Undergraduate Models

American Literature

American literature is the product of a diversity of peoples, regions, philosophies, and ways of life. Beyond the intrinsic pleasure and usefulness of knowing more about the history of this literature, a focus in American literature or American studies can benefit undergraduates in several ways. Students considering graduate school in English can experience intensive immersion in the literary history of the United States, with the textual interconnections and the cultural insights that follow from taking a variety of related courses. Students considering careers as high school teachers will need to know not only how to teach close reading, but also ways of teaching a wide variety of texts, including works by ethnic (African American, Hispanic American, and Native American) and women writers, since many high school courses now emphasize American literary diversities. Students interested in fields such as advertising, marketing, or public relations will find the richest exposure to American culture in this sequence.

The undergraduate AML sequence has been designed to emphasize surveys at the 3000 level and more specialized studies or “variable topics” at the 4000 level. Especially at the senior (4000) level, the Variable Topics courses will differ greatly from instructor to instructor, and students can retake the course if the topic has changed. Individual course designations encompass both specialized studies and broader connective syntheses. Usually these course topics will cross chronological and genre boundaries. Often they focus on the histories of ethnic literatures; or study connections and relations between these literatures and more traditionally canonized texts; or consider how literary language both reproduces and constructs such categories as ethnicities, nationalities, genders, class, and race. Since these variable topics change from year to year, students should develop their American literature model in consultation with a faculty member.

Five courses in American literature, at least two before 1900:
Two courses in British literature, one before 1800 and one after 1800:

British Literature Before 1800:

Literature in English After 1800:

At least one course in cultural studies or literary theory, or, for those considering law school, advanced expository writing or argumentative writing:
Two supplementary courses in English.

The student should consult the English web site before selecting variable topics courses.

We also recommend that students take related courses in other departments, particularly American history, art, music, and religion, that may be used as college electives.


Department of English faculty who regularly teach courses in this model include: