Q: What courses absolutely must be taken during the first year (or the first semester)?
Because written communication is so important to the study of literature, we recommend that students fulfill their VE (verbal expression) requirement as soon as possible—ideally during the first semester of the first year. For any student exploring the possibility of an English major, we recommend: First Year Intensive courses offered through the English department; English 20 (Introduction to Literary Analysis) or our historical sequence courses required for the major that also fulfill the VE requirement, such as English 180: Major American Literature I, English 141: Major British Writers II, and English 183: African American Literature II. If you have any questions regarding your writing placement, contact Jennifer Plante at the Writing Center: jplante@clarku.edu.
Q: What are some good introductory choices besides a VE course during the first year?
After completing the VE requirement—or if you are VE exempt—you can take any 100-level English course. We especially recommend our new Gateway course, English 199: The Text, the World, and the Critic: Narrative Form, which is a course for the English major. Participants in the course will develop strategies for close reading and analysis of a range of literary genres, including poetry, drama, prose narratives such as short stories. If you are unable to register for an appropriate VE course during your first semester but feel you might be ready to try a 100-level literature course, consult your summer adviser (and, ideally, the course instructor). It is always a good idea to let the instructor of a 100-level course know if you are taking your first English class at Clark. If you have any questions about the suitability of a particular course, never hesitate to contact the instructor by email.
Q: What courses should first year students steer clear of?
Generally, we do not recommend that first-year students take 200-level seminars.
Q: What is the preferred mix of courses?
A balance of workload and exploration of various fields of study are important in your first year. That is why we generally encourage students to take no more than one English course per semester during their first year. You do not want to overload your schedule with too many reading/writing intensive courses at once, and you will want to explore a range of subjects, especially because the English major works extremely well in combination with double majors, minors, and concentrations in other departments. That said, students eager to begin their English major career sometimes wish to take a 100-level; course in addition to a VE course. This scenario works best when the VE course is offered in another department besides English, such as Philosophy, History, Screen Studies, Comparative Literature, etc. 
Q: Does your department recommend that first year students explore the PLS during their first year? Or, should first-year students focus more on fulfilling prerequisites for the major?
English courses at the 100 level generally fulfill core requirements of the major, so you will already be getting a head start by taking at least one 100-level class in your first year. Fulfilling PLS requirements in conjunction with introductory English classes is a great way to explore different perspectives and potential secondary fields of study, all of which can only enhance the reading of literature.
Q: What courses in related departments do your majors usually take?
The English major is well suited to interdisciplinary study. Many of our students have double majors or various combinations of minors and concentrations in other fields. Combinations within the Humanities are popular (Philosophy, History, Foreign Languages, Music, Art History, Social Sciences (especially Political Science, Sociology, and Psychology), interdisciplinary programs (such as Women and Gender Studies), and preprofessional programs (such as Education). Many students also combine their interest in literature with their pursuit of science, mathematics, and computer science. The interdisciplinary potential of the English major is well demonstrated in the Senior Capstone, in which students are encouraged to craft independent projects that pull together their main fields of study.
Q: Is there any advice for potential English minors?
The same 100-level classes that fulfill core major requirements also fulfill many minor requirements. If you are unsure whether you want to major or minor in English, good choices include the historical survey classes (English 140 and 141: Major British Writers I and II, English 180 and 181: Major American Writers I and II), or English 182 and 183: African American Literature I and II, and any poetry offering (English 110 and 123); or other genre courses (English 164: The Gothic; English 135: The Short Story, and English 165: American Ethnic Writers).
Q: How and when does your department assign advisors for declared majors?
We encourage students to ask a specific professor to serve as adviser when they are ready to declare the major. If a student does not have a particular professor in mind, the Department Chair is always happy to become the adviser. Because you will pursue a special area of focus within the major, we encourage you to find the professor who can best advise you as your interests evolve. That means a major should always feel free to switch advisors when appropriate to the specialization.
Q: If first year students have specific questions about your department, whom should they contact?
Please contact Department Chair Professor Lisa Kasmer.

Revised: 3/2017