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Jeong-Oh Kim teaches Intro to Poetry sitting with students on Library Lawn

Major and Minor

Explore and Discover The English Department at Vanderbilt offers an extensive and diverse curriculum over three majors, two minors and an Honors program that reflects the interest of students and the ever-widening field of English literary study. Join our department to cultivate highly valued analytical, reading and writing skills that form the foundation for post-graduate work or professional disciplines such as law, medicine, journalism, and business.

The Major in English

The Department of English offers three distinct concentrations that allow students to individualize their studies while acquiring the breadth of knowledge and skills of the traditional English major. 

Program I: Literary Studies

Students pursue a broad range of interests through a flexible approach to the study of literature.

  • 6 credit hours in History (literature before 1800)
  • 6 credit hours in Diverse Perspectives (Ethnic American or Anglophone Literature)
  • 18 additional credit hours of English electives -chosen from the courses that count toward the major.

Program II: Creative Writing

Students develop their creative writing while acquiring an overview of English literature.

  • 12 credit hours of 3000-level creative writing workshops in at least two different genres (nonfiction, fiction, poetry)
  • 3 credit hours in History (literature before 1800)
  • 3 credit hours in Diverse Perspectives (Ethnic American or Anglophone Literature)
  • 12 credit hours from courses that count toward the English major. This may include one additional creative writing workshop and appropriate courses from other disciplines.

Program III: Specialized Critical Studies

Students develop their own specialized course of study with a descriptive name and develop a contract of courses for it.

  • 12 credit hours of course work concentrated in a particular period (e.g. nineteenth-century American literature), genre, or movement (e.g. the novel), an aspect of intellectual history (e.g. law and literature), or other area of special interest. Up to 9 credit hours may be taken in courses from other departments relevant to the concentration. In consultation with a major adviser, each student selects specific courses, which are listed in a Contract for Interdisciplinary Major that is filed after the student has formally declared the major.
  • 6 credit hours in History (literature before 1800)
  • 6 credit hours in Diverse Perspectives (Ethnic American or Anglophone Literature)
  • 6 credit hours from any of the courses that count towards the English major

The Minor in English

Program I: Minor in Literary Studies

At least 18 credit hours of course work in English is required. These courses must include 3 credit hours in History (literature before 1800) and 3 credit hours in Diverse Perspectives (Ethnic American or Anglophone Literature).

Program II: Minor in Creative Writing

At least 18 credit hours of course work in English are required.These courses must include 9 credit hours of 3000-level creative writing workshops (nonfiction, fiction, or poetry) and 9 hours of courses that count toward the English Major (all English courses number 2050 and above, this may include one additional 3000-level workshop and one approved 1000-level English course)

Honors in English

The Honors Program provides an opportunity to earn the designation “Honors in English” or “High Honors in English” on your diploma and transcript. More importantly, it provides the chance to explore a topic, whether critical, creative, or a combination of both, in an in-depth way and to produce a memorable final thesis that is kept in bound form in the English Department and may be archived on the Vanderbilt Library Digital Archive.

In the Fall Colloquium and the Spring Thesis Course, students work closely with classmates and advisors to develop and complete an excellent project. Some students elect to develop their Honors projects based on work already or concurrently begun in other courses. For double majors, the Honors Program can be an opportunity to combine your two fields of study into a single project. Whether you are considering graduate school or another career path, we are sure you will find the Honors Program an exhilarating opportunity.


In order to be eligible for the Honors Program, students must maintain a 3.4 GPA overall and a 3.6 GPA in the major. Majors who wish to apply to the Honors Program must be within 6 credit hours of completing all AXLE requirements and must have made reasonable progress toward the major.

Most Honors students complete at least one Honors Seminar before senior year. First-year students and sophomores contemplating Honors in the major should consider selecting Honors Seminars in their schedule for next year and discuss the program with their advisors. The Honors sections are seminars open to all students who have completed their sophomore AXLE requirements and have earned at least a 3.4 GPA overall. Students are encouraged to enroll in honors sections prior to applying to the Honors Program.

Applying for Honors

Applications are due in the spring of your junior year. The deadline for applying to the Honors Program has passed for 2020-2021, but will reopen for juniors next spring. Here is a link to the previous year’s Application, which is subject to change and provided for illustration only. In addition to the application, students are required to attach a 5-10-page writing sample. For questions or more information, please consult your advisor or the Director of Undergraduate Studies.


To graduate with Honors in English, students must:

  1. Be admitted to the Honors Program in spring of junior year and take ENGL 4998 in fall of senior year.
  2. Complete all the requirements of the English major.
  3. Maintain at least a 3.4 GPA overall and 3.6 in the Major.
  4. Take at least 6 credit hours in Honors seminars(an appropriate graduate seminar or seminar from a study-abroad program may be substituted for one Honors seminar).
  5. Write a thesis (ENGL 4999) and pass an oral examination about its subject in the spring of senior year. For secondary education double majors, EDUC 9770 can be substituted for ENGL 4999 with the consent of the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Exceptional achievement on the thesis will earn highest honors.
  6. To comply with all requirements, every Honors student will complete 33 hours of English.

Declaring an English Major or Minor

Complete the Declaration of Major/Minor Form and email it to Inge Klaps. When you turn in your form, you will be assigned an adviser who will help you plan out your major or minor.