What does it mean to study English today? The English department engages that question by offering its students the opportunity to explore Old English texts, Internet texts, American novels, minority writing, Anglo-Irish literature, queer textuality, science fiction, women’s literature, literature of the body, modern poetry, post-colonial texts, Shakespeare, etc.—all kinds of “literatures” written in English. We study the complex interactions between literature, culture, and history. At the heart of literary study lies the simple yet striking recognition that language is both a technology of thought and a constituent of human reality. The major in English transforms this recognition into a program of study that develops the critical skills required to negotiate complicated literary and cultural texts. Together, we spend time working on questions like these: How do historical and cultural contexts lend written texts their intelligibility and convey their strange power? How do gender and minority discourses inform our understanding of literature? How does the study of English engage the public sphere in its intersection with other fields, such as cognitive science, social science, and information science?
What can one “do” with a degree in English? Graduate and professional
schools and employers seek people who can read, write, speak, and
analyze—the basic skills acquired by our English majors. Students who
study English learn how to think, and to think independently. They are
trained to read a variety of literary and cultural works from across
centuries and continents, to write proficiently, and to make lively
arguments. English majors learn about how the past informs the present,
become “keepers” of past works and present cultures, and leave college
thinking and feeling more deeply about life and how to live it.
Current and prospective English majors are urged to consult the
departmental undergraduate advisor for assistance in preparing programs
of study. Students may also consult faculty advisors about academic and
career aspects of their studies. Students should check the English
department website at www.english.ucsb.edu for up-to-date information on
English majors are also encouraged to explore the opportunities for
study abroad provided by the University of California’s Education Abroad
Program. Students may fulfill both major requirements and electives
through exchanges with universities in the United Kingdom, Ireland,
Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and South Africa. At most European
universities and in Israel, students may fulfill elective requirements
while studying abroad. Because all courses taken through EAP are
accepted as UC courses, students may spend a year of study in a foreign
university with no loss of time in completing their degrees. The
departmental advisor for the Education Abroad Program can assist in the
choice of programs and courses that will best meet the goals of the
The Writing Program offers required and elective courses at freshman
and advanced levels. Specifically, Writing 1, 2, 50, and 109AA-ZZ are
offered through the Writing Program. See the Writing Program listing in
this catalog for information about these courses.
Students with a bachelor’s degree in English who are interested in
pursuing a California Teaching Credential should contact the credential
advisor in the Graduate School of Education as soon as possible.
Special Opportunities, Programs, and Awards
Honors Program. The honors program in English provides the opportunity for qualified majors to pursue advanced literary research and writing.
Application to the program is normally in Fall of the junior year. To qualify for the program, students must maintain a grade-point average of 3.5 (overall and/or in the major). The honors program consists of 2 quarters of the honors seminar (198A & 198B, each for 2 units) taken winter and spring of the junior year and a 4-unit independent study (196) taken fall of the senior year during which the senior thesis is written. Successful completion of the honors program merits the award of Distinction in the Major at graduation. For information on application to the honors program, students should consult the English Department.
Students are also encouraged to apply for admission to the College of Letters and Science Honors Program as early as possible in their college careers.
Supplemental Seminars. Students may take advantage of honors seminars that are sometimes offered in conjunction with large lecture courses. These seminars provide an opportunity for motivated students to work closely with faculty members while enriching their large lecture experience.
Research Assistant Program. By application, qualified upper-division students may gain experience in academic research, while earning academic credit, as research assistants to the English faculty.
Awards. The William Frost Award is given annually to a senior or upper-division English major and carries a substantial stipend. Entrants are judged on their academic records, as well as on a critical essay which represents the student’s best work. The Kieth E. Vineyard Honorary Scholarship is awarded annually to an undergraduate in recognition of outstanding skills in creative writing. Entry dates are announced during the winter quarter.
In recent years the department has sponsored several other awards and contests, some that recognize excellence in creative writing, both poetry and fiction, and others that honor academic excellence in combination with financial need.
English Club. The English Club, a student-organized group, arranges programs of interest for all English undergraduates throughout the academic year. The English department undergraduate listserv disseminates information for and about the English Club and other topics of interest to English majors. To subscribe to the listserv, refer to the website at: