At every college, the first English classes you take will be writing classes. AP and IB literature courses can get you out of the infamous Writing 121 & 122. I got out of it this way, however I had a whole different set of English requirements with the Honors College I’m enrolled in. Basically, no matter what school or major you’re in, your reading and writing skills will be tested.
That said, there are a lot of very popular majors in the ‘English’ category:
- ENGLISH – the true “English” major is stereotypically a future teacher. However, when looking at all of the different classes offered in the English department, you will be amazed at the variety. Different schools have different parameters for what an “English” class is. It’s the most general name. The following are more specific majors that could be classified as “English”.
- LITERATURE – this major is a more specific study of famous novels. Literature classes are usually offered in different language departments (Russian literature [Tolstoy and all that fun], English literature [Shakespeare, Chaucer…], etc.). At many colleges, there is also a Comparative Literature department, which brings all of the types of literature together. More and more classes in these departments include film as well. With a major in literature, most people go on to become literary critics, writers, or, again, teachers. More about education majors later, but most teachers start as an undergrad in their discipline of choice and then go back in graduate school for teaching.
- CLASSICS – this means Greek and Latin. I’m not terribly familiar with this one as it isn’t offered at my university (or a lot of others). It is, essentially, literature – just a lot older. Ancient Greek and Latin aren’t dead languages in this major. Possible occupations from this are, as always, teaching, as well as research, archeology, and various sociological and anthropological studies.
- CREATIVE WRITING – though this major would be reading intensive (studying the work of the masters), the focus of this discipline is to create your OWN work rather than deciphering someone else’s. It is workshop intensive and is almost like art in that peer critiques are common. Good writers come out of good creative writing programs. Creative writing is more often a minor than a major.
Like I said before, English has a huge variety. Some are almost history-like (a popular one at Oregon is History of the Motion Picture); it’s an English class. Everything related to fictional narrative goes in the English department (or its cousins listed above). They can be everywhere from an hour to three, lecture to discussion, and tiny to enormous.
Apart from taking the classes, English departments also offer a lot of great extra-curricular activities. Trips to plays, guest speakers, workshops: all kinds of activities that may or may not require you to be in a departmental class. I’ve met poets, comic book artists, animation company marketing guys, you name it. Stay alert and check out the posters – that’s a mantra to keep with you your whole time at college. A lot of great events get overlooked; don’t miss out!
Foreign language is up next – until then.