EnglishBrief Description of Concentration

Humans use stories to cope and thrive, from oral poetic traditions to novels, screenplays, and hip hop rhymes. The English Department hones your expertise as a maker and interpreter of stories. By studying English literature, you will learn how to analyze and appreciate the language of the past and to craft new narratives for the future. You will develop expertise in communicating meaningfully through language and in interpreting others’ rhetoric, skills more crucial than ever in our text-saturated world. Along the way, you will both devise and encounter dazzling imaginary worlds that bring readers and writers together across vast expanses of space and time.

We commit ourselves to helping students immerse themselves in the literary worlds they know and love, discover new worlds they might not think to explore, acquire the means to write and read according to their own developing tastes, and sustain themselves on their intellectual and creative journeys.


Learning Objectives

A degree in English prepares students for every field that values persuasive writing, careful reading, and clear thinking. Our concentrators enter their lives and careers after Harvard able to:

  • write and speak persuasively and with nuance in one or more literary genres, including the genres of non-fiction;
  • enjoy literary texts aesthetically (in the body) and philosophically (in the mind);
  • analyze texts from stylistic, generic, contextual, and theoretical perspectives;
  • understand the difference between good and bad arguments;
  • conduct research and present it lucidly in written and oral forms;
  • read, perform, and write literary texts with a trained awareness of how they at once shape and are shaped by the societies in which they are written and received.


Gateway Courses

  • English 10: Literature Today
  • English 20: Literary Forms 
  • English 10, English 20, and English 97 are concentration requirements and are designed to provide a common foundation for concentrators. Students are also welcome to enroll in or apply for admission to any English class, including creative writing workshops and other courses taught by English Department faculty such as Humanities 10 or our exciting array of General Education courses. Visit the  course listings on our website to see our offerings. We welcome you to chat with us about where to start in our creative writing program and how to find courses featuring your favorite authors, genres, or themes.



Some of our alumni have written about their time in the English Department. We invite you to view their experiences here: https://english.fas.harvard.edu/alumni-features-and-careers


Upcoming Advising Events

To find upcoming events for this concentration, visit: https://eas.fas.harvard.edu/calendar/upcoming
Contact naia_poyer@fas.harvard.edu and ask to be added to the EAS listserv and weekly newsletter list to keep up with concentration announcements and opportunities.