Best English Language and Literature Degree Colleges in the U.S. 2017

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"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go." ― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read with My Eyes Shut!

About 40,000 years ago, the first human wrote down a story — albeit it was a simple depiction on a cave wall, but an idea and message was delivered to other humans even centuries later all the same. Since then, throngs of talented writers have put ink to paper, fingers to typewriter, and hands to keyboard to fill our libraries with works of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, essays, and prose, both long and short. Authors filled pages upon pages with writings that captured moments in history, truths of human nature, ideas of what the future held. Those insights, those tastes of cultures and classes and past zeitgeists are waiting to be remembered and experienced. And you can discover them and live vicariously through the words of our Western world’s greatest authors — as an English language and literature major.

The Best English Language and Literature Colleges of 2019

Almost every university offers a form of an English language and literature degree program, from comparative literature to a plain English degree that heavily concentrates on literature. The following are some of the top programs in the country, but you may find some that are more attuned to your interests and future career aspirations than others.

Rank School Name Location Description
1 Yale University New Haven, CT

English Language and Literature Degree Program

Five thousand of America’s finest students fill their need for higher education at Yale University. Tucked outside of New Haven, Yale’s campus sprawls across 343 acres and brings together a diverse student body, of whom you’ll spend hours debating, learning from, and making friends. The university even has cultural houses to help foster a sense of community and identity for its diverse student population. The English language and literature program at Yale University “allows students to address fundamental questions about the nature, function, and value of literature in a broadly comparative context.” Students have the freedom to craft their major to fit with their interests. For example, you could pick African American courses or film and media courses or a variety of all the above. Yale’s literature program doesn’t solely limit readings to English language, though you can choose to limit yourself if English is your native tongue. Instead, they encourage bilinguals to read texts in other languages. The program states, “The experience of reading a foreign literature in the original language enables us to understand the nature of both language and literature more fully.”

When you study in these ivy-covered buildings, you’ll get to enjoy world-renowned drama and musical performances since the university is well known for its fine arts programs. You’ll also most likely discuss the Yale Record at least once in one of your literature courses, as it is the oldest college humor magazine in the nation. And if you’re looking for an extracurricular, join one of Yale’s coveted societies, like Skull and Bone — but don’t plan on putting it on your resume; they’re kind of a secret.

2 University of California-Berkeley Berkeley, CA
UC Berkeley

Degree Programs: English, Comparative Literature

Berkeley, also known as “Cal,” is recognized for its laboratories, research, notable faculty, publications, and — get excited now — libraries. This public university boasts a student population of more than 27,000 with over a thousand student organizations (weekly reading group anyone?). And it is situated in the San Francisco Bay area, so you’ll have plenty to points of inspiration around the city. The English major sits at the top of Berkeley’s most popular majors, but the university also offers comparative literature. “Our courses in literature have many different focuses: major authors, historical periods, genres, critical theories and methods, as well as cultural and multicultural studies.” The comparative literature major requires courses in Shakespeare, literature before 1800, and literature from Chaucer through the 20th century that includes British, American, and Anglophone writing. As an English major studying literature, you can tuck yourself away in one of the large libraries that together take up 12 acres of campus — like Doe Memorial Library or Bancroft Library — and stay there for the next four years. If you do find yourself outside of the aisles of books, you may come across student activism about the latest hot social topic or a Greek organization event.

3 University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI

English Language and Literature Degree Program

Thirty minutes from Detroit you’ll find the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor itself is a cultural hub of breweries, local shops like Nicola’s Books, and galleries. Within the city, the university educates about 28,000 students over 3,000 acres of campus. The University of Michigan’s Greek community offers more than 60 different sorority and fraternity houses, and nearly 20% of students take part. If Greek life doesn’t work out, there are about a thousand other student organizations to sift through until you find your fit. Plus, you’ll probably be pretty busy earning your English language and literature degree anyways.

The program directors focus on three areas of academic achievement: breadth of knowledge, depth of knowledge, and heightened awareness of language as a medium. As such, you’ll work toward a broad critical understanding of literary culture and critical histories of literature in English, learn the history and theory of language and of genres, be introduced to modes of production, and find a connection between literary culture and historical contexts. You’ll also work on your skills needed to “recognize, analyze, and appreciate rhetorical, poetic, and other uses and functions of language; to produce close and critical readings of a wide variety of texts; to write clearly and effectively in a variety of modes; to develop and articulate a persuasive argument in speech and in writing; and, for some, to write creatively in various genres.”

4 Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN

English Degree Program with an English Language and Literature Discipline

Want to study in an inspired setting? Check out Vanderbilt University. Just a mile and a half southwest of downtown Nashville, you’ll be surrounded by creatives, poets, and musicians — as well as a short way away from off-campus dining, shopping, and entertainment. On the 333-acre campus, filled with shrubs and trees, 6,883 students study at this top research institute. The Greek life brings together about 40% of the students, and there are more than 500 clubs and organizations to keep others busy. All undergraduates are required to live on campus, with freshmen living together in housing called “The Commons,” which boasts six LEED certified green dorms. The Vanderbilt English major with a discipline in English language and literature major allows students to personalize their studies while still gaining a wide range of knowledge and skills traditional to the major. Courses cover the history of British and American literature, Anglophone literature from other countries, literary theory, and expository and creative writing. The program hosts an annual visiting writers’ series and sponsors public lectures, readings, and other events where majors can hear and meet celebrated poets, novelists, and critics. At Vanderbilt, you also have plenty of opportunities to get involved on editorial boards, including the Vanderbilt Hustler and the Vanderbilt Review. Plus, you’ll have one of the nation’s top library systems in your reach — the Jean and Alexander Heard Library. This is home to more than 8 million items, 4.5 million volumes, 1 million electronic books, and 94,000 e-journals and databases. The oldest manuscript in the collection dates from the 1300s.

5 Stanford University Stanford, CA

English Degree Program

Between San Francisco and San Jose you’ll find 8,000 acres dedicated to a university known for the entrepreneurial nature of its students and the research they output. Study here, and you’ll be among some of the world’s top intellectuals. Stanford’s English department features a well-rounded curriculum that explores the big picture of literature’s development from the Middle Ages to the present day. Classes feature lively exploration and discussion of key literary themes, movements, and innovations. Your courses will also teach you and test your abilities for critical thinking, analyzing literature in poetry, narrative, and methodology. Courses offered include a historical sequence and a pre-1800 course. The department’s website says students will explore things like “How has the idea of theater changed from the York Corpus Christi play (15th c.) to Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (1949).” Once you’ve finished the core classes in an English major, which introduce students to a large body of knowledge and fundamental skills, you can continue on to a concentration in literature. The literature concentration bestows a wide range of knowledge to its students: historical development of British, American, and Anglophone literatures, and a variety of critical methods to interpret texts. The concentration emphasizes the study of literary forms, genres, and textual analysis theories.

6 University of Chicago Chicago, IL

English Language and Literature Degree Program

Discover a world of education, culture, and pioneers in scholarship in one of the Midwest’s largest cities. The University of Chicago’s mission says, “In all we do, we are driven to dig deeper, push further, and ask bigger questions — and to leverage our knowledge to enrich all human life.” The English department nurtures the love students and faculty share for novels, poems, plays, paintings, films, comics, video games, and other art forms. The department also guides students in asking theoretical and philosophical questions related to literature and culture, as well as fosters critical thinking and research skills to find possible answers. In this major, you’ll learn a wide variety of literary-critical approaches that will guide you in your personal and professional life. You’ll attend a large university and reap the benefits of world-class research and diversity. But at the same time, you’ll feel like you’re at a small liberal arts college in the English department, with small courses led by discussions and professors who will know your name and care about your progress through freshman year to graduation and beyond. The department refers to itself as an “intellectual melting pot,” with classes from Medieval Epic to Shakespeare to Radical Documentary to the literature of 9/11.

7 Duke University Durham, NC

English Degree Program

Study among 15,000 others at Duke University. Natural beauty surrounds the university, like the Duke Forest that covers 7,000 acres or the Sarah P. Duke Gardens where you can stroll with a good book in your hand — or one of your book assignments. At one of the top English departments in the country, you’ll learn to read, think, and write, and the interconnectivity of those activities. The department’s website states, “To explore these literatures in this department then is to pay the most precise and rigorous attention to forms of address: who is saying what to whom? Why just this word, right there, right now?” The program includes critical reading, inquiry, thought, and debate. According to the website, “English ‘labs’ are libraries, museums, classrooms, conference rooms, even hallways, cafes, and campus quads — any place where thinking or conversation occurs.” They emphasize conferences, working groups, seminars, speaker series, and literary readings. In the program, you’ll practice your judgment, because responses to literature is personal, and you’ll explore aesthetic and ethical judgments. When you’re finished, you’ll be more articulate and more self-aware.

8 Middlebury College Middlebury, VT

English and American Literatures Degree Program

Lose yourself in a good book — and in the nature of Vermont’s Champlain Valley at Middlebury College. With the Green Mountains to the east and the Adirondacks to the west, the mountains provide inspiration for all 2,500 students. As an English and American literatures major at Middlebury, you’ll learn empathy, sympathy, critical thinking, rigorous analysis, responsible research, and clear writing. With twelve required courses, including English and British literature before 1800, Shakespeare, and the diversity of English literature, you’ll gain a broad training in the subject matter. Beyond that, there are many paths you can choose to take. And all seniors must complete an independent writing and research project, which you’ll be plenty ready to undertake. At this small liberal arts school, you’ll have plenty of chances to get out of your chair to rest your eyes and enjoy the outdoors. The school even hosts a Winter carnival every year, where three days in the dead of winter students trek outdoors to enjoy a bonfire and fireworks, build snow sculptures, and visit the mountain to cheer on Midd’s skiers.

9 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC

English and Comparative Literature Degree Program

The University of North Carolina was the first educational institution in the nation to open its doors as a public university. You can join 29,000 other “Tar Heels” by walking through its doors, and leave with a world-class education. The university has a great study abroad program, a rich history, and deep southern roots. The university’s literary influences started with drama professor Frederick Koch (known for folk plays), novelist Thomas Wolfe, and English professor Louis Rubin. Today, the English and comparative literature major (or minor) trains students in reading, writing, and critical thinking while exploring texts “ranging from Beowulf to Bon Iver.” The program also hosts an annual People, Ideas, and Things conference in the spring where you and your fellow book-loving peers can showcase your scholarship and view others’. In that same vain, the college is publishing a new People, Ideas, and Things (PIT) Journal. Who says you couldn’t be the next editor? There are many things to do at the University of North Carolina. You can join a top student-run organization, like the newspaper or radio station. Or you can get off campus for a while and explore Chapel Hill, considered one of the top college cities in the U.S. The city keeps the population entertained with music, restaurants, and shopping.

10 Georgetown University Washington, DC

English and Comparative Literature Degree Program

This private Catholic university is known for its prominent faculty, its culturally rich location, and its curriculum. You’ll find yourself among 7,500 other students within the bustle of the city overlooking the Potomac River. The Department of English is one of the largest humanities faculties and majors in the College, and many students flock to Georgetown for its comparative literature program. The program allows students to examine literature and its interaction with other cultural traditions of the United States and Great Britain, as well as other English-speaking societies around the world like Ireland, India, some African countries, and the Caribbean. Beyond a bachelor’s degree, Georgetown English department offers one of the few standalone English master’s degree programs at a nationally ranked university. Your faculty at Georgetown has a variety of research interests that drive the topics of the courses, including women’s studies, video and film, British, American, and Anglophone literature and culture and more. The department also offers poetry, creative writing, and journalism courses for students who want to develop their writing skills. Situated right in the nation’s capital, the university is close to many internship and job placement opportunities after graduation. Outside of major work, students can enjoy cheering on the Georgetown Hoyas. And literature majors can take heart in the popular chant “hoya saxa,” which comprises an amalgamation of ancient Greek and Latin and translates to “what rocks.” Or students can seek out the famous “Exorcist steps” just below Georgetown’s campus that starred in the 1973 horror film “The Exorcist.”

List of English Language and Literature Schools in the U.S.

Degree Levels
  • Associate's
  • Bachelor's
  • Certificates
  • Doctoral
  • Master's
Program Length
  • Less than 2 years (below associate)
  • At least 2 but less than 4 years
  • Four or more years
Control Type
  • Private for-profit
  • Private not-for-profit
  • Public
School Logo School Name Average tuition Student Teacher Ratio Enrolled Students
Yale University Yale University New Haven, CT
5 : 1 12,385
University of California-Berkeley University of California-Berkeley Berkeley, CA
21 : 1 38,189
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI
7 : 1 43,651
Vanderbilt University Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN
4 : 1 12,567
Stanford University Stanford University Stanford, CA
6 : 1 16,980
University of Chicago University of Chicago Chicago, IL
7 : 1 15,391
Duke University Duke University Durham, NC
5 : 1 15,984
Middlebury College Middlebury College Middlebury, VT
9 : 1 2,558
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC
17 : 1 29,084
Georgetown University Georgetown University Washington, DC
13 : 1 18,459
Florida State University Florida State University Tallahassee, FL
25 : 1 40,830
University of California-Los Angeles University of California-Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA
12 : 1 41,908
University of Virginia-Main Campus University of Virginia-Main Campus Charlottesville, VA
11 : 1 23,883
University of Pennsylvania University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA
12 : 1 24,876
Boston College Boston College Chestnut Hill, MA
15 : 1 14,354
Harvard University Harvard University Cambridge, MA
14 : 1 29,652
The University of Texas at Austin The University of Texas at Austin Austin, TX
18 : 1 50,950
Ohio State University-Main Campus Ohio State University-Main Campus Columbus, OH
15 : 1 58,663
Princeton University Princeton University Princeton, NJ
9 : 1 8,138
University of Wisconsin-Madison University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, WI
12 : 1 42,716
University of California-Davis University of California-Davis Davis, CA
15 : 1 35,186
University of California-Santa Barbara University of California-Santa Barbara Santa Barbara, CA
24 : 1 23,497
Northwestern University Northwestern University Evanston, IL
10 : 1 21,655
CUNY Hunter College CUNY Hunter College New York, NY
19 : 1 22,918
University of Central Florida University of Central Florida Orlando, FL
41 : 1 62,953

Find Local Colleges Offering English Language and Literature Degrees

Getting an English Language and Literature Degree Online

The nature of English language and literature classes fits perfectly with online study. Reading is a solitary activity. Writing is also done on your own, typically from your computer. Reflections, essays, and critical analyses are easily sharable online — with the ability to discuss and debate different interpretations and ideas in forums.

Online courses also provide the added benefit of enhanced communication skills. You aren’t fostering back and forth conversation during an in-person discussion group. Instead, when you post to online discussions, you must be clear, thorough, thoughtful, persuasive, and appropriate. These additional skills you’ll practice in your online degree program will prepare you for the modern workplace, which involves more e-mail and less face to face interaction every day.

Many universities offer an English language and literature degree online. You’ll still have the chance to learn about “Chaucer and His Era,” or the usual “Renaissance Literature” or “American Literature” course. Northeastern University’s program, for example, states their program: “…explores the history of English and American literature through six major courses. Other required courses cover world literature, expository writing, and Shakespeare. All courses feature lectures, assignments, tests, and other materials delivered through an online learning format…” Most programs require about 120 to 160 credit hours to graduate. Online credit hour costs vary — some from as low as $150/credit hour or as high as $450/credit hour.

Schools offering online English Language and Literature degrees

Online English Language and Literature degrees are available at a variety of different schools with as many as 416 degrees earned at the most popular school. Read more below about all schools that have offered online English Language and Literature degrees. If you are interested learning more about getting a degree online, check out our page dedicated to online degree information.

School Name Certificate Associate's Bachelor's Master's Doctoral
Southern New Hampshire University 0 0 84 332 0
University of Phoenix-Arizona 0 0 300 0 0
University of Maryland-University College 0 0 137 0 0
Columbia College 108 4 0 0 0
American Public University System 0 0 90 0 0
How many schools offer online English Language and Literature degrees?
  • 5 Certificates
  • 18 Associate's
  • 49 Bachelor's
  • 31 Master's

What can you do with a English Language and Literature Degree?

English Language and Literature Careers Expected Job Growth (2014-2024)
Year English language and literature teachers, postsecondary Employment Reporters and correspondents Employment Public relations specialists Employment Editors Employment Writers and authors Employment Proofreaders and copy markers Employment
2015 91,740 48,880 242,190 116,580 136,820 13,570
2016 92,680 48,460 243,680 115,960 137,140 13,540
2017 93,620 48,040 245,170 115,340 137,460 13,510
2018 94,560 47,620 246,660 114,720 137,780 13,480
2019 95,500 47,200 248,150 114,100 138,100 13,450
2020 96,440 46,780 249,640 113,480 138,420 13,420
2021 97,380 46,360 251,130 112,860 138,740 13,390
2022 98,320 45,940 252,620 112,240 139,060 13,360
2023 99,260 45,520 254,110 111,620 139,380 13,330
2024 100,200 45,100 255,600 111,000 139,700 13,300

English Language and Literature Major Career Outlook

When you tell your family and friends that you’ve declared a major in English language and literature, you’ll hear, “So you want to be a teacher?” It’s okay to say yes if you see yourself in the classroom, but an English language and literature degree sets you up for a broad range of jobs that don’t involve teaching. Because you’ll have gained skills to take in complex ideas and texts and communicate them in clear ways, you’ll be marketable for a variety of jobs. The following are just some of the more common English language and literature careers:

  • English teacher/Professor — Earn a teaching certificate along with your English language and literature degree and inform and inspire the next generation of readers, writers, and critical thinkers. To make your way up to a university classroom, you’ll have to put in a lot of extra time with the books, with four to five more years to earn a Ph.D. Average starting salary: $34,900 | Average mid-career salary: $52,000
  • Journalist — You’ll have the time management skills, the concise and direct writing capabilities, and the ear for a good story — which makes for a great journalist. Though people keep screaming that print is dead, newspapers, magazines, and other news outlets aren’t going anywhere; they’re just adapting and they’re looking for people like English language and literature degree-holders to help pioneer their way into the future. Average starting salary: $35,600 | Average mid-career salary: $66,700
  • Copywriter — Join a marketing firm or advertising agency and put your degree to work. With some projects, you can let your creativity explode as you think up campaign concepts. Or, you may be putting that critical thinking and clear writing in practice on technical projects as you try to show your audience just what makes this one kind of tractor better than all the others. And if you can pick up any SEO tricks along the way, you can literally and figuratively write your career ticket into any industry. Average starting salary: $30,663 | Average mid-career salary: $74,917
  • Public relations — Help shape the public’s opinion of a company as a public relations specialist. You’ll be expected to write press releases, news stories, and supporting materials that will help put the company you support in a positive light. It’s not dishonest if something goes wrong — it’s just putting the best foot forward of the company. Average starting salary: $31,190 | Average mid-career salary: $55,680
  • Creative writer — Though not many can swing a creative writing career as their only form of income, English language and literature degree holders have studied the classics and the past greats and are equipped to write the next great novel, short story, or poem. Or you can look to the big screen and see if you can write a play or a movie or join a writing team for a television show. Salaries vary You can also apply with confidence to a job in technology, business, law, sales, or social work. Or, try your hand at freelance writing. Just be sure to get a few internships under your belt in the industry you want to work — that’ll help spiff up your English language and literature degree into a skillset you can really sell to future employers.
English Language and Literature Career Legend
English language and literature teachers, postsecondary
Reporters and correspondents
Public relations specialists
Writers and authors
Proofreaders and copy markers
About this Data

*Sources for career information and data include the National Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data may vary depending on year.

Average annual salary for English Language and Literature careers

  • $46,444 2005
  • $54,950 2010
  • $59,222 2015

What Does an English Language and Literature Major Study?

Visit your local library. Gaze up and down the shelves. English language and literature majors study those things right before you: books. If you’re already thinking, I love to read. I should enroll as an English language and literature major, don’t pack your copy of Great Expectations just yet. There’s a lot more to English language and literature than simply reading. English language and literature prepares you for a lifetime of academia, but it also could help you become the very thing you respect: a writer.

In this major, you’ll generally study:

  • Notable British and English literature — Think titles by Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, Oscar Wilde, John Irving, and more. Most programs will take you through different periods in literature with different authors of different backgrounds and genres. By the end of your four years (or six or nine), you’ll be the definition of well read.
  • Various genres and literary forms — Read a variety of nonfiction and fiction, from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden to Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. You’ll also study various forms of literature: novels, short stories, poems, screenplays, essays, and blurbs.
  • Literary movements — Certain characteristics show up in a variety of works of art, either influenced by the culture or by other writers. You’ll read Renaissance literature, writings from the Enlightenment, modern works, Victorian novels, among many others. You’ll begin to spot similarities or influences of certain movements embodied in the literature you read.
  • Critical analysis — You’ll learn how to read critically and write critically as you interpret the possible meanings, reasoning, or symbolism of a work of literature and understand the choices an author made. In your critical analysis essays, you’ll get to research the possible influences for things like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or the symbolism in Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter.

You’ll get to practice almost daily:

  • Communicating your ideas — Read, discuss, reflect, repeat. This will dominate the majority of your time as an English language and literature major. If you cringe at the thought of lecture after lecture, this is a great option for you. If speaking up during discussions makes you cringe even more, though, maybe rethink this as a degree choice. It’s this experience that could set you up to return to school for a certificate in teaching or even a degree in law.
  • BONUS: Creative writing — Some programs offer a concentration in creative writing. At Yale University, the institution states, “The writing concentration is a special course of study open to students in the English major with demonstrated interest and achievement in writing. Admission is competitive.” This is a special treat for those who love to read prose and poetry and want to write it too.

When all is said and done, you’ll enter the job market with strong reading, writing and critical thinking abilities — and you’ll go through life being able to look through this lens of deeper thought and reflection.

What degrees do people get in English Language and Literature?

Degree Level Program Length Colleges Graduates
Associate's 2-year Length 216 Colleges 1,565 Graduates
Bachelor's 4-year Length 1,349 Colleges 40,127 Graduates
Certificates < 1 year Length 82 Colleges 978 Graduates
Doctoral 1-2 year Length 145 Colleges 1,222 Graduates
Master's 1+ years Length 428 Colleges 4,637 Graduates

English Language and Literature Degree Overview

Undergraduates typically earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in four years, but some programs offer the degree as a Bachelor of Science. Either of these degree types equip graduates with the skills to find a job in a number of industries, as they will excel beyond others in reading, writing, research, comprehension, and critical thinking — and what company doesn’t need more of that in their business? Some make the most of their bachelor’s degrees by getting a teaching certificate and meeting the hour requirements as a teaching aid. Others decide their eyes aren’t tired yet of reading — so they continue on to higher and higher levels of learning.

With one or two more years of study, English language and literature majors can earn a Master’s of Arts degree. Beyond a Master’s degree, literature lovers can spend five more years earning a Ph.D. in one of the coveted programs (most accepting as few as 10 students per year). As such a learned individual, you could find yourself among the greatest critics, scholars, and professors at top institutions and publications, helping pass along your ideas of literature, culture, and writing.

Average cost of college for a English Language and Literature degree

Average Tuition and Fees for a 2 year Degree

Average Tuition and Fees School Control Student Residence
$2,287 Public In-State
$13,624 Private In-State
$6,297 Public Out-of-State
$13,624 Private Out-of-State

Average Tuition and Fees for a 4 year Degree

Average Tuition and Fees School Control Student Residence
$8,354 Public In-State
$29,797 Private In-State
$19,507 Public Out-of-State
$29,797 Private Out-of-State

Questions About English Language and Literature

What are Some Books I’ll Read?

Every program you’ll meet offers unique courses. You can explore African American literature at some, women’s literature at others, wartime literature, or even literature that deals with sexuality. But all-in-all, most programs will cover these classics:

  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  • As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  • Beowulf (anonymous)
  • The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Who Are Some Other Notable English Language and Literature Degree Holders?

English language and literature degrees aren’t just for the unseen professor or English teacher you had in fourth grade. Many people have found great success and notoriety from starting their careers with an English language and literature degree.

  • Conan O’Brien — Your long-legged late night television host studied at Harvard as a double major in history and literature. His senior thesis spoke to how children were used as symbols in William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor writings.
  • Andrea Jung — Before she headed Avon as CEO, Andrea Jung studied English literature at Princeton University. She graduated as magna cum laude and went on to join an executive training program for Bloomingdale’s in New York.
  • Bob Woodward — Famous journalist, who helped break the Watergate scandal while working for the Washington Post, prepared for his career as a history and English literature major at Yale University. He almost went onto law school, but instead, he joined the U.S. Navy for five years and then became a reporter for the Washington Post.
  • Michael Eisner — Eisner studied English literature and theater at Denson University. He later became the CEO of Walt Disney Company, where he used his degree to help keep the magical kingdom magical.
  • Angelo Bartlett Giamatti — Giamatti received his bachelor’s in English and earned a Ph.D. in comparative literature at Yale University. He became an English professor for his alma mater and later worked his way to president of the entire institution. His success didn’t stop there; he became the President of the National League in 1986 and later the commissioner of baseball.

So All Things Considered, Would I Make a Good English Language and Literature Major?

If you enjoy reading, that’s a good indication that you could enjoy an English language and literature degree. But enjoying a good book on a chilly or rainy day is different than pouring over tomes and spending hours researching, writing, and talking about them. And even if your passion exists, will this degree help lead you to a career you want? Or should you just join a book club and keep that passion as a side hobby? Only you can answer those questions. But if you can imagine yourself snuggled in a blanket, with a cup of coffee steaming next to you, and a book open under your nose — in a chair you’ve sat in for so many hours that it conforms to your rear end — you’ll fit right into this major.

How Can I Prepare Now for an English Language and Literature Degree?

There are many things you can do now to prep yourself for English language and literature courses. First, familiarize yourself with the classics, and challenge yourself to read quickly as you’re reading analytically (there will be many short-timeframe book assignments in your days ahead). Even if you have to read the books again, you’ll at least have a starting foundation to elevate your thinking and your interpretations of the texts when you’re in collegiate courses. Plus, you’ll realize if you enjoy your potential future assignments, and opt out if you find you don’t.

Second, practice your research skills every chance you get in your high school classes or community college courses. Learn research organization methods that work well for you, like using notecards, outlines, or free writing, because you’ll be expected to research and write at least weekly and won’t have the time to experiment.

Third, practice thinking through texts critically. Ask yourself a lot of questions as you read. Write notes in the margins. Why did the author choose to leave one of the characters nameless throughout the whole story? What did the color red symbolize to the main character? How did the antagonist’s journey influence the protagonist’s?

And fourth, practice writing clearly and concisely. Just because many of the authors you read will use those big ole words doesn’t mean your writing has to. Use the clearest language possible as you express your research and own ideas — because the most important part of writing is being understood by others.

Article Sources

  • All the departmental websites listed above.
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