EnglishBrief Description of Concentration

Humans use stories to cope and thrive, from prehistoric cave paintings to distilling experience in novels, screenplays, and hip hop rhymes. By studying English literature, you will learn how to analyze and appreciate the language of the past and to contribute to the narrative of the future. You will develop expertise in interpreting others’ rhetoric and learn to communicate meaningfully yourself, skills that are more crucial than ever with the explosion of online forms of textual exchange. In addition, you will be exposed to the dazzling imaginary worlds that have brought 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 find their own paths, and sustain themselves on their intellectual and creative journeys.

Learning Objectives

A degree in English prepares students for any field in which careful reading, clear thinking, and persuasive writing are valued. Our concentrators enter a multitude of fields with the ability to:

  • speak and write 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 oral and written 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, like Humanities 10 and an exciting array of General Education courses. Visit the course listings on our website to see our exciting offerings! We welcome you to chat with us about where to find your favorite authors or the topics and issues that are on your mind in our classrooms.


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


English Advising Events