What Are the Core Courses of an English Literature Degree Program?

Students with a love of words, language and reading often choose degree programs in English literature when they enter a university. Core courses of an English literature degree program cover literary interpretation and major writers and periods of English literature. Read on to learn more about the courses you're likely to take in a English literature degree program. Schools offering English Language & Literature degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

English Literature Core Courses

Students studying English literature will learn how to read critically and analyze novels, plays, poems and essays. Success requires a love of literature and the English language. Core courses of English literature degree programs enable you to look at the different ways by which a work of literature is interpreted. You'll also gain an understanding of the historical and artistic context of a piece of literature.

Important Facts About an English Literature Degree Program

Continuing Education Master's and doctoral degrees available
Possible Careers Educator, Journalist, Lawyer, Editor, Writer, Author, Sales Associate
Learning Environment Traditional classroom and online options available
Key Skills Analytical thinking, excellent oral and written communication skills, reading comprehension, time-management, multitasking, adaptability, independent thinking

Literary Criticism

Literary criticism classes cover theoretical approaches to reading and understanding literature. Approaches to literary criticism begin with Plato and Aristotle and cover up to the 20th century and the modern schools of thought.


English literature degree programs almost always include at least one course on William Shakespeare. Shakespeare courses cover his comedies, tragedies and histories, and they pay particular attention to the cultural influences that affected his writing.

Early American Literature

Early American literature covers the major American writers from the colonial period to the year 1900. In this course, you'll interpret the writings from the perspective of the times in which they were written. Particular emphasis is placed on movements in art, philosophy and music during this period.

British Masterpieces

British masterpiece courses examine the works of major writers from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. Various literary periods and movements are studied, including romanticism, neoclassicism, renaissance, and modernism.

World Masterpieces

World masterpiece courses cover works widely regarded as being masterpieces in English literature from outside Britain and America. You'll be exposed to a diverse body of work that reflects starkly different approaches to thought, theology and the humanities from the broader English-speaking world.

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