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English and Textual Studies

What does it mean to study “English” today? Although English is a subject you almost certainly encountered before coming to college, at Syracuse University you are likely to find English courses to be different from what you’ve experienced and from what you might expect. College English has usually meant “literature,” and we continue to teach, for instance, the poetry of John Milton and Emily Dickinson, the novels of Thomas Hardy and Toni Morrison, along with the work of many other writers, both familiar and unfamiliar. Increasingly, however, this traditional “canon” of fiction, poetry, and drama has expanded to include new kinds of texts, including film, digital media, graphic novels, political manifestos, autobiography, and other forms of non-fictive prose. These changes to the discipline of English raise fundamental questions about what a “text” is, and have caused us to reexamine the nature of reading and writing. We welcome these developments, which have made our field increasingly complex, often contentious, and always lively.

We call our curriculum “English and Textual Studies” (ETS) to acknowledge the breadth and diversity of the texts we study. While our courses certainly feature well-known literary texts from the past and present, we also focus on neglected literary works, film and other forms of audio-visual media, historical documents and non-fictive forms that also demand interpretation, and on the cultural discourses and social institutions that influence acts of reading and writing. Our program is thus designed to introduce you to a wide array of texts, to enhance your ability to interpret them, and to train you to write critically and cogently about your understanding. The department’s creative writing courses will develop your skills as a writer of poetry and fiction and help you become a critical reader of your own work

Our diverse faculty, which includes literary historians, critical theorists, film scholars, editors, poets, and novelists, approaches the field in a variety of ways. But we have one thing in common: we are dedicated teachers, confident that our courses will help you to understand this changing textual universe and to acquire the verbal, analytical, and critical powers essential to your intellectual development and future success. The small size of our classes (typically 20-25) promotes interactive learning and gives us a chance to work closely with you as you develop as a reader and writer.

Our curriculum is broad, diverse, and flexible—and we encourage you to tailor your ETS major to suit your goals and interests.

View our degree requirements.



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Silvio Torres-Saillant
Director of Undergraduate Studies


Because the English and Textual Studies (ETS) curriculum stresses how we read as much as what we read, it is structured around different critical approaches to texts. That is, rather than mandating that specific authors, titles, or historical periods be covered every semester, our curriculum is flexible enough to highlight and reflect the diversity of our field and to present our students with a wide array of choices. Focusing on a broad range of cultural productions in English, the ETS curriculum highlights the relationships among (1) historical dimensions of reading in the past and present, (2) critical theories that supply strategies of interpretation and analysis, and (3) political questions that reading inevitably addresses. Creative writing courses invite students to develop their skills as writers of fiction and poetry, and to think critically about their craft. All ETS courses emphasize strong connections between reading, interpretation, and writing so that you can articulate your insights effectively.

You will notice that most upper division ETS courses have two titles: a broad generic title (such as “Literary Periods” or “Theorizing Representation”) that marks out a specific set of interpretive questions and critical approaches, and a subtitle (such as “Renaissance Poetry” or “American Consumer Culture”) that identifies the specific topic or textual material selected by the professor for emphasis in that particular semester. Full descriptions of the courses offered each semester are available under the Courses menu of this website.


The English Department's curriculum has been carefully constructed to facilitate particular learning outcomes and to impart skills and abilities that we feel are crucial for an English major.

Skills specific to the field of English and Textual Studies:

  1. Recognize how meanings are created through acts of critical reading and analysis
    • Analyze texts using various theoretical paradigms for literary and cultural studies
    • Analyze texts in relation to their historical contexts
    • Analyze texts as bearers of political meaning and mediators of power relationships
  2. Analyze the ways texts construct categories of difference, including differences of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexuality, and class
  3. Formulate sustained interpretive, analytical, or conceptual arguments based on evidence drawn from texts
  4. Develop skills for creative self-expression in fiction or poetry

General skills and abilities:

  1. Organize ideas in writing
  2. Use clear and appropriate prose
  3. Use library and web-based resources to locate primary and secondary sources
  4. Use and cite sources appropriately
  5. Express ideas and information orally
  6. Engage in analytical and critical dialogue orally
  7. Evaluate arguments
  8. Identify and question assumptions


You are expected to adhere to the following general classroom norms:

  • Turn off your cell phone prior to the start of class. One student will be designated as a recipient for Orange Alert messages.
  • Do not use laptops in class unless you have secured instructor permission to do so. The Office of Disability Services can provide you with documentation if a laptop is a necessity for you.
  • Do not leave the classroom while class is in session except in the case of extreme personal emergency.
  • Bring copies of the text under discussion to class every day.
  • You are expected to pay attention to and be respectful of other members of the class.

Please note that individual instructors may have more specific or additional guidelines for classroom protocol.



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The Film and Screen Studies track is designed for ETS majors with a particular interest in the critical study of film, video, television, gaming, and other forms of screen-based media. In our increasingly mediated world, the ability to analyze screen-based texts critically has become a valuable skill for many professions and fields of study. Our courses in film and screen studies examine the historical, social, and political contexts of these media forms and texts, as well as a range of critical and theoretical approaches to their study.

ETS offers three lower division courses designed to develop foundational skills in film and screen studies: ENG 154 Interpretation of Film, ENG 145 Reading Popular Culture, and ENG 146 Reading Screen Culture. At the upper division level, our courses range from the study of specific genres and traditions, such as Classical Hollywood, documentary film, and digital games, to the exploration of important concepts in screen culture, such as nation, globalization, gender, sexuality, time, and witnessing. Read more about the Film and Screen Studies track.


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The Creative Writing track of the ETS major is designed for students who have an intense interest in developing their skills as writers and readers of fiction and/or poetry. Our assumption is that students who want to write will need to read widely and critically and will be well served by a study of contemporary writing practices and the influences, precedents, and roots of literature. Students will be expected to read contemporary and historical works from a range of aesthetic credos that will provide a context to their development as artists. They will begin to think as writers do, understanding the aesthetic and moral choices writers confront as they write. In addition, students will have ample opportunity for frequent and extensive writing and rewriting as they read, critique, and support each other's work under the guidance of the distinguished faculty of the MFA in Creative Writing, a nationally ranked program.

ETS offers two lower division “gateway” courses that will develop the foundational grammar for the study of fiction and poetry (ENG 151: Interpretation of Poetry and ENG 153 Interpretation of Fiction). At the upper division level, we offer the “hybrid” critical-creative courses, ENG 301: Reading and Writing Prose, ENG 303: Reading and Writing Fiction, or ENG 304: Reading and Writing Poetry. These classes focus intensely on craft and the imitative aspects of writing, requiring both an analytical paper and creative imitation of prose, fiction, or poetry. We also offer introductory and advanced workshops in poetry and fiction (ENG 215, 217, 401 and 403). These courses offer extensive practice in writing within these genres in a workshop setting.



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Syracuse University has one of the most innovative undergraduate English Education programs in the nation. English Education students declare majors in both ETS and English Education, earning a dual B.A. degree from the School of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences.

In English Education courses, students learn how to address all learners’ needs in a changing diverse society, with particular emphasis on cultural and linguistic diversity, integration of media and technology, multi-level teaching, and standards-based assessment. With help from their advisors in ETS and Education, students select ETS courses that align with secondary school curriculum. English Education majors will follow the regular ETS major program, except that their coursework must include a course in Shakespeare, ENG 325: History and Varieties of English, a course with significant attention to non-Western literature and/or literature by members of racial groups represented in American schools, and one of the following: WRT 301, WRT 303, WRT 307, or WRT 428.

After completing the English Education program and passing several state tests, students are eligible for New York State certification in English language arts, grades 7-12.

For more information, or to schedule an appointment to discuss the English Education program, contact:
Marcelle M. Haddix, PhD
Reading & Language Arts Center
200 Huntington Hall
Syracuse, NY 13244
(315) 443-7642

M.S. in English Education

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Students interested in enrolling in a Master’s program to become certified to teach English in grades 7-12 should contact the School of Education.

Students graduating with a B.A. in ETS may qualify for the Graduate Student Tuition Scholarship Program, which assists students who have graduated from Syracuse University within the last five years and who enroll full-time in a selected School of Education Master of Science (M.S.) program. This tuition scholarship program offers graduate students in eligible programs funding covering 33% of the student’s tuition.  For more information, contact the School of Education Graduate Recruiting Office:

Speranza Migliore
Academic and Student Services, School of Education
111 Waverly Avenue, Suite 230
Syracuse NY
(315) 443-2505


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Distinction Program

Outstanding junior ETS majors will be invited to participate in the Distinction Program, enabling them to earn the designation “Distinction in English and Textual Studies” with their degree. The Distinction Program requires students to demonstrate outstanding academic accomplishment by maintaining a 3.4 overall GPA and a 3.6 within the major, enroll in and complete a graduate-level English course during their senior year, and successfully complete a senior thesis project (which will include enrolling in the 1-credit Thesis Research Practicum in the fall and the 2-credit Thesis Workshop in the spring semester of their senior year). The “Distinction” designation will be granted upon graduation.

The graduate course will enable students to participate in a rigorous, intense seminar in a field or topic of their choice, and the thesis project will require substantial research, critical analysis, and writing. These two projects will serve as valuable preparation for students interested in graduate school, and both will provide impressive credentials on applications to graduate school, law school, or other professional degree programs.

Creative writing projects will not be considered for Distinction, but will be considered for Honors.


Honors Projects

The English department offers one or two Honors sections of ETS courses every year. Enrollment in these courses is restricted to students in the Renée Crown University Honors Program.

Honors Capstone Projects and Distinction in ETS
The structure and support of the Distinction Program can be extremely useful for Honors students writing a critical Capstone Project. Students enrolled in the Renée Crown University Honors program who meet the GPA requirements for the ETS Distinction Program will be invited to participate in Distinction on an altered schedule and with slightly altered requirements that will allow them to develop their projects to complete both Distinction and the Honors Capstone Project. Honors students who do not meet the GPA requirements for invitation to the Distinction Program but who wish to write a critical Capstone Project may sign up for and take ENG 494: Research Practicum and ENG 495: Thesis Writing Workshop.

Honors Capstone Projects in Creative Writing
Students who wish to undertake a fiction or poetry Capstone Project must make special arrangements for approval of their projects. A prerequisite is completion of a creative writing workshop in the medium proposed for the project, either poetry or fiction (HNR 340, ENG 215, ENG 217, ENG 401, or ENG 403). Students will include with their Capstone Proposal Form a sample of their writing (for fiction: one story, not longer than 20 pages; for poetry: 6-8 poems). Students should NOT ask a faculty member to serve as an advisor before submitting the Proposal Form. The Creative Writing faculty committee will evaluate all proposals to determine whether or not a project is viable, and whether or not a professor is available to work with the student.

Click here for more information on Distinction and Honors in ETS.


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View information about requirements for the ETS minor.