Major Requirements Guide & FAQ

Completion of the English major involves taking a total of 16 classes spread across the 10 different required categories. Course offerings vary from quarter-to quarter, but traditionally we have been able to offer at least one course per category during every quarter of the academic year. This means that it is very easy to get the classes you need to graduate. Please review this page and scroll to the bottom to review the Important Notes & FAQ's about different aspects of your major/degree requirements. Check out the video below to find your way around the different sections of this page!


Once you're done viewing the guide,download this worksheet (PDF) help you plan your schedule!

*Note Regarding the worksheet: If you are a student who began the major before Fall 2022, please review the "special note in category 8.







First Step

Category #1 - Complete an Intro Writing Course (1 class required)

Category #1.

All students must start the major by completing an introductory writing course. The options include taking one of the following:

  • ENL 3 - Intro to Literature
  • UWP 1 - Expository Writing
  • A 4 or 5 on the AP English Literature or Language tests (a score of 4 or 5 will award you course credit for ENL 3 or UWP 1, and thus fulfill this requirement.
  • An equivalent course. Please note that the  lower division writing courses listed under the College's Composition Requirements are eligible to count as equivalent courses:  NAS 5, COM 1-4, etc... *If you are looking to change your major to English and believe you have already completed an equivalent course to ENL 3 or UWP 1, please consult an English major advisor.

                                 What do I take after Step #1?

90% of English courses have only a single prerequisite - the requirement that you do an intro writing course. This means that once you finish Category #1, you may move on to either lower or upper division classes, regardless of your class standing. With that said, while it is not required, it is strongly recommended that one finish the Prepatory Subject Matter (aka "Lower Division Requirements") before moving on to the rest of the major. Consult your advisor to see what's best for you, but the primary takeaway here is that English courses do not need to be taken in a specific order or at a specific time. After you complete Category #1, you may go on to do virtually any course in Category #2-9 (Category #10 classes have additional prerequisites).

 Lower Division Requirements

Category #2. Introductory Topics (1 class required)

Complete one introductory topics course from the following list (specific topics are variable from quarter to quarter).

  • ENL 40, Introductory Topics in Literature
  • ENL 41, Introductory Topics in Literature & Media
  • ENL 43, Introductory Topics in Drama
  • ENL 44, Introductory Topics in Fiction
  • ENL 45, Introductory Topics in Poetry

Category #3. Introductory Survey Classes ( 3 classes required)

Complete all three of the following historical survey courses. Note that while these classes are not prerequisites for one another, it is recommended (not required) that you take these classes in order.

  • ENL 10A, Literatures in English I: to 1700
  • ENL 10B, Literatures in English II: 1700-1900
  • ENL 10C, Literatures in English III:  1900-Present



Upper Division Requirements

Category #4. Literary Theory (1 class required)

Students must take one of the following literary theory classes.


  • ENL 110A, Introduction to Literary Theory 
  • ENL 110B, Introduction to Modern Literary and Critical Theory


Category #5. Pre-1800 Classes ( 3 classes required)

Choose THREE total classes from this box. At least ONE of those classes must be one of the three medieval topics (denoted with a “♦♦♦”)

  • ENL 111, Medieval Literature ENL ♦♦♦
  • ENL 113A, Chaucer: Troilus and "Minor" Poems♦♦♦
  • ENL 113B, Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales♦♦♦


  • ENL 115, Topics in 16th & 17th Century Literature
  • ENL 117,  Shakespeare. (Note that this class is repeatable for credit when the specific readings/topics differ. Discuss with your advisor before proceeding.)

  •  ENL 122, Milton

  • ENL 123, Topics in 18th Century British Literature

  • ENL 142, Early American Literature

  • ENL 150A, British Drama to 1800

  • ENL 155A, 18th Century British Novel

  •  ENL 185A, Literature by Women before 1800

Category #6. 19th Century Literature (1 class required)

  • ENL 130, British Romantic Literature
  • ENL 133, 19th Century British Literature
  • ENL 143, 19th Century American Literature to the Civil War
  • ENL 144, Post-Civil War American Literature
  • ENL 155B, 19th Century British Novel
  • ENL 158A, The American Novel to 1900
  • ENL 181A**, African American Literature to 1900
  • ENL 185B, Literature by Women 1800-1900

**Some of the courses in this category are marked ( ** ) to denote that they appear as options for fulfilling multipe categories of requirements; however, students may not use a single course to fulfill two categories.

Category #7. 20th & 21st Century Literature (1 class required)

  • ENL 125, Topics in Irish Literature (Re: ENL 125 - Please see special note under "Category 8" if you entered UC Davis before Fall '22).
  • ENL 137, British Literature 1900-1945
  • ENL 138, British Literature 1945-Present
  • ENL 146, American Literature 1900-1945
  • ENL 147, American Literature 1945 to the present
  • ENL 150B, Drama from 1800 to the present
  • ENL 154, The Graphic Novel
  • ENL 155C, 20th Century British Novel
  • ENL 156, The Short Story
  • ENL 157, Detective Fiction
  • ENL 158B, The American Novel from 1900 to the present
  • ENL 166, Love & Desire in Contemporary American Poetry
  • ENL 167**, 20th Century African American Poetry
  • ENL 168, 20th Century American Poetry
  • ENL 181B**, African-American Literature 1900-present
  • ENL 185C, Literature by Women after 1900

**Some of the courses in this category are marked ( ** ) to denote that they appear as options for fulfilling multipe categories of requirements; however, students may not use a single course to fulfill two categories.

Category #8. Race & Ethnicity (1 class required)

  • ENL 139, Topics in Global Literatures and Cultures
  • ENL 140, Topics in Postcolonial Literatures & Culture
  • ENL 141, Topics in Diasporic Literatures & Migration
  • ENL 145, Reading Race, Class, & Gender
  • ENL 167**, 20th Century African American Poetry
  • ENL 178, Topics in Nations, Regions, and Other Cultural Geographies
  • ENL 179, Topics in Comparative American Literatures
  • ENL 181A**, African American Literature to 1900
  • ENL 181B**, African American Literature 1900-present
  • ENL 182, Literature of California (Students using the pre Fall '22 requirements should note that this class was formerly listed under Category 9. Talk to your advisor with questions about this).

**Some of the courses in this category are marked ( ** ) to denote that they appear as options for fulfilling multiple categories of requirements; however, students may not use a single course to fulfill two categories.

Special Note For Students who entered UC Davis before Fall '22. Students who entered the major before Fall '22 will note that Category 8 used to include classes on "Gender & Sexuality". As such, any student who entered before Fall '22 will have the option to continue to progress through the major using those requirements. Please note this is optional. If they wish Pre-Fall '22 students may also use these newer requirements. If you are one of these students, and so choose to select the "Old", pre-Fall '22 requirements, you may take any one of the following courses to take fulfill category 8: ENL 125, ENL 166, ENL 185A, ENL 185 B, ENL 185C or ENL 186. Please note there are two important caveats to keep in mind if using these older requirements. (1) Under these earlier requirements, ENL 125 was not included in category 7 classes, and (2) ENL 186 was not included in category 9 classes. Aside from this - all other requirements remain the same.

Category #9. Language, Media and Literature (1 class required)

  • ENL 105, History of the English Language
  • ENL/LIN/UWP 106, English Grammar
  • ENL 107, Freedom of Expression
  • ENL 120, Law & Literature
  • ENL 126, Food & Literature
  • ENL 160, Film as Narrative
  • ENL 162, Film Theory & Criticism
  • ENL/STS 164, Writing Science
  • ENL 171A, The Bible as Literature: The Old Testament
  • ENL 171B, The Bible as Literature: Prophets and New Testament
  • ENL/CDM/STS 172, Video Games & Culture
  • ENL/STS 173, Science Fiction
  • ENL 180, Children's Literature
  • ENL 183, Adolescent Literature
  • ENL 184, Literature & Environment
  • ENL 186, Literature, Sexuality, and Gender (RE: ENL 186 - please see special note under "Category 8" if you entered UC Davis before Fall '22).

Choose an emphasis to complete the major

What is an Emphasis?

Most majors will have specific categories of classes required, but there is inevitably a kind of "choose your own adventure" section of any set of major requirements. Some majors call this a “track” or a “specialization”. In English, we call this metaphorical fork in the road a choice of “emphasis”. There are two options for a major emphasis (“Literature, Criticism & Theory” or “Creative Writing”). Each emphasis is represented below under its own box in Category #10.  You must complete at least one emphasis, but you do not need to complete both. Students will receive transcript notation for each emphasis they complete.

Category #10. Complete 1 of the boxes below. (3 classes required)

   Literature, Criticism & Theory                                                      Creative Writing

    aka "The Critical Emphasis"                                                          aka "The CW emphasis"

Total Number of classes required: 3

Special Prerequisites: Students must complete category #4 (literary theory), before taking an advanced studies course.

Students who who wish to complete this emphasis must finish 3 courses:

  • Two advanced studies courses from the class list below.
  • One "Free Choice" class (see definition below).


See below for an important overview of seminar courses (noted with a ♦), as well as information about the honors thesis classes.

Take 2 of the following Advanced Studies Courses:

­­149 – Topics in Literature

153 – Topics in Drama

159 – Topics in the Novel

163 – Literary Study in the British Isles

165 – Topics in Poetry

171 – Game Studies Seminar

177 – Study of an Individual author

187A ♦  – Topics in Literature & Media

188A   – Topics in Literary & Critical Theory

189   –  Seminar in Literary Studies

194H – Special Study for Honors Student (See Honors Thesis note below)

Take one "Free Choice" course:
­­The third course for this emphasis is a “Free Choice" class. Any upper division English class is eligible to satisfy this requirement. That means any class labeled 100-189 & also course 195H (See Honors Thesis note below to read about 195H).



What is a Seminar?  Unlike a traditional lecture, the content and direction of which are usually framed and led by the instructor, a seminar requires individual participants to take significant responsibility for the emphases and outcomes of class meetings.  Students interested in enrolling in a seminar should expect to contribute their responses to the weekly readings and to share the fruits of their own researches at every class meeting.

*Students are asked to take no more than one seminar course.



Total Number of classes required: 3

Special Prerequisites: Completion of at least one English 5 (lower division CW workshop), and submission of an application to every individual workshop a student wishes to take. (See below & read the FAQ for important tips about applying)

Students who wish to complete this emphasis must take 3 upper division CW workshops (ENL 100's). ENL 100's are repeatable for credit, so you may apply to each workshop multiple times; however, completion of this emphasis requires workshops from at least 2 different genre's

The genre's are:

  • 100F – Creative Writing: Fiction
  • 100NF – Creative Writing: Non-Fiction
  • 100P – Creative Writing: Poetry

Note: students completing an honors thesis in CW are required to take one special section of either Fiction or Poetry (100FA or 100 PA). You must review the Honors Thesis FAQ (and webpage) for full details.

Important context for your application:
The lower division CW workshops (English 5’s) are open to any student and do not require any application.  However they do not, by themselves, meet any major requirements. The upper division workshops (English 100’s) are the courses that one must complete to finish the emphasis, and admission to each of these workshops requires an application. Each application to a workshop requires 2 elements: 

  • A.) Previous workshop experience (i.e. completion of at least one English 5, or, for transfers, an equivalent course from Community College.
  • B.) Submission of a sample relevant to the genre in which you are applying (e.g. a short story for application to Fiction(100F); a non-fiction piece for admission to Non-Fiction (100NF); or a collection of poems for admission to Poetry (100P).

Applications are accessible on the Department’s website ( and must be submitted a quarter in advance. See application website for specific deadlines. Also note that the application page has a helpful video series that covers most of the information here. Please review those videos at the link above.










What if I miss my pass appointment?
I'm interested in taking advanced studies courses - what is a seminar course?

What is a Seminar?  Unlike a traditional lecture, the content and direction of which are usually framed and led by the instructor, a seminar requires individual participants to take significant responsibility for the emphases and outcomes of class meetings.  Students interested in enrolling in a seminar should expect to contribute their responses to the weekly readings and to share the fruits of their own researches at every class meeting.

How do I learn more about the  English Department Honors Thesis Program?

Students who have a 3.5+ gpa in the major will be invited to apply for the Honors Thesis Program. (See our Honors Program page for more info). Full information is on that page, but here are a few takeaways in the meantime.

There are two tracks for the Honors thesis, one for the “Critical Emphasis” and one for the “CW” emphasis. Students who complete the Critical emphasis will, after completing at at least one advanced studies course, take a 194H course before completing a 195H special project. 194H is eligible to count towards the “advanced studies courses” for their emphasis. 194H & 195H are each  eligible to count as the "Free Choice" class.

People pursuing a CW honors thesis will likewise enroll in a special section of advanced CW workshop, either 100PA or 100FA, which they are invited to take during their penultimate ("Junior") year. These students then go on to complete a 195H special project. For people completing a CW thesis, 100PA/FA count towards their required CW workshops; however, 195H does not count as a workshop.


Why are the Creative Writing classes called "workshops"?

Creative Writing classes here at UC Davis are not like other courses. They are called workshops because each CW class is going to involve you drafting original creative works and sharing those works with the class. This process of give-and-take feedback with a small class is called “workshopping”, hence the name “CW workshop”. While taking a workshop sounds intimidating, many students really enjoy these courses, and we encourage you to take one if you are at all curious. There are two levels of CW workshops offered - English 5’s & English 100’s. Additionally, each workshop will have a specific genre it focuses on: Fiction (F); Non-Fiction(NF); or Poetry(P). Because each individual workshop is a unique experience, one may repeat ENL 5's & ENL 100's for full credit. For example, one could take ENL 5F twice, or apply to ENL 100P twice, and if enrolled (or accepted, receive full units for the course both times.

Are Creative Writing classes repeatable? Do I have to apply every time I want to take a workshop?

Yes & yes. One of the unique benefits of the workshop format is that because each workshop is a different group of people with different materials, both ENL 5’s & ENL 100’s may be repeated for credit multiple times. This means, for example, that students who wish to complete the emphasis may take 2 100F’s  and both of those workshops will count for towards the three classes needed for the CW emphasis. However, it is worth noting that one must take workshops from at least two different genre’s to complete the emphasis, and that furthermore, one must submit an application to every individual workshop they wish to take. Meaning, if one has taken 100F in fall and wishes to repeat it in Spring, that’s okay, but they must submit a new application, and if they complete a second 100F, they will then need to do 100P or 100NF to complete the emphasis.

Why do I have to apply to the upper division CW workshops (ENL 100's)? What are you looking for in a creative writing sample?

The CW workshops at UC Davis are very popular courses, but the nature of the workshop format places a real practical limit on the number of available seats in these courses. While the lower division English 5's are open on a first-come, first-serve basis, students are admitted to 100-level workshops based on the strength and quality of the writing samples submitted for evaluation.

100 level classes are taught by experienced writers who have written and published books. The writers who teach these classes are also currently working on writing projects; they have experience writing and editing; they read widely and deeply; they care about good writing, and they seek it out. A "strong writing sample" should be: engaging to read, reflect an interest in language, and demonstrate a level of polish. Whether it be a short story, a nonfiction essay or a group of poems, a sample is expected to be: a completed piece of work, free of spelling errors, checked for typos, and submitted in a legible 10 or 12 point font.

While we regret that we cannot admit every interested writer in a given quarter, we do want you to feel encouraged! We strongly urge you to apply early, and keep applying if you do not get placed in a class the first time around.

How can I learn more about opportunities to showcase my writing?

There are so many! Please check out our Department Contests page. There is also some great information under our Video FAQ on our Orientation Page!

Does this page cover all my requirements for graduation?

No. The above is a checklist of English major requirements. Students are also subject to University and College requirements. Namely, GE's, foreign language, Upper Division Composition & Unit requirements (students must have a minimum 180 units to graduate, 64 of which must be upper division units (any class #100-199)).

Check with the College of Letters & Science Dean's Office regarding other College & University requirements and/or to ask for what's called a "degree check". You can also use to confirm where you are at with College & University requirements.)

Where can I check class schedules?

Here on our website! Not every quarter is the same year-to-year, meaning that just because a class is offered in Winter during year X, doesn't mean it will happen in Winter year Y, but you can always check out our Year at a Glance page to see what's being offered in any given year. Options are abundant!

I'm doing the Critical emphasis. Can my "Free Choice" course be a literature course from another department?

Literature is taught in many departments outside of English.  English majors pursuing the Literature, Criticism, and Theory emphasis may substitute one upper-division literature course from a different department for their free choice course.  Many courses in comparative literature, individual foreign language and literature (Spanish, German, etc.), and ethnic and gender studies qualify, including: Chicana/Chicano Studies 154, 155, and 156; Asian American Studies 121 and 130; Native American Studies 181ABC, 184, 185, and 188; African and African American Studies 152, 153, and 157; and Women and Gender Studies 178a-f, 179, and 180.  This is not an exhaustive list, and there are many additional courses that might be accepted for elective credit depending on the approach and reading list.  Consult the undergraduate advisor for approval before proceeding.

Do I have to "declare" an emphasis? Can I do both of them?

No, no need to declare an emphasis. Simple as that, as long as you finish one or the other, and you'll graduate.  But yes, you can do both if you like! No special process, just take the correct classes, and you'll be good.

How can I learn more about Study Abroad?

Check out our study abroad page - with videos & links to different programs!


How do I complete the ENL 3 prerequisite?