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San Diego State University offers two primary paths for literary study: English and Comparative Literature. Both paths expose students to a wide range of studies in English literature and language (literature classes, editing classes, creative writing classes), as well as sustained consideration of literature’s unique ability to explore human experience across national and temporal boundaries.

The Major in English

The study of English today encompasses a wide range of materials and methodological approaches, and our department encourages students to explore literature and language from historical, cultural and aesthetic standpoints. At SDSU, students have the opportunity to study not only English and American literature, literary theory, and comparative literature, but also creative writing, expository writing, and editing and publishing. As a highly versatile and broad field of study, English gives students critical skills that are valuable beyond literary study but have their roots in a deep engagement with language and literature. 

The English major teaches students to think critically, to read analytically, and to express themselves persuasively in writing and speech—skills essential to a number of careers. All employers look for the ability to think and communicate effectively. For details on the specific skill sets developed in the major, please consult the information below.

English majors often go on to work in law, publishing, digital technologies and commerce, screen writing, business, education, politics, arts, and medicine. 

Need some career ideas?  Check out Best-Paying Jobs for English Majors or 35 Awesome Jobs for English Majors.

The major consists of 33 units split into three modules. Courses in module A are oriented towards exploring aspects of the development of the English and American literary traditions over time. Courses in module B are oriented towards using literary and cultural studies to engage with a diversity of human societies, viewpoints, and experiences. Courses in module C develop student capacity in scholarly writing, creative writing, editing, publishing, and digital literary content. Courses in module D allow students to take one upper division elective in English or Comparative Literature.

The major consists of 33 units:

  • Module A. 12 units selected from the following: English 510A, 510B, 521-525, 527, 528, 530, 533, 534, 536, 537, 540A, 540B, 541A, 541B, or 542-544. Must include at least 3 units of the following: English 510A, 521, 522, 530, 533, 534, 536, 537, 540A, 541A, or 542.
  • Module B. 12 units selected from the following: English 405 [or Comparative Literature 405], 501-503, 519, 520, 526, 549, 550, 563, Comparative Literature 440, 445, 451 [or Asian Studies 451], 470, 513, 514, 530, 561, 562, 570, 577, 580, 594, 595, or 596. Must include at least 3 units of comparative literature.
  • Module C6 units selected from the following: English 508W; and 570, 571, 573, 576A, 576B, 577, 579, 580, 581W, or 584W. Must include at least 3 units of English 508W. 
  • Module D. 3 units selected from 300-, 400-, or 500- level courses.

Download the advising sheet for English Majors.

Students earning the BA in English and Comparative Literature are encouraged to develop a range of skills that will allow them to:

  1. Read critically.
  2. Write meaningfully.
  3. Situate texts in contexts.
  4. Articulate aesthetic values.
  5. Engage diverse perspectives.
  6. Negotiate complex issues.

In order to meet the goals identified above, students develop the following competencies in the course of their degree:

  1. Distinguish formal characteristics of literary and cultural expression across genre and media, including digital and illustrated texts and film.
  2. Evaluate and comprehend major themes and concerns of literary and cultural expression across genre and media.
  3. Acquire and implement a vocabulary of literary and cultural critical terms.
  4. Locate and incorporate primary and relevant secondary sources into written work.
  5. Demonstrate mastery of Modern Language Association standards for research writing and documentation.
  6. Acquire and implement techniques of editing and revision.
  7. Identify historical periods and features of major movements in literature and literary and cultural criticism.
  8. Assess the impact of social history on literary and cultural production
  9. Analyze a variety of literary and cultural texts from non-British and non-Anglophone North American traditions.
  10. Analyze a variety of literary and cultural texts from minority perspectives within British and Anglophone North American traditions.
  11. Evaluate the social construction of "difference" and comprehend its impact on literary and cultural expression.
  12. Comprehend and articulate in writing or oral discussion connections between literary and cultural texts and lived experience.

The following matrix (or curricular map) identifies how the different Degree Learning Outcomes are treated in particular courses. It should be noted, however, that literature as an object of study differs from those treated by what we might broadly term the sciences.  Literature, unlike science, does not improve. It is not progressive. A poem written today is not automatically "better" than one written two or three hundred years ago—whereas a medical diagnosis or an astronomical calculation almost certainly is.  The study of literature, then, is not based on the steady accumulation of specific skills, with each competency creating the scaffolding for the next. Rather, it works by an awareness of similarities and differences—by a comparison of differently-articulated aesthetic experiences—and requires, as it were, a horizontal immersion in different literary traditions rather than the vertical ascent of a ladder. As a result, and as the curricular map below makes clear, many of our courses overlap in the DLOs to which they contribute.  This breadth of scholarship is essential if students are to be able negotiate complex issues of personal and global significance, to engage imaginatively and thoughtfully with diverse literary and cultural perspectives, to articulate the value of aesthetic experiences in human culture, and to situate texts within historical and cultural contexts.

Download the matrix

The Comparative Literature Major

Comparative literature is the study of literature from around the world, transcending the restrictions of national and linguistic boundaries. Traditionally, comparative study has been based on literary movements, periods, and lines of influence, as well as on genres, themes, myths, and legends. In recent years, however, comparative literature has come to include the comparison of literature with other areas of human experience.

Comparative literature offers students the opportunity to study a broad range of literary subjects from various cultures throughout the world. Courses are offered in European literature from ancient to contemporary times; in the literature of Asia, Africa, and Latin America; in folk literature, legend, fantasy, and science fiction; in literary theory; and in special topics such as travel literature, literature and existentialism, and Japanese literature and film.

Comparative literature is an excellent major for anyone who seeks a broad and rich liberal arts education. Its application to foreign cultures is particularly useful for careers in foreign service and international trade. Translating, editing and publishing, journalism, broadcasting, and film are career possibilities, as well as advertising and public relations, politics, writing, library work, and criticism. The study of comparative literature is also, like English, an excellent foundation for careers in the professions, especially law.

The major consists of 33 units:

  • 24 units in 400 or 500-level comparative literature courses. May include up to 6 units of literature in a language other than English OR up to 6 units selected from the following courses: Africana Studies 365A [or English 365A], 365B [or English 365B], 465 [or French 465]; American Indian Studies 300, 430; Chicana and Chicano Studies 335 [or English 335], 380 [or Latin American Studies 380], 450; Classics 310, 320, 330, 350; English 450, 550; Philosophy 315; Russian 305A; Theatre 460B; or Women’s Studies 352.
  • 6 units of 500-level English courses (no double-counting of courses). 
  • 3 units of English 508W.

Download the advising sheet for Comparative Literature Majors.

Please see our Courses page for detailed course descriptions.

The English major at SDSU taught me to think critically, argue effectively, and emphasized the importance of acting with power and purpose.  I draw on the tools given to me by the English major every day in my personal and professional life.

— Amelia Diedrich, San Mateo County Deputy District Attorney



The Undergraduate Director is Professor Clare Colquitt. You schedule an advising appointment through EAB.

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