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Major Requirements

UB English student

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Students choose from a variety of courses within every area of the English major.  Because of the range of expertise among our faculty, students may pursue concentrations in a variety of fields—including several historical periods, cultural studies, popular culture, ethnic literatures, film studies, creative writing, and critical theory.  In any given semester, we offer courses such as Medieval Epic, Love in the Western World, Mythology, Revenge in Renaissance Drama, 18th-Century Fiction, American Travel Writing, The Bible as Literature, Crime Fiction, Comedy, The Modern American Novel, and National Cinemas. We offer a concentration in Creative Writing, staffed by five published poets and fiction writers, and also an interdisciplinary Journalism Certificate, staffed in large part by working journalists and offering multiple internship possibilities.

Students also enjoy a rich array of extracurricular offerings. There are multiple fiction and poetry readings every semester, bringing a range of emerging and established writers to Buffalo. The Buffalo Film Seminar (a course open to the public in a downtown theater) screens great films weekly in the context of discussion led by practicing film makers. Scholarly lectures abound, as do literary opportunities in the city of Buffalo—from poetry slams to opportunities to meet world-famous writers: in 2008-09, these included Chinua Achebe, Isabelle Allende, and Michael Ondaatje. Students produce their own literary magazine, host their own readings, and form undergraduate clubs on the subjects that most interest them—including, recently, a Shakespeare and a Old and Middle English Club.

Students also work with faculty on scholarly research projects—for example, on Whitman’s Civil War poetry, on popular fiction in the UK, or on the nineteenth-century literature of politeness. In 2007-08, an English major won an international United Nations writing contest and was flown to Paris as part of her prize; another English major received honorable mention in a national essay contest.

The English Minor easily complements multiple areas of study and assists students wanting to hone writing and analytical skills in their major areas of study.

The English Honors program enables students who have a high GPA or are nominated by department faculty to work even more closely with faculty in seminar-style courses, and in writing a senior thesis. Honors students are especially likely to participate with faculty on research projects or as research assistants. In the last few semesters, for example, students have worked with faculty members on projects about Irish literature, Italian horror movies, American short stories, and American film.

The English Department offers numerous prizes:

  • The English Department Essay Contest
  • The Albert Cook, Mac Hammond & John Logan Prizes for drama, fiction, or poetry
  • The Arthur Axlerod Memorial Award for poetry
  • The George Knight Houpt Prize for excellence in work in the English Department
  • The Joyce Carol Oates Fiction Prize
  • The Scribblers Prize for the best piece of creative writing by an undergraduate woman

Additionally, the Oscar A. Silverman undergraduate library offers an Undergraduate Research Prize (won in 2007-08 by an English major) and two poetry prizes:

  • The Academy of American Poets Prize
  • The Friends of the University Libraries Undergraduate Poetry Prize

For more information about our courses, check out The Whole English Catalog.

Full Major in English

Minimum Requirements for Department Acceptance

Students should be in good standing (i.e., have a GPA of 2.0), have satisfied the University Writing Skills requirement, and have completed two courses in the English 202-299 range, at least one of them a literature course, with a minimum GPA in these classes of 2.5.

Application includes a conference with the Director of Undergraduate Studies about the program's requirements and how the student may meet them.

Department Requirements for Graduation

  1. The aforementioned two courses (6 credits) in the English 202-299 range, with a minimum GPA in these courses of 2.5. At least one of them must be a literature course, and we recommend that at least one be a survey of literary history such as World Literature (221-222), British Writers (231-232), or American Writers (241-242).
  2. Eleven courses (33 credits) on the 300-400 level, as follows:

a)     One course (3 credits) in Criticism – English 301. Criticism introduces the students to the practice and principles of literary criticism. Classes will discuss the close reading of texts (including poetry, prose, and analytical writing), the intelligent use of secondary sources, the revision of critical prose, the meaning of scholarly conventions, and several varieties of literary theory. Topics vary with instructors’ interests, but in all sections students will draft and revise a research paper of at least twelve pages. Criticism may not fulfill any other requirements for the major.

b)    Four courses (12 credits) in Earlier Literature (literature written before 1830), chosen from among specified courses that focus on literature written before 1830.

c)     One Breadth of Literary Study course (3 credits). This is a course focused on literatures that write back to the traditional literary canon and that represent the diversity of literatures now written and studied in English-speaking countries and around the world.  Some examples are: 341: Multicultural Autobiography, 343: Native American Literature, 365: Studies in African American Literature, and 380: Postcolonial Literature.

d)     Five elective courses (15 credits) chosen from the 300 and 400 levels, at least one of which MUST be at the 400-level.  They may not include more than six credits of Independent Study or any credits earned in an internship.

13 courses (39 credits) in all.


Departmental Language Requirement for Graduation

  1. Every English major must demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language through the second semester of the second year or its equivalent.
  2. Any student entering the University with less than strong beginning proficiency in a foreign language will start with the introductory class and proceed through a total of four semesters. The normal sequence for Spanish, for example, would be Span. 101, Span. 102, Span. 151, Span. 152.

Joint Major in English

Minimum Requirements for Department Acceptance

Same as for the full major.

Department Requirements for Graduation

  1. Two 200-level courses (6 credits) of English in the 202-299 range, with a minimum GPA of 2.5 in these courses. At least one must be a literature course, and we recommend that at least one be a survey of literary history such as World Literature (221-222), British Writers (231-232), or American Writers (241-242).
  2. One course (3 credits) in Criticism – English 301.
  3. Three courses (9 credits) in Earlier Literature.
  4. At least three additional (elective) courses (9 credits) in the 300-400 level.

Nine courses (27 credits) in all.

Departmental Language Requirement for Graduation

Same as for the full major.

General Recommendations

  1. Literature Surveys. Students entering the University as freshmen are encouraged to take a full year of a 200-level survey course to satisfy the major requirement. The survey courses (221-2, 231-2, 241-2) provide students with a sense of literary history that serves as context for what they will study within the major. Transfer students or students who decide on the English major after taking their 200-level courses may wish to take more than the required four earlier literature courses if their 200-level courses were not surveys. Those planning to take the GRE in Literature and pursue English at the graduate level are strongly urged to take as much coursework as possible in the literature of historical periods before 1900.
  2. Foreign Languages. While any language, ancient or modern, satisfies the departmental language requirement, the preferred choices for those planning to do graduate work in the humanities are German, French, Spanish, Latin, and Greek.
  3. Program Planning. Individual programs should be chosen in a coherent way and should take advantage of groupings and concentrations within the Major.
  4. Department Advisement and Degree Evaluation. Students should consult with the Undergraduate Director in 303 Clemens about course selection and progress toward the degree.
  5. Transfer Credit Evaluation. Transfer credit is evaluated on an individual basis by the Undergraduate Director. Students should make an appointment at the earliest possible date for such an evaluation. Students transferring from MFC or who are re-entering after several years absence should also consult with the Undergraduate Director for an evaluation of their English work. The Department may accept two lower-level and four upper-level transfer courses at the Director’s discretion.

Contact Us

Associate Professor of English Randy Schiff

Randy Schiff

Associate Professor; Director of Undergraduate Studies

427 Clemens Hall

Phone: (716) 645-0688


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Nicole Lazaro

Undergraduate Secretary

Undergraduate Office

303 Clemens Hall

Phone: (716) 645-2579