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English Major Guide for 2015-2016

What is English?

The English Department is one of the strongest and most dynamic departments at the University of Tennessee, and its undergraduate major is intellectually engaging and versatile. In recent years, leaders in many fields have urged schools and colleges to prepare students better for their professional and civic responsibilities within a rapidly-evolving society, a globalized culture, and an increasingly information-based economy. The study of English contributes to this goal by training students to think and write critically; to analyze and interpret literary and other kinds of texts; to place those texts within historical, theoretical, and aesthetic contexts; to evaluate arguments according to their logical and rhetorical features; and to understand and work with values. Through extensive training in different modes of writing, students discover their own critical and artistic voices while gaining proficiency in organizing complex material, addressing multiple audiences, and understanding the medium of language. In the spirit of liberal education, the study of English also contributes to satisfying society’s increasing need for a citizenry skilled in critical thought and communication.

English majors can choose from four concentrations: Literature, Creative Writing, Rhetoric and Writing, and Technical Communication. The Literature concentration provides students with an in-depth background in British and American literature, and if desired, exposure to world literature, as well as a foundation in the methods and practices of literary studies. The Creative Writing concentration provides students with an opportunity to explore and develop their skills as writers of poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, drama, and screenplays. With its broad focus on the study of discourse, the Rhetoric and Writing concentration offers students the opportunity to develop their analytical and writing skills and to explore a wide range of issues in rhetorical and cultural theory. Finally, the Technical Communications concentration provides a solid background in the knowledge and skills required to participate in the writing, editing, and publishing of scientific, technical, and professional documents.

Career Opportunities in English

Because of the rich and extensive training they acquire in critical thinking, advanced reading and analysis, literary and cultural history, and oral and written communication, English majors enjoy a range of career options upon graduation.  Some become professional writers, working for themselves or employers in the many fields requiring advanced writing skills. Some pursue teaching careers at the elementary and secondary levels. Others enter law school, become professional editors and publishers, or embark on careers in management, public relations, advertising, sales, administration, research, evaluation, library science, or public service. Graduates with a special interest in academic life pursue graduate study in English or related fields. Finally, students who take advantage of the department’s strong technical communications course offerings may pursue careers in technical writing and editing, web page design, and other fields essential to today’s changing economy.

Salary Trends in English

An Arts and Sciences degree can propel you in limitless directions. Majors are not always the deciding factor as to what career path you follow. Employers are increasingly searching for employees who are dynamic, sophisticated, and able to respond to the unique demands of today’s working climate.  A recent survey conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities found that 93% of the employers surveyed claim that “a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems” is at the top of their desired qualifications.  These skills are central to a course of study in English.  As with any degree, your pre-professional experiences (volunteerism, work experience, internships, etc) enhance your chances at obtaining desired employment and further guide where you fall on the salary continuum.

High School Preparation

To prepare yourself to major in English while you’re still in high school, develop and indulge a love of reading. Take English courses that challenge you with a range of literary and other kinds of writing; sign up for Advanced Placement English if your school offers such a course. Read outside of class, as well: a classic of American or British literature you’ve always wanted to read, a recent best-seller. Plan summer reading lists with a friend. The more you read, the better prepared you’ll be to major in English. And because reading and writing skills are intricately entwined with each other, the reading you do will expand your sense of what you can do as a writer. In keeping with this, write whenever you can. Take time with your written assignments in school, of course, and be on the lookout for ways to improve your writing. But also remember that writing, one of the most powerful tools of expression we possess, lives outside the English classroom, as well. Try your hand at creative writing; write letters; keep a diary or journal. Every word you write prepares you for the study of English.

How to Major in English

Once you have fulfilled your first-year composition requirement you are eligible to enroll in 200-level courses, any two of which constitute the prerequisite to the English major.  When you declare your major, you will be assigned a faculty advisor. You may change concentration at any time. Your faculty advisor will help you plan your major and elective courses in light of your academic and career interests.

As an English major you will be encouraged to sign up for the English Major Newsletter, an electronic publication mailed out weekly during the semester by the Office of Undergraduate Studies. The newsletter offers information on scholarships and other department-sponsored awards and contests, English Department-sponsored visiting speakers and symposia, registration information, general advising issues, student-generated activities, and career-related information.  We also encourage you to peruse our English Department website, as it contains additional materials of interest to prospective majors.

Requirements for English

After the completion of the two 200-level prerequisite classes, the English major consists of 30 hours at the 300 or 400 level.  All students complete five literature courses chosen from established categories.  Within individual concentrations students take courses in designated areas. Students concentrating in Literature take the Colloquium in Literature (an introduction to literary studies) and literature courses from a range of designated periods, literary traditions, and approaches. Students concentrating in Creative Writing complete a two-course sequence in either poetry writing or fiction writing plus three additional writing classes. Students concentrating in Rhetoric and Writing concentration take an advanced course in Rhetoric and Writing, two additional upper-level courses in this field, and one additional writing course. Finally, students concentrating in Technical Communications take Technical and Professional Writing, two other courses in this field, and one additional writing course.  For a complete description of concentration requirements, see the Undergraduate Studies section of the English Department website.

Special Programs, Co-ops, and Internships

The English Department offers an honors concentration, which provides an opportunity for highly motivated majors to study a literary topic together in an intensive seminar environment (English 398). After the seminar these students can crown their careers as English majors by writing a substantial scholarly or creative thesis on a topic of their choice (English 498).  Prior to the seminar and thesis, students should complete at least two other English honors classes at the 200-level or above, for a minimum of twelve credits of English honors coursework.

The department also offers off-campus courses in which students study drama in performance in New York and in Stratford and London. Writing internships involving academic credit are often available for upper-level students seeking to develop their writing skills in a professional environment. With the support of the Hodges Better English fund and generous donations from outside the university, the English Department awards eleven scholarships each year to the best sophomore, junior, and senior English majors; in addition, the Creative Writing Program holds annual creative writing con­tests with cash awards. The department sponsors the Alpha Epsilon Chi chapter of the national English honors society Sigma Tau Delta; in addition to recognizing our strongest majors, this organization organizes student-faculty socials and events of academic interest.

Highlights of English

The University of Tennessee English Department has a large faculty, with 40 full-time members of the professorial staff, and it has a distinguished record in both teaching and research. Sharing a commitment to education inside and outside the classroom, members of the English Department faculty regularly win college or university-wide teaching awards. With enrollment in most courses limited to 32 (writing courses have a ceiling of 20), English classes are marked by the exchange of ideas and by an unusually intimate process of learning. Instructors come to know their students, participate in their growth, and work closely with their writing. English offers a varied and challenging curriculum, exposing students to what is best in the traditional fields of English, American, and world literature, rhetoric, and writing (creative and otherwise), while also offering courses in contemporary literature, cultural studies, cinema studies, critical theory, folklore, and  linguistics. This diversity allows our majors to acquire an unusually broad range of knowledge and skills. Because the English Department is comprised of nationally-renowned scholars and writers, students are exposed to the latest intellectual, creative, and professional developments in the discipline’s many fields. As part of the English Department’s vibrant sense of community, each year creative writers and prominent scholars are invited to campus to lecture or read from their work.

Ready for the World logoReady for the World

“Ready for the World” is part of a long-range plan to transform the UTK campus into a culture of diversity that best prepares students for working and competing in the 21st century.  Thus students are encouraged to actively participate in the diverse cultural programs offered on campus.  Some of these events include the guest lecture series, cultural nights at the International House, and international film screenings.  Visit the Department of English website and the Ready for the World website for more information on upcoming cultural programs and activities.

Students are also encouraged to develop a global perspective within their academic program through study abroad. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, offers study abroad programs in Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, South America, and North America. Program lengths vary from mini-term trips to the entire academic year, and students may choose to fulfill general education requirements, study a foreign language, or take courses within their majors. In addition, UTK offers students opportunities for international internships.

Students are highly encouraged to begin planning early in their academic career and to consult with an academic advisor about the best time to study abroad as well as what courses to take abroad. For more information about program options, the application process, and how to finance study abroad, please visit the Programs Abroad Office website.

Academic Plan and Milestones

Following an academic plan will help students stay on track to graduate in four years. For all first-time, first-year, full-time, degree-seeking students, UT has implemented Universal Tracking (uTrack), an academic monitoring system designed to help students stay on track for timely graduation. In order to remain on track, students must complete the minimum requirements for each tracking semester, known as milestones. Milestones may include successful completion of specified courses and/or attainment of a minimum GPA.

To see a sample academic plan and milestones for this major, please visit the undergraduate catalog.

For More Information

Dr. Bill Hardwig
Director, Undergraduate Studies
Department of English
311 McClung Tower
Knoxville, TN 37996-0430
Phone: 865-974-6925


The information on this page should be considered general information only. For more specific information on this and other programs refer to the UT catalog or contact the department and/or college directly.

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