Frequently Asked Questions

About the Major in English
About the Minor in English
About Advanced Placement Credit
About Creative Writing
About Transfer Credit and Study Away
About Independent Studies
About Advanced Independent Studies and Honors Projects

About the Major in English:

What do graduates do with an English major?
Bowdoin English majors learn to analyze information, research and organize ideas, develop arguments, read critically, and write well.  English majors are versatile, and a wide career path is open to graduates with these skills. While some English majors continue their studies in graduate school, many enter careers in publishing, print and visual media, and education, and work as editors, journalists, and teachers.  A great number of English majors use their skills in seemingly unrelated fields like medicine, law, computer science, business, and public service as hospital administrators, paralegals, website editors, advertising designers, and speech-writers.  

How do I choose a major advisor? Do I need to file a form?
A form is not required. The department will assign one of the English department's faculty as your advisor-of-record. However, if you know a particular professor in the department whom you wish to be your advisor, you may ask him or her to take on that role.  If you make your own arrangements for an advisor, you must email the English department coordinator to ensure that the correct advisor is listed on your student record in Polaris.

May I change my advisor?
Yes, you are free to change your advisor at any time, but you must email the English department coordinator to have your new advisor listed on your record.

How many courses are required for the major?
A minimum of ten courses is required for the major in English.

Are there specific courses I must take?
You are not required to take any particular course, but all majors must take:

  •  an intermediate (2000-2099-level) seminar. (The department strongly recommends taking an intermediate level seminar before taking an advanced 3000-level seminar). 
  •  at least three courses in literature written in English before 1800. These are courses in Old English and medieval literature; Renaissance literature; and the literature of the Restoration and the eighteenth century. The individual courses satisfying this requirement are identified by a note in the course description. Only one of these three courses may be a Shakespeare course. Only one transfer course may count toward this requirement.
  •  at least one advanced (3000-level) seminar.

May I take more than one introductory-level course or first-year seminar?
Yes, you may count up to two of these courses toward the English major.

Does a 3000-level seminar in literature written in English before 1800 fulfill both the pre-1800 requirement and the requirement for a 3000-level seminar?

Are there particular paths through the English major?
Each English major, in consultation with his or her advisor, develops his or her own path through the major. You must fulfill the general requirements listed above, but these requirements allow for a great deal of flexibility in choosing individual courses and using elective courses.

Some students focus on earlier literatures; some focus on more contemporary literatures; some on American literature; some on British and Irish literature. And some students simply take the greatest variety of courses they can. There is no "right" or "wrong" way to approach the major.

Should I try to get all of the requirements out of the way as soon as possible?
Again, there is no "right" or "wrong" way to approach the major. There is nothing wrong with spreading some of the requirements out over time. Be aware, however, that not all classes are offered every year. The number of pre-1800 courses, for example, might vary from year to year. Especially if you are planning to study away, think ahead about how you can be sure to meet all the requirements before graduation.

Can I count courses in other departments at Bowdoin for the major?
Yes. You may count one upper-level cinema studies course for the major. You may also count upper-level literature courses, as long as the literature is read in the original language, not in translation.

How many courses, total, may I count from outside of the department for the major?
Two. This includes courses in other departments at the College, courses from study away, and courses taken at other four-year colleges or universities (for example, courses taken while on leave from the College or summer school courses). The English department chair must approve these courses before they can be applied to your major. You must present supporting materials such as course syllabi, exams, papers, etc. to the chair for final approval after completion of the course(s). The chair will notify the coordinator of the approval, and an exception will be filed with the Registrar to reflect the application of the course to your major on your student record.

Are there any kinds of courses that the English Department automatically disqualifies from counting toward the major?
The English Department does not accept English 1060 English Composition, or other composition or journalism courses (taken here or away) for the English major. NOTE: English 1070 Rhetoric does count toward the major.

Does the English Department grant credit for internships?

About the Minor in English:

How many courses are required for the minor?
A minimum of five.

What are the specific requirements?
After you have fulfilled the prerequisite requirements, there are no other specific requirements. NOTE: English 1060 English Composition does not count toward the minor, and you may count only one creative writing course.

Can I count courses from study away?
No. You cannot apply any transfer credits for the minor.

About Advanced Placement Credit:

Will any of my AP courses count toward the major?
No. But a score of 4 or 5 on the AP English Literature and Composition exam (but not the AP English Language and Composition exam) can "translate" into a general credit for graduation.

How do I go about getting this credit?
You must complete an English first-year seminar or English literature course (not ENGL 1060 English Composition). If you receive a grade of B or higher, you can receive an extra general credit towards graduation.

Do I have to do this in my first semester or year at Bowdoin?
No. This credit won't expire. You can do this at any point in your Bowdoin career.

Does this apply to the AP English Language and Composition exam as well?
No. It only applies to the English Literature and Composition exam.

About Creative Writing:

How many creative writing courses can I count toward the English major?
You may count two creative writing courses toward the major.

How do I get into a creative writing course?
Most creative writing courses are open enrollment. Entrance into some creative writing courses is by permission of instructor upon approval of a writing sample. If a course requires permission, instructions on how to apply will be noted under the course in the Polaris course listings.

Can I transfer credit for a creative writing course that I took elsewhere?
Yes, provided the program is an established creative writing program at a four-year college or university. However, you must contact the English department chair for approval before the course can be applied. Be prepared to present a syllabus, catalog description, work you did for the class, and/or other supporting documentation.

About Study-Away:

Who approves my study-away plans?
Your English major advisor approves your study-away plans if you intend to study abroad through the Off Campus Study Office. You must meet with your advisor, who will complete the online registration of intent to study off-campus form.

The chair of the English department approves non-study-abroad plans (such as summer school or courses taken at another institution while away from Bowdoin.) Prior to taking non- study abroad courses, you must meet with the English department chair to complete an Application for Transfer of Credit.

More information about transfer credit can be found on the Curriculum and Requirements page.

How many courses from study-away can I count toward the English major?
A maximum of two.

Is this in addition to courses in other Bowdoin departments that I might want to count toward the English major?
No. You can apply only two transfer credits from another department or program to the English major.

Can I use study-away courses to fulfill the pre-1800 requirement?
Yes, you can count one such course toward the pre-1800 requirement.

Can I fulfill the 3000-level seminar requirement through study-away?
No. Only a course in the Bowdoin English department will fulfill this requirement.

Do I have to study away in an English-speaking country in order to have my literature courses count for the English major?
No. Many English majors study away in countries where English is not the first language. As long as the course is an upper-level literature course, and you are reading the literature in the original language, (not in translation) then the English department will accept transfer credit for the major.

If I get provisional approval from my advisor for courses I plan to take during my study-away, am I guaranteed credit toward my English major for those courses when I return?
No. When you return from your study-away, you must meet with the English department chair to have your study-away course approved to count toward your major requirements. Be prepared to present papers you wrote for the study-away course and a course syllabus and/or reading list.

Am I locked into those courses? What happens if something changes?
That's not uncommon. You can e-mail your advisor to ask for advice regarding changes. Save syllabi and coursework for your meeting with the chair upon your return.

Do I need to have a copy of my study-away transcript sent to the English department?
No. Your transcript will be available online once it has been received by the registrar.

About Independent Studies:

What is an independent study?
There are two types of independent study courses: intermediate (the equivalent of a 2000-level course) and advanced (see below under "honors projects".)

An intermediate independent study is a one-semester course on a topic agreed upon between the individual student and a professor. Usually, a student studies a topic not covered in the department's curriculum, or studies a topic in greater depth than what would be covered in a regular class. 

Can I take an independent study in my first year?
No. We ask that you have a bit more experience in the department before you undertake an independent study. However, a number of students do independent studies in their sophomore year.

What do I need to do to get one started?
Find a professor willing to work with you on a particular topic. Then, register for the course during the pre-registration or add/drop period: Request Registration for an Independent Study.

What does the independent study course itself consist of?
You and the professor with whom you are working will determine the structure of your independent study.

Is an intermediate independent study graded the same way as any other 2000-level course in the English department?

Does it count for the major?

If I do an intermediate independent study in literature written in English before 1800 will it count toward that requirement for the major?

Can more than one student participate in the same independent study?
Yes. The number of students in an independent study is at the discretion of the professor. 

About Advanced Independent Studies and Honors Projects:

Is an advanced independent study the same thing as an honors project?
All honors projects begin as advanced independent studies, but not all advanced independent studies become honors projects. An advanced independent study is a two-semester intensive course of study that allows students to devote considerable time and energy to the in-depth exploration of a topic. An honors project involves additional specific requirements (see below.)

What should I do to start an advanced independent study?
The process is the same as described above for the intermediate independent study.

If I am thinking of working toward an honors project, are there prerequisites or further requirements?
You must be a senior and have an A or B average in the major. In rare cases, the grade-average requirement may be waived at the discretion of the student's advisor and the department chair.

Do I receive a separate grade for each semester, and does each semester count as a full credit toward the major?

Can I stop after the first semester, if my plans change?
Yes, you are not committed to both semesters. However, if you stop after one semester your advanced independent study cannot become an honors project.

What are the additional requirements of an honors project?
The main requirement for an honors project is the honors thesis, due at the end of the spring semester. (For information on creative writing honors projects, see below). The thesis paper is thirty-five pages (or more) exploring a specific topic in detail, and involves extensive research into the body of critical work concerning your topic.

There are a number of requirements students must meet along the way:
While an advanced independent study requires only one professor directing, an honors project must have the participation of three professors: the primary advisor or director, and two other readers who provide feedback along the way. One of these professors may be from another department or program.

Students hoping to convert a two-semester advanced independent study into an honors project must submit a prospectus to the department in the fall semester. In this prospectus, the student describes the focus of his or her project (including the specific issue, question, or problem to be explored) with a preliminary bibliography listing the primary and secondary materials he or she will consult. The English department faculty and all prospective honors candidates then gather in an informal meeting where faculty advise each student.

Students who wish their work to be considered for honors must meet several deadlines for submitting drafts. These deadlines are posted on the English department Honors webpage early in the fall semester.

At a final honors meeting, each honors project candidate meets with his/her primary thesis advisor and faculty readers for a conversation about his/her project.

Can I do a creative writing honors project?
The department allows honors projects in creative writing at the discretion of our writing faculty.

How many levels of honors does the English department award?
The English department awards one level of honors.

What happens if I don't submit my work for honors in the spring semester? Do I lose credit?
No. Your project remains an advanced independent study, and you receive a grade and credit for that.

Are there any courses I should consider taking before working towards an honors project?
The department encourages students to take ENGL 2841 Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory, before the senior year begins.  This course helps students become familiar with a variety of approaches to the literature they may encounter as they conduct research in their chosen subject.