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Study Literature in the US


Study Literature

Literature studies in the US can be conducted in any region of the country! Most major, four year universities offer a degree in English literature. English programs are core in American universities because every student must attain compositional writing skills regardless of their major! For those who specifically choose to study literature in the US, the breadth of an English program will encompass the history of the English language, composition, modern English grammar, British literature, American colonial literature, multi-cultural literature, literary criticism or theory, and even some are beginning to add English as Second Language training!

Course Structure

When planning to study literature in the US, expect courses rich in reading and writing. A literature program requires far more reading than many other academic courses. The courses are structured in lecture style. Assigned readings will be provided at the beginning of the course in a syllabus. Each international student is expected to critically read the assigned texts, be present in class for discussion, and contribute meaningfully to the course by applying textual analysis, evaluating the language of the text (such as metaphors, significant capitalization, emphasis, or historical relevance), or identifying dominant themes and concepts.

Literature courses are also formatted thematically; materials discussed throughout the semester have a clear relationship, so when reading, students should be examining the works for common themes. Literature studies always emphasize textual relevance and authors often build on or make references to other literary pieces. An international student studying literature in the US should function academically with these principles in mind.

In literature studies, paper writing rather than testing is the primary means of assessment. Most courses will require a minimum of two major papers constituting up to 50% of the course grade. One paper is often due at midterm and the other is due at the end of the semester. These papers should be written to build upon ideas presented throughout the course. In addition to reading, note taking in class is beneficial because professors often give relevant information that may not be obtainable outside the course. This information can be used later to generate research ideas or as enhancements when developing papers.

Degree Programs

The most commonly found degree programs for literature are English literature or English Education. Both tracks require intensive study of British literature, American Literature, Multicultural literature, literary criticism, composition, creative writing, linguistics, rhetoric, modern English grammar, and the history of the English language. In addition, students will have the opportunity to choose electives of personal interest.

The primary difference between majoring in English literature and English education is the requirement of pedagogical courses. English education majors will learn how to teach through courses in educational foundation, materials and methods courses, and finally a culminating practicum course allowing the international student to work in the field as a student-teacher alongside a cooperating teacher in an approved school district.

Career Opportunities

There are a range of jobs available for a person holding an English degree! Writing skills are transferable and necessary in almost every field. English majors are only limited to their own creativity in job prospects, but here are a few ideas:

  • English teacher
  • Writer
  • Editor
  • Technical writer
  • Blogger
  • Proofreader
  • Writing coach
  • Copywriter
  • Playwright
  • English teacher abroad
  • English tutor

Top Schools

Contrary to popular belief, choosing a school based on rankings is not the best way to assure a top-notch education. Instead, review a university's faculty profiles for professors' areas of expertise. For example, if an international student is interested in multicultural literature, he or she should be looking for a university where two or more professors specialize in multicultural genres. If one is interested is a specific time period in British literature, the university of choice would be one that has an expert on this period on hand! To even further help a student make a decision, these professors can be contacted by email and their published works or studies can also be accessed online! The best program is a program that can help you develop your area of interest. This becomes especially relevant if you later decide to pursue graduate studies!


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