More about our degrees

Delve into the wide variety of courses you can explore in your English major or minor at Seattle University.

In English and English/Creative Writing, we have designed our courses to open your mind, ignite your imagination, strengthen your critical and creative powers, broaden your literary and historical understanding, and promote powerful encounters with the world that will deepen your commitment to social justice.  English majors have the opportunity to supplement their coursework with cross-listed offerings in Film Studies, and vice versa.

Our professors are committed to your intellectual and creative development.  In the Jesuit tradition, we are committed to your personal and professional formation as well.

As an English major, you'll benefit from award-winning teaching in seminar-sized classes, careful advising throughout your degree, and workshops preparing you for careers and graduate school.

Internships are opportunities to network and gain valuable professional experience. English and CW students can take 5 credit internships as general electives, while Writing Studies students must take internships that are writing related toward their minor. Your faculty will help you make connections and you will work with our Pathways to Professional Formation program.

Additional opportunities enjoyed by our students have included Artist Trust, Public Leadership Education Network, Washington State Democrats, Starbucks Coffee Company, Hugo House, Seattle International Film Festival (curating), American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Old Growth Northwest (producing an anthology related to poetry in the prisons) and King County, Washington, eNotes and Wave Books.

Your career path

The major in English is excellent preparation for careers in law, journalism, advertising and marketing, technical writing, video games, media, and many other fields, as well as for advanced degrees in literary studies, creative writing, rhetoric and composition, women and gender studies, cultural studies, teaching, and other disciplines in the humanities.

The faculty and students in English belong to a discipline that remains at the heart of a liberal arts education. Together, we aim to cultivate

    • The power of expression, in all its variety;
      • The pleasures of reading complex literary texts, visual images, performance works, and cultural objects;
      • Different kinds of literacies (e.g., understanding cross-cultural rhetorics, reading images and visually-constructed meanings, and developing technological/informational fluency);
      • Critical inquiry, analysis, and argumentation, which are fundamental for virtually all intellectual pursuits and many kinds of careers; and
      • Creative thinking, reflection, imagination, and insight.

These strengths, skills, and abilities continue to make English not just a mainstay of core education in general but also a major asset on your professional résumé.

Sample English Courses

The English Department offers a wide variety of literature courses on range of exciting topics.  We welcome you into our curriculum, where you might enjoy some of the classes below.

Apocalypse in Film and Literature takes students on a journey to other galaxies and others' worlds.  You will meet strange beings, fight cosmic battles, view the end of time and the afterlife, and discover ultimate horizons and hopes.  The course's texts and films include H.G. Wells's War of the Worlds , Arthur Clark's 2001 , Walter Miller's Canticle for Leibowitz , Walker Percy's The Thanatos Syndrome , Doris Lessing's Memoirs of a Survivor , Terence Malick's Tree of Life , Cormac McCarthy's The Road , as well as Elysium, The Day After, and Enders Game.

In this course, we consider the historical and personal contexts of numerous American women writers and discuss the role that literary criticism and contemporary feminist scholarship play in our interpretations. In the first half of the course, we discuss studies in early American women's writing. During the colonial period, women who were in the New World rarely expressed themselves through writing, with only a few notable exceptions, Anne Bradstreet and Mary Rowlandson, two Puritan women writers who had to negotiate their social positions carefully and cautiously.  Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, American women writers were rarely read or taken seriously, even though they offered unique perspectives on the colonies and emerging nation.  Even in the 19th and 20th centuries, American women writers have continued to deal with sexism in the literary marketplace, and there are still many hurtles that women writers must overcome.  For example, in her 1997, revised introduction to her 1963 publication of The Feminine Mystique , Betty Freidan insightfully writes, "sexual politics now feeds the politics of hate and the growing polarization of America" (xviii).  American women writers of today are shaping and molding contemporary feminisms, and we will explore these emerging feminisms through the works of Leslie Marmon Silko, Sandra Cisneros, and others.

  • Are you fascinated by language and by how English has changed over time?
  • Would you like to learn about linguistics?
  • Would you like to know why the plural of "dog" is "dogs," but the plural of "mouse" is "mice"?
  • Are you intrigued by the fact that Old English seems so different from Present Day English?
  • Do you get upset when you see a split infinitive? Or, do you get upset when someone gets upset about your split infinitives?
  • Do you wonder why American English sounds different in the South than it does in the West or in the Northeast and why people are often biased when they hear those differences?
  •  Are you wondering about the complex political, social, economic implications of the uses of English as a global language?

HEL (History of the English Language) traces the historical development of the English language from its origins to the present time. In order for students to understand this development fully, they are introduced to basic concepts in linguistics, such as phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics. We also review briefly the basics of grammar at the beginning of the quarter. Our basic goal is to understand the development of English by studying both its internal history (changes in sounds, vocabulary, inflections, syntax) and its external history (political, social, and cultural factors that have influenced such development). A significant amount of memorization is involved in this class, but debate and critical thinking are also highly encouraged. We will discuss broad questions, such as the following: What is language? Why do languages evolve? What are the forces that influence their development? We also discuss specific questions-for instance, what are the particular factors that have contributed to language change at specific moments in the history of English? At the end of the course, we pay special attention to English in our contemporary world and discuss the question of English and globalization as well as some of the issues that are the subject of current and controversial debates in the United States, for instance, African American Vernacular, or the English Only movement.

This class investigates various forms of the marvelous as they appeared throughout the Middle Ages. While we certainly deal with dragons, griffins, and lion-headed men, we also deal with marvelous encounters that are more intimate: the ways in which the category of the monstrous was used to define women as opposed to men; the miraculous visions and powers of saints; the interactions between the living and the dead in both "real life" and in dreams.

How and why did twentieth-century culture explore the meanings and experiences of moving in time, and what visions of human life are the result?  How is the obsession with time in modernist art and literature related to the cultural fantasy of time travel and alternate history?  How are contemporary desires to go back in time, redeem history, or experiment with sequence indebted to modernist time culture?  To fashion an answer for yourself, you'll be part of an interdisciplinary discussion that will draw on cultural history, literary theory, and media studies.  The texts we'll explore together include:  H.G. Wells's novel The Time Machine , T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," Jorge Luis Borges's short stories "Funes the Memorious" and "The Garden of Forking Paths," selections of modernist art, Philip Dick's alternate-history novel The Man in the High Castle , Chris Marker's film La Jetee  and Terry Gilliam's remake Twelve Monkeys , Christopher Nolan's Memento , James Cameron's The Terminator , and Sample short fiction from Best Time Travel Stories of the 20th Century.

Literatures of the United States of America (a.k.a. American literature) express a multiplicity of perspectives, imagined realities, and lived experiences. Even before the existence of the nation, literatures of early America represented a diversity of ideas in relation to place, faith, identity, and culture. At the same time, the study of American literature risks erasing literary diversity by focusing on only well-known texts written by established and recognized authors. In this course, we debate this point and discuss how to engage in a multicultural and multiethnic examination of American literary history. We examine key texts that represent ethnic and multicultural views of the American experience. American literature is incredibly diverse, often challenging literary and social conventions, and literature in all of its forms invites controversy, requires rigorous intellectual debate, and has the power to change the course of human thought and behavior. The texts we study in this course invite our careful analysis, and we discuss the ethical and methodological foundations for our analyses.

Sample Creative Writing Courses

The English Department offers a wide variety of Creative Writing courses on range of exciting topics.  We welcome you into our curriculum, where you might enjoy some of the classes below.

Slam Poetry is a term used to describe the style of writing and performance that has taken the world of poetry by storm since the inception of the "Poetry Slam" in the late 80's. But what is the slam style of poetry? And what is a poetry slam? In this course, we will dive deep into those questions and their answers. A main focus of this class will be to discuss, evaluate and analyze past and present slam poems, poets and styles both on the page as well as in performance. To observe what makes these poems effective, powerful, and moving within the craft of writing and what skill the poets employ to bring those poems to life on the stage. The goals of the course will be to for you to gain the skills to write well-crafted poems (imagistic, personal, and evocative) and to then employ the performance style that will best serve the theme and voice of each piece.

While combining words and pictures to tell a story dates back to the ancient Egyptians, the combination of the two has developed rapidly since the turn of the last century, in the forms of comic books and comic strips.  Moreover, the last few decades has seen a huge expansion in the use of this distinct medium, especially in the form of long term story telling (i.e.: "graphic novels"). 

This course will go over the history of comic art over the last century in order to familiarize the students with its many achievements and applications, while also providing inspiration for your own ideas.  We'll also discuss the basic language and techniques employed by comic writers and artists to better prepare you for your own assignments.

Writers and readers are drawn to Young Adult fiction for a variety of reasons: the compelling plots of books like The Hunger Games , the unique characters that bring John Green's novels to life, Melissa Marr's exquisitely-built fantasy worlds, and the stories like Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak  and Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why  that help teens survive a sometimes dark and troubling world. In this class, we'll examine all of these aspects of YA Fiction.We'll read YA books from multiple genres as models and for inspiration. Through a variety of writing exercises and discussion, we'll explore character, point-of-view, plot, construction of scene, setting, theme, and teen voice. You will begin to work on your own Young Adult novel in the genre of your choice. There will also be time spent on peer review and workshopping, revision, and an in-depth discussion of the business of publishing YA books. By the end of the course, you will have at least two revised chapters and a synopsis to guide you toward completion of a publishable quality YA novel.

This course takes a practice-based approach to screenwriting, engaging the Aristotelian foundations of story, plot, character, dialogue, and conflict within the framework of the individual writer's lived experiences. You will write scenes on a weekly basis and we will read and critique these scenes during workshop. This scene work prepares you to produce a final short film screenplay. With the filmmaking tools of the 21st century taken into account-inexpensive video cameras and audio recorders, self-promoted internet distribution, and handheld devices that literally put cinematic experiences in our hands-you will write screenplays that can be independently produced on a low/no-budget basis. Your final scripts will have the option of getting produced (either by you or someone else) in subsequent sections of Narrative Filmmaking and Filmmaking I.

Foreign lands and faraway places have captured the minds of readers and writers for centuries. In this creative writing class, we will explore the methods, styles, and ethical dimensions of writing about people and places around the world. From foundational stories like The Odyssey  and Gilgamesh  to spiritual journeys from Dante to Margery Kempe, travel-and the new insights that it can bring-has been a seminal means of intellectual and scientific discovery in western civilization. Recently, with the smashing success of bestsellers like Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love , travel writing has become so popular that major New York publishing houses have begun to devote entire imprints to a steady supply of tourism-based work from "writers who travel." At the same time, cultural critics caution writers-particularly those from countries with relatively more economic and political power-about the potential dangers of typecasting or misrepresenting the people and practices that they encounter abroad. In this class, we will examine both historical foundations and contemporary trends in tales and testimonies of travel, and we will practice writing about places near and far. As part of this work, we will explore various motivations for travel writing-journey, discovery, politics, storytelling, meditation, commerce, and self-discovery-as well as the ethical complexities that accompany them. Students will be introduced to the pertinent craft components of storytelling as they relate to travel, and they will be invited to write about place, travel, and community in a variety of formats. In addition, we will consider commercial aspects of travel writing, including publication venues, paying markets, and the lifestyle of a travel writer.

The idea of writing a full-length book can be exciting, intimidating, and mind-boggling. You might ask yourself, "How do I begin?" Or, "How much is enough?" What is  the process for planning and completing a book-length work of fiction, and how should such a work ultimately be put together? This class takes on these and other related questions in order to introduce you to the process, craft, and industry of writing longer fiction. Through analysis of craft essays by working writers as well as several book-length works, we will consider core principals related to structure, time, theme, and characterization. Alongside these discussions, we will survey the principle forms that longer fiction takes in today's market: novels, novellas, multi-perspective novels, vignette-driven novels, and story cycles. Your own work in this course will include original writing that will contribute to a larger work-in-progress that you will summarize and outline by the end of the term. Full-class workshops will provide you with feedback on your work, and additional professionally-oriented assignments will introduce you to the process of seeking publication for book-length works of fiction.

Sample Minor Courses

This course moves beyond a "micro" focus on grammar and punctuation basics to work on "macro" issues of polish and persuasion.  It teaches you how to recognize and recreate varying complexity in sentence structure and expression, to understand appropriate writing styles for different contexts, and to strengthen your writing through careful attention to transitions, strong/active word choice, coherence, and persuasiveness. It will help you appreciate the stylistic choices that writers make for rhetorical effect as you learn how to achieve these effects in your own writing.  As you learn how to edit and strengthen your and others' writing, you will improve the sophistication and elegance of your prose.   ENGL 2135 Grammar and Punctuation leads naturally into this course but is not a prerequisite.

This course focuses on the theory and practice of argument, approaching argument as a process of inquiry, of carefully considering alternative views and multiple sources, and of building your own reasoned arguments.  At this historical moment in the United States, a number of philosophers, journalists, analysts, and scholars have underscored the importance of argument in the functioning of democracy. Besides studying the principles of classical argument as an important preparation for diverse careers and your role as a citizen, you will learn Rogerian communication and listening rhetoric as a means of having what social conflict managers call "difficult conversations," leading to cooperative and collaborative problem solving.  As you write different genres of argument (academic and civic) and different types of arguments (definition, causal, evaluation and proposal) for audiences of your choice, you will hone your rhetorical skills and develop control, elegance, and grace with your prose style.  This foundational course in the Writing Studies Minor is useful to all majors, especially to students heading for careers in law, education, the arts, public leadership, business, the environmental field, and English studies.

This course offers an opportunity to think about writing, its cognitive demands and its personal rewards, as you focus on yourself as a writer.  The course's three main goal are (1) to acquaint you with the developments in composition theory and the teaching of composition from the last thirty years; (2) to give you an opportunity to work creatively and reflectively on your writing from the vantage point of this theoretical knowledge; and (3) to help you think out ways you might use writing as a professional in your career, or perhaps as a teacher, tutor, or supervisor.  In order to further your growth as a competent, confident writer, this course examines different theoretical approaches to writing and the teaching of writing as well as discusses writing process strategies, including ways to generate ideas and tap your creativity, overcome writer's block, and revise your writing more effectively. The writing for this course-in personal, academic, and civic genres-will give you different writing experiences to nurture your development as a versatile, reflective, sophisticated writer.

Literatures of the United States of America express a multiplicity of perspectives, imagined realities, and lived experiences although the diversity of literatures of early America have sometimes been erased or eclipsed by focusing on only well-known texts and authors. This course discusses how to engage in a multicultural and multiethnic examination of American literary history, with a specific emphasis on multiethnic rhetorics and the importance of written expressions to civil rights movements. An examination of diverse perspectives in American literature offers glimpses into the past and an underchristanding of various literary, social, and multicultural movements while simultaneously challenging readers of today.  This course is designed to prepare you to understand advanced literary inquiry and participate in written debates as well as to write clearly and concisely for various audiences.

This course explores the historical development of the English language from its origins to the present time. In order to understand this development fully, you will be introduced to basic concepts in linguistics, such as phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics. This course traces the development of English by studying both its internal history (changes in sounds, vocabulary, inflections, syntax) and its external history (political, social, and cultural factors that have influenced such development).  This study involves a significant amount of memorization, but it also promotes lively debate and critical thinking about language: What is language? Why do languages evolve? What are the forces that influence their development?   What particular factors have contributed to language change at specific moments in the history of English?  The end of the course will explore English in our contemporary world and will discuss the question of English and globalization as well as controversial issues such as "Ebonics" and the English Only movement.

This course is geared toward writing opinion for public readership in the form of Op-Eds, personal and political essays, critical arts reviews and guest columns in a variety of media platforms including print and digital writing. Students learn strategies for generating ideas and persuasive arguments  for editorials, columns and reviews; students build blogs and develop a persuasive and critical voice needed for writing in digital formats. This course teaches journalistic research, source development, and writing for shaping public opinion in traditional and new media.