Through a wide range of courses offered in English, students develop the ability to read closely and to engage in skilled textual analysis. They gain a sense of diverse literary histories and an understanding of literary genres. Deepening their engagement with literature, they formulate and test questions about texts and compare them critically. Students learn to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of critical sources, methods, and interpretations and to negotiate among them. Discussions and course work require students to develop their own ideas about texts and to present persuasive arguments in an articulate, responsive, and insightful manner, in both speech and writing. The English major prepares students for careers such as teaching, publishing, and writing, for graduate study in literature, and for graduate programs leading to the study or practice of medicine, law, public health, bioethics, and library science.

Departmental offerings are intended to be taken in sequence. Courses at the 100 level are open to all students. Courses at the 200 level are more difficult in both the amount of material covered and the level of inquiry; they also address questions of theory and methodology in more self-conscious ways. Most 200-level courses have prerequisites. Seminars at the 300 level are generally for juniors and seniors who have completed several English courses (the latter requirement may be waived at the discretion of the instructor for certain interdisciplinary majors). More information on the English department is available on the website (

Major Requirements

Majors must complete eleven courses of which a minimum of seven must be taken from Bates faculty in the English department.

1) For students not electing the option of a creative writing concentration, the eleven courses required for the major include the senior thesis and ten other courses, one or two courses of which may be taken at the 100-level, with the remaining taken at the 200-level and above.

2) Among the eleven courses, students must complete the following:
a) the critical methods course (ENG 296)
b) three courses on literature before 1800 (one must be medieval)
c) three courses on literature after 1800;
d) two courses taken in the department that examine race, ethnicity, or diasporic literature;
e) two junior-senior seminars taken in the department and taught by English faculty;
f) a one-semester or two-semester thesis.

The critical methods course (ENG 296) is a prerequisite for the senior thesis. Students are strongly advised to take the methods course in their second year.

English Short Term courses may be counted toward the major at the discretion of the course instructor. A first-year seminar taught by a member of the English faculty may count toward the English major as a 100-level course, at the instructor's discretion. Students not pursuing the creative writing concentration may count one course in creative writing toward the major.

Students may count any two Bates literature courses offered outside the department toward the English major, including:
a) literature courses in a language other than English in which the primary focus is on literature rather than language instruction.

b) literature courses offered by the Department of Theater and Dance, with a primary emphasis on literature rather than production.

Students may receive no more than two credits for semester-abroad courses, and, normally, no more than two credits for yearlong study-abroad courses. Under special circumstances, and upon written petition to the English department, students studying off campus for the year may receive credit for three courses.

One course credit is granted for Advanced Placement scores of four or five. However, such credits count only toward overall graduation requirements, not toward the eleven-course major requirement in English.


With departmental approval, students may write a two-semester honors thesis in the senior year. Majors who wish to present themselves as potential honors candidates are encouraged to register for at least one junior-senior seminar in their junior year. Majors who elect to participate in a junior-year-abroad program and who also want to present themselves as honors candidates must submit evidence of broadly comparable course work or independent study pursued elsewhere; such persons are encouraged to consult with the department before their departure or early in their year abroad. At the end of their junior year, prospective honors candidates must submit a two-page proposal and a one-page bibliography; those wishing to write a two-semester creative thesis must submit a one-page description of a project and a substantial writing sample. Both are due on the first Friday of the Short Term.

Creative Writing

English majors who wish to write a creative thesis first complete the introductory and advanced workshops in either fiction or poetry, and broaden their workshop experience through the completion of a third workshop outside of their chosen genre.

Requirements are the same as those for the English major, with the following additions and specifications:

1) One introductory workshop from among:
Fiction writing (ENG 291)
Poetry writing (ENG 292)

2) A second introductory workshop from either of the above, or:
Creative Nonfiction (ENG 293)
Playwriting (THEA 240)
Screenwriting (EN/TH 242)
Autofiction (ENG 395G)

A full-term or intensive summer writing workshop undertaken elsewhere. Requests for such substitutions must be made in writing to the chair, and include a syllabus and portfolio.

3) One advanced workshop, following the student’s chosen genre, from among:
Advanced Fiction (ENG 391)
Advanced Poetry (ENG 392)

4) Three allied courses in the student’s chosen genre, often from among those taken to satisfy the major, in the English department or in the literature of another language, which will be useful to the student’s develop­ment as a writer, chosen in consultation with their advisor.

5) A thesis, undertaken during either one or, by approval, two semesters, consisting of a single cohesive manuscript in the chosen genre, or a closely-related hybrid genre.

Majors who elect the creative writing program count one of the writing courses toward fulfillment of the English major requirements, as well as the allied literature courses, and thesis. Thus, the usual number of courses required for the English major and the creative writing program is thirteen. (Students who elect to complete their second introductory workshop through Autofiction [ENG 395G] may take twelve).

Students undertaking a creative thesis:

1) have successfully completed the three workshop courses required by the program. Students who have not yet done this, for reasons of off­-campus study, for example, may undertake a creative thesis provided they take the remaining required writing course(s) by the end of senior year.

2) submit a proposal to the department, requesting the opportunity to write a creative thesis and delineating their vision for the project. Once the proposal is approved and assigned to an advisor, the student and advisor begin devising a working schedule for the project.

There is no honors designation for a creative thesis, but students may apply to write for two semesters, registering for ENG 457 and ENG 458, so long as they have completed the advanced workshop in their chosen genre before the fall of their senior year, or are otherwise approved to write for one full year.

If the two-semester request is approved, the student proceeds with the understanding (as with English Department honors projects) that the advisor’s assessment of the work produced during the fall semester, and the student’s adherence to deadlines determine if the project goes forward beyond the end of fall semester. The creative writing committee, composed of those faculty engaged in teaching workshop courses that year, may decide that a thesis should be completed by the end of the fall semester, or it may also grant an advisor and student request to extend a thesis into a two-semester project.

The department expects many creative theses to be completed in one semester, with most students using the advanced workshop to develop the foundation for their creative thesis.

Thesis Expectations

The most important expectation is excellence. The thesis should comprise the best work brought, through intensive revision, to final form during the semester(s) spent working on the project. Theses may include revised developments of work first drafted in previous workshops, but consist mainly of new work drafted and revised during the project. Although most creative theses are composed in the genres of either fiction or poetry, it may be possible to write a thesis in creative nonfiction or a hybrid genre. The length and nature of such a project is determined by the student and their advisor.

The broad outlines of expectation for one or two-semester theses are as follows:

One-Semester Poetry: At least fifteen, but not much more than twenty poems. A preface of ca. ten pages should discuss craft, influences, and intentions.

One-Semester Fiction: At least forty, but not much more than sixty pages of fiction. A preface of ca. ten pages should discuss craft, influences, and intentions.

Two-Semester Poetry: At least twenty-five, but not much more than thirty poems. A preface of ca. ten pages should discuss craft, influences, and intentions. A public presentation (reading) from the work, delivered at the Mount David Summit in their senior year, is optional but strongly encouraged.

Two-Semester Fiction: At least seventy, but not much more than 100 pages of fiction (e.g., stories or novella). A preface of ca. ten pages should discuss craft, influences, and intentions. A public presentation (reading) from the work, delivered at the Mount David Summit in the senior year, is optional but strongly encouraged.

Two-semester creative theses may be read for approval and comment by the advisor and another member of the Bates faculty, not necessarily a member of the English department. Thesis authors seeking a second reader are responsible for securing such an agreement. Responsibility for assignment of a final grade rests with the thesis advisor.

Graduate Study

Students planning to do graduate work — whether an M.A. or Ph.D. or an M.F.A. in creative writing —should seek advice early concerning their undergraduate program, the range of graduate school experience, and vocational options. Most graduate programs require reading proficiency in two other languages, so it is strongly recommended that prospective graduate students achieve at least a two-year proficiency in a classical (Latin, Greek) or modern language.

Pass/Fail Grading Option

Pass/fail grading may not be elected for courses counting toward the major.