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“The block plan allows our students to immerse themselves in ideas, books, and writing projects to the point of getting lost—and they emerge at the end of their courses having arrived in new places.” –Rebecca Entel, Associate Professor of English

Train for a world in need of communicators

There are very few careers that don’t ask you to be an effective communicator in your role. Becoming an adept writer is central to many fields beyond publishing. A research scientist needs to be able to write grants and document her research. A marketing professional needs to be able to sell the consumer on his product. A business professional needs to be able to write strategic communications to their staff. You’ll hone your writing chops at Cornell regardless of your major.

And if you major in English or creative writing, you’ll enter the competitive writing landscape prepared to take on the diverse careers available to highly skilled practitioners of the written word.

Right here, right now

You can take part in Cornell’s vibrant literary life through opportunities supported by the Center for the Literary Arts. Through the center's programs, you can take courses led by distinguished visiting writers, attend readings and workshops, contribute to the literary magazines Open Field and Boom, or participate in one of the many creative student organizations on campus. The center is assisted by an Emerging Writer Fellow who teaches courses, plans programs with students, and works on her own creative projects.

Every year two Distinguished Visiting Writers teach advanced topics courses, such as “Graphic Journalism,” “Fabulist Fiction,” “Documentary Film-making” and “Performance Literature.” The “Global Voices” series brings writers from the University of Iowa International Writers Program to visit classes and give readings. Visitors have included poets, fiction writers, and filmmakers from countries such as China, Canada, Cyprus, Iraq, Cambodia, Germany, Haiti, South Africa, and Russia. Other writers come as part of the Visiting Writers Series and engage with students in classes. You will have the opportunity to visit, and often to dine, with these writers.

While faculty offices are in South Hall, the Cornell College Center for the Literary Arts is housed in a charming historic home two doors away with a long tradition of creative activity. Known as the Van Etten-Lacey House, it serves as the hub for workshops, open mics, and readings, and as a gathering place for students to meet visiting writers and publishing professionals. It is also the publishing home of the college, containing the Open Field editorial office and the Foxden Press; students and faculty work on an 1876 Washington iron hand press and in the digital design studio to gain hands-on understanding about publication design and the history of the book.

Learning without boundaries

Cornell students at the Boundary Waters.

The Department of English and Creative Writing offers a broad range of courses, including off-campus classes in Chicago, Great Britain, the Bahamas, and the Wilderness Field Station in northern Minnesota. The major fosters a general understanding of English and American literary history while enabling students to concentrate on literature or creative writing.

Many courses allow students to get out of the classroom and get lost in the archives and explore the world. Students have many opportunities to work on and design projects that combine academic inquiry and creative practice.

Our faculty extends their classrooms beyond campus on a regular basis. Whether exploring the theatre and cultural heritage of England, nature writing in northern Minnesota, the Anglophone literature of the Caribbean, or Chicago’s vibrant literary scene, your imagination is opened to new insights and possibilities.

You can earn course credit while pursuing internships for a block or longer, an important part of our degree program that allows you to clarify goals, make connections, and perform meaningful work in a variety of fields. Students have recently held Cornell Fellowships at Creative Materials in Huntington Beach, California (creating teaching materials), and Westview Press in Boulder, Colorado (academic texts), as well as internships with IowaWatch.org (journalism), ESPN 100, Chautauqua Writers’ Center (arts administration in creative writing), Phantom Graphics (comics), and African Great Lakes Initiative in Burundi.

Concentration in one subfield of English

The diverse scholarly expertise of our faculty enables a curriculum steeped in national and transnational literary tradition while fully engaged with the contemporary world. Our faculty endeavor to teach you to read, evaluate, and write clearly about “the prose of the world”—the myriad of texts you will be confronted with both at Cornell College and in the future.

Majors take at least two foundation courses, complete a variety of upper-level courses in literature, and gain in-depth knowledge through a concentration in one subfield of English: literary studies or creative writing. The curriculum is grounded in questions of social justice and social change, and you must take at least one course that focuses on social and global concerns. Our two-part senior capstone allows you to reflect on and deepen your previous coursework while also planning for the future. Senior Seminar emphasizes life after the English major, while small Senior Workshops allow you to complete a significant writing project(s) in your concentration.