English Major

The English department offers a rich array of courses, spanning multiple literary traditions and cultural media.  Classes on literature before 1800 foreground vital connections between past and present traditions of Anglophone writing.  Classes engaging with African American, Asian American, Indigenous, Latinx, multiethnic American and global literature emphasize the multiplicity of literatures and cultures that constitute our contemporary world.

Prospective majors may enter the department through first-year writing seminars in their first semester or 1100-level and 2000-level courses.  Both 2000-level seminars and 3000-level seminars are writing-intensive and provide access to central critical perspectives and research methodologies in the field.  Majors are encouraged to take ENGL 2841 Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theoryin order to expand their critical literacy. Students planning to undertake an honors project should take a 3000-level seminar before the first semester of their senior year.  

The major requires a minimum of ten courses. These must include the following:

Required Courses
Select two pre-1800 courses.2
Select two courses in African American, Asian American, Indigenous, Latinx, multiethnic American or global literature. a2
Select one intermediate seminar (2000–2099).1
Select one 3000-level seminar.1
The remaining courses may be selected from first-year writing seminars, introductory courses at the 1100 level, intermediate or advanced literature courses at the 2000 and 3000 levels, intermediate independent study, advanced independent study or honors (numbered 4000–4051), and introductory or advanced creative writing courses in the English department.4

No more than two courses may come from the department’s roster of first-year writing seminars and introductory courses; no more than two creative writing courses count toward the major. ENGL 1050 Writing Studio, ENGL 1060 English Composition, and ENGL 2805 Theory and Practice of Tutoring Writing do not count toward the major.

English Major with Concentration in Creative Writing

English majors with a concentration in creative writing must satisfy the requirements for the major, including an introductory-level and an intermediate- or advanced-level creative writing course in a single genre, and an additional elective course in another creative writing genre. Two of these creative writing courses may be the two allowed within the ten courses required for the major, with an additional creative writing course above the ten required (for a total of eleven courses). One independent study or honors project may count toward the concentration with approval from the department chair.

English Minor

The minor requires five courses in the department. At least three of these must be numbered 2000 or higher. No more than one creative writing course may count toward the minor. ENGL 1050 Writing StudioENGL 1060 English Composition, and ENGL 2805 Theory and Practice of Tutoring Writing do not count toward the minor. Transfer credits and independent studies may not be applied to the minor. Minors may double-count one course with another department or program with the approval of both departments/programs. 

Interdisciplinary Major

The department participates in an interdisciplinary major in English and theater. See the Interdisciplinary Majors.

Additional Information and Department Policies

Major/Minor Grade Policy

  • Courses that count toward the major and minor must be taken for a letter grade (not Credit/D/Fail), and students must earn grades of C- or better in these courses.
  • Majors may double-count three courses with another department or program. 

Transfer Credit Policies

With the approval of the chair, the English department accepts up to two transfer credits for classes taken outside of the department, either at Bowdoin or at another institution. Students may count one upper-level (2000- or 3000-level) course in cinema studies toward the major. Students may count up to two upper-level foreign language literature or film courses taken at Bowdoin or at another institution, provided that the works are read in that language, or taught in one of the official languages of the foreign country where the course is taken. Only one pre-1800 course may be transferred for credit. The department does not give transfer credit for 2000-level seminars or 3000-level seminars. Students may not apply transfer credits to the minor. Students planning to study away should meet with their advisor at least one semester prior to departure.

Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate (AP/IB)

Students who received a minimum score of four on the English Literature and Composition AP exam, or a minimum score of six on the English IB exam, are eligible to receive a general credit toward their degree (though not toward a major or minor) following the completion of an English course, not including ENGL 1050 Writing Studio, ENGL 1060 English Composition, ENGL 2805 Theory and Practice of Tutoring Writing, or creative writing courses (numbered 1200–1299 and 2850–2899), with a minimum grade of B-. In order to receive credit for advanced placement work, students must have their scores officially reported to the Office of the Registrar by the end of their sophomore year at Bowdoin.

Honors Projects

A student who maintains an A/B average in the courses required for the English major may decide to become an honors candidate at the end of their junior year. Honors candidates engage in an honors project and prepare a thesis under the supervision of an advisor during their senior year. Students are required to register for their honors project for two semesters, ENGL 4050 and ENGL 4051, and may apply both semesters of work to their major requirements.

Information for Incoming Students

All Bowdoin students must take a first-year writing seminar in their first year of enrollment and the department is offering the following first-year writing seminars in fall 2023: ENGL 1004 Film Noir,  ENGL 1017 Global Asian Fantasy Fiction,  ENGL 1026 Freedom StoriesENGL 1027 The Real Life of Literature, ENGL 1033 Modernity at Sea,  ENGL 1042 Dangerous Enchantments.

Incoming students with concerns about their level of preparation for writing at the college level should consult with their pre-major academic advisor, take advantage of the writing support programs in the Baldwin Center for Learning and Teaching. Options for students seeking additional writing support and instruction include enrollment in a first-year writing seminar in the fall followed by ENGL 1060 English Composition in the spring; or a first-year writing seminar in each of the student's first two semesters.

ENGL 1119 Medieval Mythology is open to incoming first-year students. All 2000-level English courses are open to first-years beginning in the spring semester of their first year.

Some creative writing courses are open to first-year students, but they should be aware that these classes fill up quickly. These classes are: ENGL 1228 Introductory Fiction WorkshopENGL 1225 Introduction to Poetry Writing Workshop, and ENGL 2864 The Personal (Essay) is Political.

This is an excerpt from the official Bowdoin College Catalogue and Academic Handbook. View the Catalogue