BA Honors in English

The English Honors Program is a three-course sequence, the first taken in the Spring of your Junior year and each of the last two during your Senior year. The program guides dedicated English majors like you through the process of developing your own independent work, while promoting intellectual exchange in a small community of scholarly and creative writers. English Honors students learn advanced research methodologies and develop individual research projects on issues, texts, and ideas which capture their intellects and their imaginations.

In this program, you will be encouraged to "think outside the box." The independent projects that you develop will pose creative and critical interventions in your own, your classmates', and your readers' senses of the world.  If you wish to explore a project that raises ethical, social and political questions exceeding conventional answers, the English Honors Program offers an exciting "capstone" to your Undergraduate experience.

What all English Honors theses have in common is a study of texts. But the term texts can be broadly defined. How you define the term and what you select as a primary object of investigation can lead to a provocative and highly original thesis project that might not meet your presuppositions about the possibilities for the work we do in literary and cultural studies. In recent years, students have pursued projects as diverse as: a materialist study of the coca leaf; an investigation of how illicit street art creates new public imaginaries and thus opens possibilities for newly politicized communities; an analysis of’s extension of the literary coterie’s public sphere; an exploration of the early modern political function of the poetic epyllion; and the comparison of non-human protagonists in a novel and in anime to explore how the idea of the human is naturalized in times of technological revolution. 

Successful completion of the program earns an Honors Certificate in English and nomination for graduating with "Honors in English," distinctions that enhance any résumé whether you are considering pursuing any of a number of post-graduate careers or an English MA, MFA, or PhD.

If you are considering graduate school in a field other than English Studies, the Honors Program can provide excellent preparation for that chosen path, too. The sophisticated questions and independent scholarship Honors students typically produce are attractive to admissions officers in many disciplines, including: law, journalism, art history, education, and library and information sciences.

Graduating with honors makes you more attractive to all kinds of employers in a highly competitive market.  Your Honors thesis is proof of your superior writing, thinking, and research skills.  Non-academic fields that require larger projects of sustained research and critical writing to support evidence-based argument include: legal briefs; annual reports to a board of directors; business, marketing, and consumer reports, researched investigative assessments of other agencies (such as those written by the EPA); and government research on past or proposed legislation.

Employers, like those quoted in recent articles in Forbes and The New Republic, recognize that today's society produces not only increasingly sophisticated products and services but also complex cultural meanings, ideas, and values. In addition to technical skills and knowledge, thoughtful living in the new global culture requires subtle and nuanced ways of thinking and understanding cultural and social meanings. An Honors thesis gives you room to pursue, with peer and faculty support, an independent course of study based on your own intellectual passions that will help you carve out a meaningful and critical place for yourself in life beyond the University.

The Basics      

The program consists a sequence of three courses―English 399Z, 498, and 499―that all support your growth and sharpen your gifts as a writer and creative thinker. These classes will introduce you to the tools and strategies needed to successfully complete your independent and original Honors thesis project, the culmination of your work in the program. An Honors thesis in English Studies is a critical essay or creative writing project, typically between 40 and 50 pages in length. Beginning in the fall of your Senior year, the process of developing, researching, and writing that project is broken down into small steps. Throughout your Senior year, you will work closely in a one-on-one basis with a faculty advisor, who will help you hone your ideas, find key sources, and sharpen your argument and your writing for your independent project. (For more details about the Honors courses' content, click the link “View the Honors Handbook” above and scroll down to the “Sequence and Description” section.)


Admission to the program is based on a selection process that primarily considers the strength and originality of applicants' writing samples. Typically, applications are submitted in the spring of Sophomore year. However, interested students also are encouraged to apply in the fall of their Junior year. You must be an English major, and graduating with Honors necessitates a GPA in the major of 3.5 and an overall GPA of 3.25. If your GPA is close to but slightly below those minimums, and if your writing and ideas and drive are strong, you still should consider applying since one can always pull up a grade point average. 

All applicants should have completed at least 12 credits in English, including English 205Z, 210, and a 300-level course (preferably 305V). If you are planning on doing a creative project, you should also have had an upper level creative writing workshop (such as English 302W/302Z and/or 402Z) or be actively involved in another writing community, through such work as tutoring in the Writing Center or being involved in the undergraduate magazine Arch. The Honors Committee that reviews the applications may waive particular requirements when appropriate.

Transfer students may apply to the program upon acceptance to the University.

Click here to submit the online application for English Honors.

Applications for Fall 2015 are being accepted until November 20.

Honors Degree Breakdown

To remain in the Honors Program students are required to maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.50 in English courses and a minimum 3.25 overall. A student who leaves the honors program is responsible for completing the regular English major requirements.

Degree requirements for English Honors entail 37 credits that consist of the following:            

  •   9 credits of major core courses: English 205Z, 210, and 310          
  • 13 credits of required courses: English 305V, 399Z, 498, and 499*              
  •   6 credits from literature surveys: English 261, 291, 292, 295, or 297
  •   6 credits specifically from 300- and/or 400-level English electives              
  •   3 credits from another 200, 300, or 400-level English elective**

* In consultation with English Advisement and the Honors Director, English 399Z can be replaced with a 500- or 600-level course relevant to the student’s thesis topic during the senior year.

** The three credits for this elective can be from an English course, or the student may count 3 credits of coursework from other departments that have already been approved substitutes for English Electives. To see the list of “Approved Courses for English Electives” in the Undergraduate Bulletin, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page.