Major English

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What You’ll Study in the Bachelor’s Degree in English

Develop a rigorous understanding of literature—including poetry, novels, cinema, and graphic narratives—through the English major at Reed College. Engage with important works by authors from a number of countries, including the United States, China, and Latin America, and hone your interpretive skills under the guidance of our expert faculty. Undertake in-depth research to deepen your understanding of authors and various literary forms—and even create your own original works.

Roadmap to the BA in English at Reed

Learn how to unravel the meanings, structures, historical contexts, and interrelationships of the texts you read. The faculty in Reed's English department help you build your skills in analysis and argument through papers and classroom conferences. Take advantage of research and study abroad opportunities to deepen your understanding of diverse literary traditions.

Year One

Discover the English Program

Begin your academic journey with Humanities 110, Reed’s signature first-year course. Study cultures past and present to build critical thinking skills that set the foundation for your Reed education.

Consider taking a foreign language, whether learning a new language or continuing to study a language you’re already familiar with. Gaining proficiency in a second language opens the door to taking literature courses in that language.

Be sure to attend our visiting writer series, to which we invite celebrated poets and prose writers to talk about their work. Recent guests include Lesley Nneka Arimah (What it Means When a Man Falls From The Sky) and Larissa Pham (Pop Song).

Year Two

Expand Your Borders

Start taking major courses, such as Introduction to Fiction, which offers several options to explore the literary form: Detective Stories and Crime Fiction or Tolkien and Lewis.

Sophomore year is also the year many English majors study abroad. Reed offers exchange programs with the University of East Anglia and Sussex University in England and Trinity College Dublin in Ireland. If you have a foreign language proficiency, you can take literature courses in Reed programs in Germany, France, Russia, Costa Rica, Spain, or Ecuador.

Browse Study Abroad Programs

Year Three

Prepare for Research

Deepen your English studies through advanced courses at Reed College. Take the Junior Seminar in English Literary History to delve into an intensive study of a single work. This class introduces you to literary theory and equips you with the necessary tools for your senior thesis.

The junior seminar also prepares you for your junior qualifying examination, which ensures you have the foundational knowledge required for independent research in your senior thesis.

Finally, take advantage of Reed’s grants that fund independent research, especially during summer break.

Discover Fellowship and Grant Opportunities

Year Four

Showcase Your Skills

Write and present your senior thesis during your final year at Reed. Apply the analytical methods you have learned and do original critical work, including careful research and interpretation. Choose from topics such as single-author studies, explorations of specific genres or forms, or literary responses to significant historical events. View past senior theses.

With this rigorous endeavor, you not only contribute to the body of knowledge within your field but also showcase your ability to independently tackle literary analysis. In your thesis, you’ll reflect the depth of understanding and critical insights you have gained throughout your academic journey at Reed College.

Explore English Major Learning Outcomes

Why Study English at Reed College?

Choose Between Two Tracks

Go deeper into your major by selecting either the cultural emphasis or foreign literature emphasis. The cultural emphasis track develops a cultural context for studying English literature. In this option, take two classes in foreign literature translated into English.

The foreign literature emphasis track highlights a study of literature in a second language. This option requires two classes in foreign literature in which you read works in their original language.

Discover Our Creative Writing Concentration

The English department offers various creative writing courses that all English majors are encouraged to take. There is also a creative writing concentration, in which you focus on creating original work for your senior thesis.

Explore the Creative Writing Concentration

Interdisciplinary Programs

Interdisciplinary programs allow you to combine your passion for English with other fields. Reed offers four interdisciplinary majors for you to choose from:

Cross traditional academic boundaries and sharpen your critical thinking skills with an interdisciplinary major.

My Favorite Courses

English BA course catalog

Careers for BA in English Graduates

Reed is ranked second in the nation for the percentage of graduates earning doctorates in English and literature. Our students have also enrolled in other professional schools or worked in careers from journalism to education, including the following:

  • Author, Macmillan Publishers
  • Assistant professor, Reed College
  • JD candidate, UCLA School of Law
  • Lead product manager, Work & Co.
  • PhD candidate, University of California, Berkeley
  • Teacher, Education for Change Public Schools
  • Wellness court case manager, The REACH Project, Inc.
  • Senior editor, Thomson Reuters

Learn More About Career Paths and Possibilities

Achievements of English Students and Alumni

These Reed English majors have been recognized by Reed and other organizations for their scholarship and creative work:

  • Kelly Wenzka ’22, John Gregory Unrue ’84 Memorial Award
  • Jordan Witt ’19, President’s Summer Fellowship
  • Jasmine Williams ‘17, President’s Summer Fellowship
  • Hannah Fung-Weiner ’16, Mary Barnard Academy of American Poets Prize
  • Benjamin Hemenway ’16, Fulbright U.S. Student Program
  • Said Nuseibeh ’80, Thomas J. Watson Fellowship

Our English Department Faculty

Our professors are distinguished scholars in a diverse range of literary fields, from medieval British works to modern postcolonial novels. They also bring a passion for teaching and mentorship. Get to know them at our annual barbecue or through our department’s annual recreational softball team, The Catchers in the Rye.

Meet Our Faculty

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