies stand out...
    English Literature Major and Master of Liberal Studies | Professor
    As an undergrad, I chose literature as my major. I chose it because I love literature. At the time, people didn't think too highly of literature majors. In the workplace today, our critical thinking skills are highly valued. The classes I had in the English Department and Women's Studies stand out...

Curriculum & Requirements

The English literature major serves those students who want to focus particularly on the study of literature — its many forms and styles, its rich history and the range of approaches to its analysis. The English literature track is an especially attractive major for those who plan to go on to graduate school in English or other fields in the humanities, but it is also an excellent program for those who want to develop an in-depth knowledge of literature in English in all its formal, historical, cultural and theoretical dimensions. 

As an English literature major, a student will learn about various literary traditions, both British and American literature as well as traditions organized around other principles, such as post-colonial literature, women's literature, African-American literature and genres like poetry and drama. Courses are designed to expose students to many different sorts of works and to help them develop questions and strategies of critical thinking that will make all kinds of literary expression meaningful. And the works students will study will provide many ways of looking at the world and enrich their quality of life. What's more, students have many opportunities to hone critical writing and research skills and to practice the art of presenting research findings to a group, all skills in high demand in today's workplace. The English literature major is an excellent way to combine development of interpretive and writing skills with an exciting, in-depth encounter with some of the very best writing ever produced in the English language. 

As an English literature major, you must complete a minimum of 40 credits of major coursework with a grade of C- or better, with the exception of ENGL 419 Writing About Literature, which you must complete with a grade of C or better. You may not use ENGL 401 First-Year Writing, ENGL #403 Exploring Literature, ENGL 415s, "Literature and..." courses, or ENGL 444 classes to satisfy major requirements.

A minimum of six courses must be completed at the 600 level or higher. 

Coursework must meet the following distribution requirements (a single course may satisfy multiple requirements):
ENGL 419
Writing About Literature 1
Select two 500-level literature courses (select from list below)
Select two pre-1800 literature courses (select from list below)
Select two post-1800 literature courses (select from list below)
ENGL 714
Critical Approaches to Literature
Select one American literature course at the 600/700 level
Select one British literature course at the 600/700 level
Select one course that addresses race, the construction of race, and racial theories in a U.S. context (select from list below)
Select one course that investigates Anglophone literature in a global or transnational context (select from list below)
Select one course in a specific genre including, poetry, memoir, nonfiction, drama, fiction, and film with the exception of ENGL 533 (select from list below)
Capstone:
ENGL 787
English Major Seminar

500-Level Literature Courses

Select one survey course of the following:4
ENGL 512
British Literature I Age of Heroes: Beowulf to Dr. Faustus
ENGL 513
British Literature II Age of Revolutions: Shakespeare to Austen
ENGL 514
British Literature III: Revolts, Renewals, Migrations
ENGL #515
American Literature I Conquest and Nation: First Contact to the Civil War
ENGL 516
American Literature II Money, Migration, and Modernity: Huck Finn to Beloved
Select one of the following:4
ENGL 512
British Literature I Age of Heroes: Beowulf to Dr. Faustus
ENGL 513
British Literature II Age of Revolutions: Shakespeare to Austen
ENGL 514
British Literature III: Revolts, Renewals, Migrations
ENGL #515
American Literature I Conquest and Nation: First Contact to the Civil War
ENGL 516
American Literature II Money, Migration, and Modernity: Huck Finn to Beloved
ENGL 517
Introduction to African American Literature and Culture
ENGL 521
Nature Writers
ENGL #530
Poetry
ENGL #531
Introduction to Drama: How to Read a Play
ENGL 581
Introduction to Postcolonial Literatures in English
ENGL 585
Introduction to Women in Literature
Total Credits8

Pre-1800 Literature Courses

Either two advanced courses (600-level and above) or one advanced course and either ENGL 512 British Literature I Age of Heroes: Beowulf to Dr. Faustus or ENGL 513 British Literature II Age of Revolutions: Shakespeare to Austen.  Choose from:

ENGL 657Shakespeare4
ENGL 741Literature of Early America4
ENGL 751Medieval Epic and Romance4
ENGL #753Old English4
ENGL #756Chaucer4
ENGL 758Advanced Shakespeare4
ENGL 759Milton4
ENGL 767Literature of the Restoration and Early 18th Century4
ENGL 768Literature of the Later 18th Century4
ENGL #780Drama of Shakespeare's Contemporaries: Will and Company4
ENGL #781English Drama, 1660-18004
ENGL 783English Novel of the 18th Century4

Other courses may count. Please see your advisor if you have questions about other courses that might fulfill this requirement. 

Post-1800 Literature Courses

Either two advanced courses, or one advanced course and one of the following: ENGL 514 British Literature III: Revolts, Renewals, Migrations, ENGL #515 American Literature I Conquest and Nation: First Contact to the Civil War or ENGL 516 American Literature II Money, Migration, and Modernity: Huck Finn to Beloved.

ENGL #609Ethnicity in America: The African American Experience in the 20th Century4
ENGL 650Studies in American Literature and Culture 14
ENGL 681Introduction to African Literatures in English4
ENGL 690Introduction to African American Literature in America4
ENGL 739American Indian Literature4
ENGL 742American Literature, 1815-18654
ENGL #743American Literature, 1865-19154
ENGL #744American Literature, 1915-19454
ENGL 745Contemporary American Literature4
ENGL 746Studies in American Drama4
ENGL 747Studies in American Poetry4
ENGL #748Studies in American Fiction4
ENGL #749Major American Authors4
ENGL #769English Romantic Period4
ENGL 771English Victorian Period4
ENGL #772English Victorian Period4
ENGL 773Literary Modernisms: Return, Revolt, Recycle4
ENGL 774Modern & Contemporary British Literature: New Departures4
ENGL 777The English Novel in the World4
ENGL 784English Novel of the 19th Century4

Courses that Investigate Anglophone Literature in Global or Transnational Contexts

ENGL 581Introduction to Postcolonial Literatures in English4
ENGL 681Introduction to African Literatures in English4
ENGL 773Literary Modernisms: Return, Revolt, Recycle4
ENGL 775Modern Irish Literature: A Changing Landscape4
ENGL 777The English Novel in the World4

Other courses may count. Please see your advisor if you have questions about other courses that might fulfill this requirement.

Courses that Address Race, the Construction of Race, and Racial Theories in a U.S. Context

ENGL 517Introduction to African American Literature and Culture4
ENGL 550Introduction to the Literature and Culture of Race4
ENGL #609Ethnicity in America: The African American Experience in the 20th Century4
ENGL 690Introduction to African American Literature in America4
ENGL 693Special Topics in Literature (topic R)4
ENGL 738Topics in Asian American Studies4
ENGL 739American Indian Literature4
ENGL #740Indigenous New England4
ENGL 797Special Studies in Literature (topic R)4

Other courses may count. Please see your advisor if you have questions about other courses that might fulfill this requirement 

Courses in a specific genre including poetry, memoir, nonfiction, drama, fiction, and film1

Choose from:

ENGL #530Poetry4
ENGL #531Introduction to Drama: How to Read a Play4
ENGL 555Science Fiction4
ENGL 575Sex and Sensibility: The Rise of Chick Lit from Jane Austen to Bridget Jones4
ENGL 616AStudies in Film/Genre4
ENGL 616BStudies in Film/Authorship4
ENGL 616CStudies in Film/Culture and Ideology4
ENGL 616DStudies in Film/Narrative and Style4
ENGL 618Film Theory4
ENGL 746Studies in American Drama4
ENGL 747Studies in American Poetry4
ENGL #748Studies in American Fiction4

Other courses may count. Please see your advisor if you have questions about other courses that might fulfill this requirement 

Candidates for a degree must satisfy all of the University Discovery Program requirements in addition to satisfying the requirements of each individual major program. Bachelor of arts candidates must also satisfy the foreign language proficiency requirement.

The required minimum overall GPA in major coursework is 2.0.

English literature majors may use one major-required course to satisfy one Discovery category requirement.

Majors may only count one online course toward their English major requirements.

Students interested in majoring in English literature should consult Carla Cannizzaro, Coordinator of the Department of English, 230F Hamilton Smith Hall, (603) 862-1313 or the director of the English literature program.

Explore Program Details

Reading literature encourages the mind to enter new, and sometimes improbable, spheres of experience. Some literary texts inspire us to feel admiration and compassion for unlikely heroes or heroines: a son overwhelmed by the sudden death of his father and his mother's quick remarriage to his despicable uncle, a woman who loses her social standing and whose subsequent humiliation and poverty drive her to suicide, a wife trapped in a loveless marriage, or a daughter who accidentally encounters her birth parents. Others confront us with perplexing concepts: the "ineluctable modality of the visible," "fearful symmetry," and that it can "be very, very dangerous to live even one day." Still others ask us to consider the wondrous properties of the very, very small (a grain of sand, leaves of grass) or the very, very large (a white whale, the Congo); or to observe the world from a multitude of perspectives, from above or below, earlier or later, male or female, east or west, black or white, all at the same time. Literature, too, grants access to scenes or sights that can be neither diagrammed nor charted nor otherwise pictured. How are two lovers like a pair of compasses? How is life like a loaded gun, or love without hope like a hat full of larks? Magnificent new microscopes and telescopes have brought human beings, standing somewhere between the stars and sub-atomic particles, a little closer to both. Literature transports the cosmos into our most private and personal reflections; yet it also shows us how everyday things, the objects and scenery we hardly notice as we trudge through our routines, can be made radiant with a strange beauty. "Poetry," a poet wrote, "purges from our inward sight the film of familiarity which obscures from us the wonder of our being." Literature is not a physical instrument; it is a purely intellectual one. But, like an unfamiliar piece of computer technology, we need to learn how to use it—or we will be left behind; our lives will be seriously diminished. How literature works is what the English major can teach you.

Rachel Trubowitz and Michael Ferber
Professors of English, University of New Hampshire

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