The English Major


The English Major at Tulane University is a flexible course of study, offering a range of courses in which students learn to think, read, and write creatively and critically. In addition to coursework in diverse literatures, the English Department offers classes in such areas as creative writing, expository and persuasive writing, film, television, graphic novels, hip hop, standup comedy, new media, environmental studies, digital humanities, archival research, cultural studies, gender studies, race, postcoloniality, sexuality, and theory. Our majors receive extensive training in writing, speaking, and critical thinking throughout the curriculum and become adept at close reading, argumentation, complex and inventive thinking, interpretation, analysis, and research. Our courses also invite students to approach their world with a sense of empathy, civic engagement, fairness, and inclusion, both through reading literature and through service learning experiences that allow students to collaborate with local community members, such as those in schools and prisons.

The English Major is at the heart of a liberal arts education. It is also a highly versatile degree: the skills gained in the English Major at Tulane are excellent preparation for many kinds of business and professional careers, as well as for further academic work or artistic endeavors. The experience of our own alumni has proven that English is a desirable degree for those interested in a wide range of career paths. Our graduates have successfully pursued careers in law, television, radio, publishing, editing, communications, business, consulting, management, development, marketing, advertising, the nonprofit sector, writing, speech-writing, museums, journalism, teaching, medicine, psychology, politics, activism, libraries and archival collections, and advanced technology fields. English majors are increasingly in demand in a variety of fields for their ability to write well, to navigate complexity, and to think critically, inventively, and humanely.


The course of study for the Major is designed to provide our students with training in literary analysis and critical thinking, substantial instruction in writing, an understanding of literary history, and the freedom to tailor coursework according to individual interests. As an English Major, you can aim for breadth of study, taking courses in a variety of fields, or you can aim for depth of study, taking a number of courses within a particular field.

Majors complete a minimum of 10 courses, which must include:

THE GATEWAY COURSE (ENLS 2000 Literary Investigations)

  • This course introduces majors to the discipline of literary studies, with an emphasis on close reading and analysis, theoretical approaches, research, and writing.


  • Students must take ONE of the following: ENLS 2010 Intro to British Lit I, 2020 Intro to British Lit II, or 2030 Intro to American Lit
  • Our survey courses provide our majors with some understanding of literary and cultural history. By covering hundreds of years of literature, the courses make larger movements and shifts visible and provide a crucial context for understanding content in 4000- and 5000-level courses.

1 CAPSTONE SEMINAR (ENLS 5010 + ENLS 5880, Writing Intensive)

  • Capstones are seminar-style courses (small class size; discussion-driven) that focus on a specialized field of study and culminate in a substantial research paper.
  • Students who complete an English honors thesis do not need to take the Capstone, though they are welcome to do so for elective credit toward the Major.
  • Students are welcome to take more than one Capstone and will receive elective credit toward the Major for that additional Capstone.
  • Students may elect to write an Honors Thesis (two semesters) in lieu of taking a Capstone Seminar (one semester), in which case they should begin planning their project with a faculty thesis director before the end of their Junior year.

*The Capstone satisfies the Newcomb-Tulane Writing Intensive requirement.


  • In consultation with their major advisors, majors use electives to design their own course of study. Some majors opt for breadth, taking a variety of courses; others aim for depth, focusing on writing or a particular field of literature. There are some guidelines—see below for information about course level and distribution requirements. See below, too, for information about the Creative Writing Concentration.
  • 3 of these electives must be 4000-level courses
  • 1 elective may be at the 2000 level
  • Students may take more than one Capstone Seminar, in which case the additional Capstone would count as an elective (and can substitute for one of the 3 required 4000-level courses)
  • Students may complete an Internship (approved by the Department) for elective credit. (An internship does not substitute for one of the 3 required 4000-level courses.)


Majors must take at least one course in each of the following three areas that are central to literary study. Because these three areas have some fundamental inseparability, one course may satisfy up to two distribution requirements. These distribution requirements may be satisfied by a survey, an elective, or a capstone

  • Literature before 1800
  • American or Anglophone literature (i.e., not British)
  • Non-dominant perspectives / non-canonical literature with an emphasis on race (including intersectional approaches to gender, sexuality, class, or disability) and on the analysis and critique of unequal systems of power

Options for the Non-dominant Perspectives requirement:

Many Special Topics courses, or courses such as ENLS 4300 (African Literature), ENLS 4430 (Caribbean Literature), or ENLS 2920 (Introduction to Women’s Literature) are frequently but not always taught in ways that will satisfy the third requirement. Students can submit a syllabus to the Director of Undergraduate Studies for approval of courses they believe qualify.

Courses that will always satisfy the third requirement include the following:

  • ENLS 2150 Intro Fiction: Race & Inclusion (3)
  • ENLS 2400 Topics: Literature, Race & Inclusion (3)
  • ENLS 2450 Introduction to Postcolonial Literature and Theory (3)
  • ENLS 2730 Introduction to African American Lit (3)
  • ENLS 3635 Writing, Race, & New Media (4)
  • ENLS 4324 The Jewish People: From Racial Other to White Americans (3)
  • ENLS 4380 Asian American Literature (3)
  • ENLS 4390 Topics: Race & Inclusion in US Literature (3,4)
  • ENLS 4391 Topics: Race & Inclusion in US Literature (3,4)
  • ENLS 4392 Topics: Race & Inclusion in US Literature (3,4)
  • ENLS 4440 African-American Literature (3)
  • ENLS 4820 Colonial / Postcolonial Discourse (3)

Some courses at other universities or in other departments can count toward the major. Please consult with your major advisor or the Director of Undergraduate Studies (Prof. Melissa Bailes

For study abroad credit for the English major, consult Prof. Melissa Bailes at