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San Diego State University
Department of English and Comparative Literature

"But literature is not a fantasy world that gives us easy satisfactions to our desires, easy solutions to our frustrations.  It can and does involve famously long frustrations.  Will Hamlet ever make up his mind?  Will Ahab ever finally find that whale?  But isn’t that the lesson?  Life becomes more real to us, we know it better, as Emily Dickinson knew so tough- mindedly, by its frustrating us.  If it didn’t frustrate us, it would be a fantasy world, and the people in it merely figures of our fantasy.  Literature leads us out of that fantasy world that we often lazily live in, and into an engagement with what is."

Commencement 2013, Ron Gervais

Programs> Undergraduate Program


Majors and minors in English learn to read, think, and write more insightfully and critically about human experience through the lenses of literature. Our courses explore literature across continents, cultures, and centuries, from Shakespeare’s England to contemporary English-speaking Africa and the borderlands of the United States. For Fall 2014, the Undergraduate Advisor is Professor Phillip Serrato. To make an advising appointment, please call the English and Comparative Literature department office at 619-594-5307.

Advising Sheets       

Comparative Literature

Majors and minors in Comparative Literature explore global perspectives on human experience through the literatures of Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America, preparing themselves to understand with greater insight the complex and sometimes chaotic movements of people and ideas in the contemporary world.

Advising Sheets       

View the archive of past advising sheets

Honors Program

The English and Comparative Literature Honors program offers outstanding Literature students a variation of the major designed to prepare undergraduates for the rigors of graduate study. Students work closely with faculty in specific areas of interest, complete extra coursework, and write an honors thesis under the direction of a mentoring faculty member.

Requirements for graduation with Honors:

  • 3.7 minimum GPA in upper division courses*
  • 3.5 minimum GPA overall
  • two additional upper division courses appropriate for field of interest
  • Honors Thesis (English 499 or Comparative Literature 499)

To apply to the Honors Program, please submit to the Faculty Advisor:

  • the completed application form (.doc*)
  • a set of transcripts
  • name of one faculty member from the Department of English and Comparative Literature willing to recommend you to the program
  • a seven- to ten-page sample of graded critical work**

Successful completion of the English Honors program will be recognized at graduation and appears on the final transcript.

Please submit your Honors English / Comparative Literature application materials to the Department of English and Comparative Literature office, AL 226, attention: Phillip Serrato. 

*While not indiscriminately flexible, the Undergraduate Advisor does have some leeway to exercise discretion in making determinations with regard to Honors Program applicants. If you are somewhat close to the mandated 3.7 GPA in upper division courses, do please consider applying for this program.

**If you have questions about the length or scope of the writing sample, please speak to the Undergraduate Advisor before submitting your application.

Guidelines for Asking for Letters of Recommendations:

Do you need a letter of reference from a faculty member?  Please consult the following guidelines:

Carefully consider whom to ask for a letter of recommendation.  Many professors are not comfortable writing for students who did not get at least a “B” in their classes.  If it has been several years since you’ve been in contact, or if you were not vocal in class, or did not seek the professor out in office hours, s/he might not be able to give your letter the detail it needs.  It is wise to ask your prospective recommender, “Would you feel comfortable writing me a very strong letter of recommendation?"

Gather complete information about all the opportunities you will need letters for this season, including deadlines and mailing information.

Ask the letter writer at least one month prior to the letter due date.  As you ask, be specific about what it is you are applying for and when the letter is needed.

If you have not been in touch with your recommender for a while, provide your recommender a written update on your experiences and accomplishments since you were last in contact and how the opportunity you are applying for fits into your plans.

Provide your letter writer with complete information about the opportunity you are applying for including information about how and where to send the letter.

Be prepared to provide your letter writer with copies of written work from their class, including instructor comments.  These will help your recommender add specificity to the letter.

Different kinds of opportunities—graduate school, employment, scholarships--require different kinds of letters.  Be clear with your recommender on the different kinds of opportunities you are applying.

Additional information is here.