Literatures Track

Welcome to the Literatures Track! This track of the English major focuses on the study of literature in its many complex genres (poetry, fiction, drama, film, graphic novels, digital literature, and more), historical periods (from the ancient world to the twenty-first century), and cultural traditions (U.S., British, Multi-Ethnic, World, and Comparative). Our students read and interpret literature for the urgent questions it raises about identity, ethics, justice, race, gender, nationality, sexuality, and humanity, even as they develop concrete career skills in writing, research, critical analysis, information literacy, and oral communication. Literature is where the meanings are—come discover them with us!

Why Choose the Literatures Track?

Nurture Your Passion for Literature.

Do you love the written word? Do you relish the sense of personal and intellectual discovery that comes from engaging with experiences and perspectives different from your own? Whether your interests lie in fiction or poetry, films or graphic novels, print or electronic literature, or ancient texts or contemporary ones, you'll find that the Literatures Track offers you a unique opportunity—as both a writer and reader—to explore, experience, and actively respond to literature in all of its varied forms.

Enhance Your Career Prospects.

Students in the Literatures Track graduate with a valuable set of job skills. Our majors learn to read, analyze, and interpret complex texts; write, speak, and communicate with clarity and confidence; conduct meaningful research in both digital and print realms; and understand and embrace diversity in our increasingly globalized, multicultural world. These professional skills are prized by employers not only in fields such as writing, editing, marketing, teaching, and the law, but also in business, technology, and medicine.

Learn to Master Textual Analysis.

Studying literature trains you to look beneath the surface. As a student in the Literatures Track, you'll practice theoretically informed, historically minded "close" reading that equips you to uncover the full range of meanings and interpretations within a given text. Moreover, you'll find that the research and critical analysis skills that you bring to bear on a literary work can be applied to nearly every "text" in your life and career—be it a political ad on TV, a workplace issue, or even the subtle signals that make up everyday interpersonal dynamics.

Sharpen Your Writing and Communication Skills.

The Literatures Track trains you to be a better writer, not just a better reader. Our courses emphasize the crucial interplay between attentive reading and compelling writing, and our students learn to produce high-quality written work that exhibits style, clarity, and creativity. The Literatures Track faculty have published their own writing in various genres and venues and are dedicated to giving you the intensive feedback on your writing that will help you to become a more adept wielder of the written word. In addition, through class presentations and discussions, you'll develop your skills as a public speaker capable of articulating arguments and ideas with confidence and authority.

Develop Your Information Literacy.

Students in the Literatures Track acquire information literacy—the ability to find, evaluate, and make use of relevant sources of information in both print and digital spheres. Our courses teach you how to synthesize and analyze information and to do so effectively and ethically. We also train you to identify relevant research topics, generate compelling ideas, pose productive questions, and assert your own critical voice as you shape your research into a cogent piece of writing and analysis.

Grapple with Big Questions.

Literature prompts us to ask big questions about ourselves and our relationship to the world. Who am I? What path should I follow? How do we distinguish perception from reality? What is subjectivity? How do race and gender shape our lives? How can individuals contribute to solving large-scale social and political problems? As a student in the Literatures Track, you'll gain confidence in your ability to read literary works for the profound questions they pose and for the nuanced responses they offer. You'll also find that this spirit of inquiry prepares you to succeed in any professional context—and to live a more examined, fulfilling life.

Experience an Exciting Field.

The field of literary studies has grown exponentially in recent decades to emphasize multiethnic and women's writing, digital literature, global/transnational perspectives, and an energized attention to the symbiosis between literature's social and aesthetic dimensions. With innovative courses and accomplished faculty who specialize in some of the most exciting growth areas in the field—including environmental writing, digital humanities, law and literature, performance studies, and more—we bring these disciplinary developments directly to you in the classroom.

Join a Dynamic Literary Community.

Literatures Track students are drawn together by a love of literature, a passion for reading and writing, and an investment in complex texts and ideas. This sense of community comes through not only in our dynamic class discussions guided by expert faculty, but also in out-of-class activities such as our newly established Literatures Colloquium series and our "Literary Luncheon" pizza parties. Come join us!

Advising Sheets

The advising sheets posted here come from the most recent version of the English Majors' Handbook . Students in the Literatures Track should print and save the sheet that corresponds to their specific degree program (i.e., B.A. or B.S.Ed.); fill in the sheet as they make their way through the major; and discuss their progress at least once per semester with their advisor.


Students in the Literatures Track take intermediate-level courses in three separate categories—Genre, U.S. Multi-Ethnic & World, and Historical Contexts. Be sure to consult the advising sheet for your specific degree program to see how many classes you should take from each category. Note that B.S.E.d students must also fulfill specific Literature categories—American, British, and World—that overlay the track requirements; these additional categories help prepare B.S.Ed. majors for the Praxis II exams.

Learning Outcomes

Literatures Track courses are designed to fulfill specific learning outcomes that work in addition to the English Department's own program outcomes. The Literatures Track Committee assesses these track-specific outcomes using sample papers drawn from portfolios submitted by graduating seniors.


  • "Literature is where I go to explore the highest and lowest places in human society and in the human spirit, where I hope to find not absolute truth but the truth of the tale, of the imagination, and of the heart."
    — Salman Rushdie
  • "When I look back, I am so impressed . . . with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young."
    — Maya Angelou
  • "I think technical people now should learn literature, because literature teaches you a great deal about the depths and variety of human imagination."
    — Ellen Ullman
  • "To become absorbed in a great literary work is to join a community united by passion. It's life changing; it's ballast when times are bad, and a source of the deepest, renewable companionate pleasure when times are good."
    — James Simpson
  • "Literature is news that stays news."
    — Ezra Pound
  • "That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you're not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong."
    — F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • "Without literature, life is hell."
    — Charles Bukowski
  • "You should never read just for 'enjoyment.' Read to make yourself smarter! ... And for god's sake, don't let me ever hear you say, 'I can't read fiction. I only have time for the truth.' Fiction is the truth, fool! Ever hear of 'literature'? That means fiction, too."
    — John Waters
  • "Fiction is the deployment of artifice in the service of truth, aiming to reveal as accurately as possible the profound and complex experience of being human and alive on this planet."
    — Claire Messud
  • "Literature adds to reality; it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides, and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives [may] have already become."
    — C.S. Lewis
  • "Literary studies teaches literacies across a range of media forms, including print and digital, and focuses on interpretation and analysis of patterns, meaning, and context through close-, hyper-, and machine-reading practices. . . . Now it is time to rethink what reading is and how it works in the rich mixtures of words and images, sounds and animations, graphics and letters that constitute the environments of twenty-first-century literacies."
    — N. Katherine Hayles
  • "I wanted to learn about literature. That was my passion. Everything you do as an actor and director is about reading. It's about reading deeper, reading between the lines, and perceiving more than just what's on the surface. The study of literature is about looking deeper.
    — Jodie Foster

Literary Luncheon

The Literatures Track hosts a Literary Luncheon once per semester!  These fun events feature free pizza, refreshments, and conversation with Literature faculty and interested students.  Attendees learn about our excellent course offerings and programs and meet and talk with members of our extended community.  Come join us!

Next event: Wednesday, April 22, 12-1pm, Main 132

Stay Tuned, Get Involved!

The Literatures Track Committee welcomes ideas for talks, lunches, colloquia, and other community-building events. New events are being planned for Spring 2015. Stay tuned!