Pursuing a degree in English literature requires a passion for the written word and the curiosity to learn about the historical, cultural and philosophical aspects behind various texts. While most universities offer an English literature program, they are not all created equal. The best of these are strong, diverse programs, with celebrated faculty and a distinguished name.

University of Pittsburgh

The undergraduate program at the University of Pittsburgh requires a course in “Lectures on Literature,” three developmental courses, three historical period courses and five electives. These include independent study courses where students can work one-on-one with a faculty member of their choice to pursue a topic they’re interested in. The program regularly awards undergraduate students who create well-written and researched papers on topics like film or literary theory with a monetary prize. In addition, the department hosts an annual undergraduate conference in literature. At the graduate level, a master’s and doctorate program are both available. The Ph.D. program has received numerous accolades, including being called one of the first in America to redefine English studies, by the “Times Literary Supplement.”

University of Cincinnati

The Department of English & Comparative Literature at the University of Cincinnati offers undergraduate and graduate programs. All students in the undergraduate program are required to take part in the nationally recognized first-year composition program. These general education classes are aimed at strengthening writing skills. After this, students can choose to go on the literary & cultural studies track, in which they can choose to take a variety of courses or to specialize in a time period or a particular cultural study. The graduate literature programs offer master’s and doctorate degrees and focus on getting graduate students published in major publications. The program also publishes its own journal, The Cincinnati Review.

Brown University

Brown University is known for its innovative approaches to studying literature. It helped pioneer an interdisciplinary view on the subject, and the department is now the largest humanities department in this Ivy League university. The faculty here concentrates on three areas of study: medieval and early modern, the Enlightenment, and modern and contemporary studies. Students will also find a particular in-depth selection of non-fiction writing courses. At the graduate level, a master’s and doctorate program are both offered. The Ph.D. program focuses on teaching graduate students to become both researchers and educators. A minimum of thirteen courses are required, in addition to a foreign language competency and a dissertation.

Oxford University

Oxford University has the largest English literature department in the UK and houses some of the top critics and researchers in the field. It’s also the home to one of Britain’s most important libraries, the Bodleian Library, which is an important research tool for literature students. The undergraduate program has concentrations in language and literature, history, modern languages and classics, all of them studied through the reading of texts. At the graduate level, students belong to the English Graduates at Oxford organization, which offers professional and scholarly assistance as well as social events. About 360 students work toward master’s and doctorate degrees here every year.

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