Bachelor of Arts Program

Professor Paul Marchbanks in class

The curriculum for the Bachelor of Arts in English offers students both structure and freedom of choice. Students take a required course in world literature and one in linguistics, along with a six-course sequence of British and American literature. The other seven English courses are chosen by the student and can include creative writing, literature, film, linguistics, composition/rhetoric, and technical communications. A one-unit Senior Project in the student’s field of interest provides the capstone to the English major.

English majors must also demonstrate intermediate-level proficiency in a language other than English. Cal Poly offers intermediate-level instruction in Spanish, French, and German, but students may also take Chinese and Italian. We encourage majors to study abroad, and many students choose to complete their language requirement in another country.

Though the core of the major is literature, students may choose an emphasis in creative writing, either fiction- or poetry-writing. The emphasis consists of one introductory workshop, two advanced workshops, one upper-division course in modern or contemporary literature in the student's chosen genre, and the senior project in that genre.

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Student Learning Outcomes and Goals

Learning Outcomes

  • Explicate texts from a diverse range of traditions, including texts from historically underrepresented groups.
  • Analyze how power structures and cultural practices shape textual production and reception.
  • Critique and produce texts that account for the rhetorical relationships among audience, writer, text, genre, and discourse.
  • Write clearly and effectively in a variety of genres and media.
  • Successfully incorporate scholarly research into papers.
  • Identify and define an array of historical and critical literary, rhetorical, and linguistic terms and categories.

Learning Goals

  • Understand how texts reflect, critique, and produce culture and power structures.
  • Pursue deeper knowledge of particular authors and works, including those from underrepresented groups.
  • Explore the ways identities and affiliations shape texts and traditions.
  • Understand the structure of language and how language varies over time, across social situations and social groups.
  • Participate in face-to-face exchanges of ideas with faculty, fellow students, and authors in the classroom and other academic or social settings.
  • Participate in small seminars where ideas are tested and sharpened.
  • Cultivate relational thinking that encourages students to make connections between the arts and humanities and other fields of study.
  • Sustain a life-long engagement and involvement in aesthetic, cultural, and intellectual matters, including social and political issues.
  • Draw upon multiple literacies to interpret literary, visual, and cultural texts.

For a full list of English major requirements, please see the course catalog.

You may find catalog course descriptions here.


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