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The Undergraduate Handbook

The more a student knows about the English Department, its requirements, and its resources, the more capable he or she will be of developing a productive undergraduate career. Yet this information can be only a first step in your development of a good working relationship with your department. Once you understand the material we provide here, you must use it to your advantage by consulting frequently with your faculty advisor, by seeking out other faculty members whose advice would be helpful to you, and by exploring all the various ways in which you can enrich your experience here. We offer the following information, not as a substitute for personal contact with the faculty, but as a means of ensuring that you will understand the basic ingredients of a challenging and satisfying major in English.

The Faculty

As a major in English at the University of Virginia you will have access to a large and varied group of experts engaged in exploring different aspects of literature. Our department has never tried to concentrate on any one area of literature or on a single critical orientation. Rather, we have worked to gather a lively diversity of professors with strengths in every facet of literary endeavor. In addition to those who concentrate their study in historical periods from medieval to modern, the faculty also contains: film critics, specialists in scholarly editing, post-colonial critics, feminist critics, theorists, African-Americanists, and specialists in the relation of literature to culture.  Many faculty members pursue interdisciplinary research.

For those majors who wish to develop special skills in writing, our staff includes practicing journalists, fiction writers, and poets, as well as literary scholars and critics.

General Description of Course Offerings

Each semester the English Department offers in the neighborhood of 120 courses and sections of courses covering the widest possible range of topics and employing a variety of pedagogical approaches. Determining which courses are right for you can be a daunting task. Here are some guidelines.

All English courses begin with the designation "EN" -- which stands, of course, for "English." The letters after "EN" are abbreviations used to indicate the kind of course being offered. Some abbreviations indicate historical periods. Thus:

ENMD = Medieval Literature
ENRN = Renaissance Literature
ENEC = Eighteenth-Century Literature
ENNC = Nineteenth-Century Literature
ENMC = Modern and Contemporary Literature

All courses in American literature, regardless of historical period, are designated ENAM. Other abbreviations indicate a specific type of course. Thus:

ENGN = Studies in a Particular Genre
ENCR = Studies in Criticism and Theory
ENWR = Courses in Writing
ENSP = Special Topics
ENLS = History of the English Language
ENLT = Introductory courses in literature at the 2000 level. One of these courses is required as a prerequisite to the English major, and it must be taken at UVa after matriculating here-- unless you have taken an equivalent course at another college or university and your course has been approved for prerequisite credit by the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

ENGL is reserved for the general, introductory Pro Lit course, the major survey sequence, independent study courses, and courses in the distinguished majors program.  

As for the numerical designations, 2000-level courses are introductions to literary study. Classes are small, with no more than 22 students and often as few as 12 or 15. There is an emphasis on basic research, writing, and interpretive skills. 2000-level courses serve as the prerequisite to the major, but they cannot be used to fulfill major requirements.

Courses marked 3000 and above are all "major" courses, though they are generally not restricted to English majors. (You are not required to take a 2000-level course before taking a 3000-level course, though it helps.) Enrollments in most 3000-level courses range from 25 to 125 students.

Two of our 3000-level course sequences deserve special mention.

ENGL 3810, 3820, and 3830 ("History of Literatures in English") comprise the basic core survey of literary history that is required of all English majors. For purposes of planning, students should be aware that ENGL 3810 and 3830 are given only in the fall semester and ENGL 3820 only in the spring. You may take them in any order.

ENRN 3210 and 3220 are our two primary courses in the plays of William Shakespeare. These are not required courses, although most English majors elect to take at least one of them.

Courses at the 4000-level are advanced seminars in the major. Those marked 5000 are open to both undergraduate and graduate students; you should meet with the instructor before you enroll in one of these courses to make sure that you understand the expectations and requirements. Courses at the 8000- and 9000-level are restricted to graduate students.

Channels of Information

Because the ratio of English majors to faculty members is about ten to one, you should have opportunities to establish friendly, informal contact with the staff. In particular, you should try to get to know the faculty advisor you are assigned when you declare your major. Each semester, your advisor will post office hours during which you can drop by, no appointment required.

The very best way to make sure you keep up with everything you need to know about being an English major is to visit the Undergraduate Office in Bryan 236. There you may gather printed announcements about new courses or about degree applications, procure applications for independent study and honors and check the bulletin board for information.  For important, up-to-date information, be sure to consult the English Department's web page regularly.

After you declare your major, you'll be subscribed to the department's electronic mailing list for undergraduate majors. Important news, updates, and reminders will be posted to this list throughout the academic year.