a group of English majors and professors gather for an open mic night


Bachelor of Arts

Read, write, speak, think.

The English major at Mercyhurst is designed to immerse students in the constantly evolving discipline of literature and expression. From analyzing classic British literature to writing a thesis on applied linguistics, the English Department offers a focus of study for any student who loves to read and write. We emphasize the importance of thorough literary research, as well as individual thought and practice in theory development. Our dedicated faculty establish close working relationships with students and help them work through readings, research papers, and literary criticism studies; it’s not uncommon to see a gathering of English faculty and students continue their conversations outside the classroom. English majors at Mercyhurst graduate with the writing, analysis and presentation skills needed for graduate programs at high-caliber universities, or to secure employment with this flexible and marketable degree.


    In this program, English majors at Mercyhurst University gain practical experience writing both poetry and fiction in small workshops and seminars. The aim of this coursework is for students to produce publishable work under the close guidance of our experienced faculty. We also strongly encourage students to refine their editing skills by working on the staff of Lumen, our campus-wide arts journal. Additionally, each year the department hosts the Mercyhurst Literary Festival, which gives students a chance to meet and attend workshops with renowned writers from across the country: in the past, we have hosted remarkable talents such as Robert Bly, Grace Paley, Martin Espada, and Jane Hirshfield. Ultimately, students graduate from the program ready to pursue careers as writers and editors in the publishing industry or to attend graduate school to further develop their craft.

    The course of study offered for the English Major with a Pre-Law Concentration is well-suited to develop the skills desirable for law school. According to the Law School Admissions Council, students are admitted to law school from almost every academic discipline. They write, “Law schools want students who can think critically and write well, and who have some understanding of the forces that have shaped the human experience. Among the abilities named by the American Bar Association as important preparation for law school are analytic/problem-solving skills, critical reading abilities, oral communication and listening abilities, research skills, organization and management skills, and the values of serving faithfully the interests of others while promoting justice.” Our curriculum teaches students to read and comprehend complex texts with accuracy and insight, the ability to think critically, and to analyze and evaluate the reasoning and arguments of others.

    This concentration is designed to matriculate students with the skills needed to negotiate current professional writing contexts (including web design and web media) as well as the awareness of how to keep current with cultural and technological changes. In addition to the English department’s main program of study, students take classes in Advanced Composition, a Professional Writing Seminar, Oral Interpretation, and Applied Linguistics. Students are required to take an internship designed to give them practical experience in their future career field.


    The Creative Writing minor is a 21-credit program of study for students seeking to gain experience and skill in composing fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction. Creative Writing minors take courses in fiction and poetry writing including Contemporary Literature, Introduction to Creative Writing, Creative Writing: Fiction and Creative Writing: Poetry.

    The English minor allows students to engage with diverse literary and cultural texts. It gives students the opportunity to practice critical reading and effective writing, thus preparing them for multiple career options and advanced study. The skills English minors develop in information literacy and research, aesthetic appreciation, communication, cultural awareness, reading comprehension, and analysis prepare them for the 21st century economy.

    The Film Studies minor is an 18-credit program of study that allows students to understand and critically engage the images that pervade our lives. As film is a major narrative art form - arguably the dominant one - of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, this minor allows students the opportunity to study and appreciate it as such. The interdisciplinary courses required for the program allow students to gain a solid grounding in the vocabulary and theory of film studies while giving them flexibility to pursue their interests in various cinematic periods and styles. Students pursuing a Film Studies minor take a class in Film Appreciation and Film Narrative and Theory. They then take four additional film electives, that can include Documentary Filmmaking, Literature and Film, African Americans in Film, Psychology in Film or America in the Nuclear Age among others.

    The Theatre minor is an 18-credit program of study that provides students with the aesthetic, analytical, and interpersonal skills necessary for productive and reflective lives of leadership and service. The required courses provide a breadth of knowledge about the various disciplines of theater, while the electives allow students to develop proficiency in one area, such as performance, design, or theater history and dramatic literature.

4+1 Programs

    Students pursuing careers in teaching choose our very successful 4+1 track. In addition to their liberal arts core curriculum, students take extensive coursework in English literature, as well as two education classes. After completing this enhanced undergraduate degree in English, students then pursue a fifth year of study to earn their master’s in Secondary Education—a program that is delivered 100% online. Students on this track must complete the undergraduate English curriculum of 42 credit hours, as follows:

    • 200-level Literary Studies elective

    • Intro to the English major (ENG 205)

    • Early American Lit. or American Renaissance (ENG 251 or 253)

    • American Realism or American Modernism (ENG 261 or 263)

    • Medieval; Renaissance; or Restoration & 18th Century Lit. (ENG 220, 224 or 228)

    • Romanticism; Victorian Lit.; or British/Irish Modernism (ENG 230, 234 or 238)

    • 200 or 300-level ENG/THEA elective

    • 200 or 300-level ENG/THEA elective

    • The English Novel or Seminar in British Lit. (ENG 332, 338)

    • Southern Lit.; Catholic Lit.; or Seminar in American Lit. (ENG 351, 354, 358)

    • Contemporary Poetry; Postmodern Lit.; or Seminar in Contemporary Lit. (ENG 362, 364, 368)

    • African-American Lit.; Women & Lit.; or Seminar in Multicultural Lit. (ENG 370, 374, 378)

    • Major Author or Shakespeare (ENG 326 or 344)

    • ENG 391 Lit. Criticism

    • ENG 490 Senior English project


    Undergraduate students would also take two courses in the Education Content Area (which requires the Education Graduate Coordinator to approve registration):

    • Culturally/Linguistically Diverse Learners—taken in junior or senior year (WL 101)

    • Comparative Issues in Education—taken in senior year (EDUC 210)

Opportunities for English Majors

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  • Lumen

    The English department sponsors Lumen, the college's creative arts magazine. Developed by students, its aim is to showcase faculty and student writing, photography and graphic design.

    a female student receives a literary award
  • Mercyhurst Literary Festival

    Inspired by the renowned reading series at the University of Notre Dame and wanting to build such a tradition here, Dr. Jeffrey Roessner collaborated with Dr. Kenneth Schiff in 2003 to bring the Mercyhurst Literary Festival to life.

    The festival brings accomplished writers from a variety of genres to campus each year. Besides offering public readings, these authors interact with creative writing students in small group workshops.

    Samuel Hazo was the first featured speaker; later festivals hosted such noted authors as Randall Silvis, Robert Coover, Li-Young Lee, Robert Bly, Grace Paley, Martin Espada, Alicia Suskin Ostriker, Larry Heinemann, Peter Coyote, Francine Prose, Terry Bisson, Joy Harjo and Sonia Sanchez.

    The final event of each year’s festival honors work by Mercyhurst students. It includes the unveiling of Lumen, the college’s award-winning creative arts magazine; the announcement of student awards in the P. Barry McAndrew Writing Contest; and an open mic opportunity for students to read their own works.

    a mercyhurst faculty member plays guitar
  • Sigma Tau Delta Honor Society

    Mercyhurst University is proud to have a chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, a national honor society formed in 1924 to recognize graduate and undergraduate English majors, minors, or faculty who have achieved high standards of excellence in their chosen linguistic or literary fields. The Beta Upsilon chapter of Sigma Tau Delta was established at Mercyhurst in February of 1986, and has recently seen an increase in membership. Candidates are selected by the English department and student advisors during the spring term each year. Induction ceremonies are held each fall.

    a female student at an academic conference
  • Career Outcomes and Experience

    English grow their skills by writing for the student newspaper or literary journal, tutoring in the Writing Center, working in the department as a research assistant, or practicing leadership in Sigma Tau Delta.

    Our graduates leave prepared to excel in their chosen fields or pursue graduate study at such esteemed institutions as Carnegie Mellon, Case Western Reserve, Georgetown, Northwestern and NUI Galway.

    a female student attends a book reading
  • Study Abroad

    We emphasize studying abroad as a way to gain worldly knowledge and experiences, with faculty-led trips to locations like England, Spain and Mexico. We particularly encourage English majors to study abroad at our campus in Dungarvan, Ireland.

    a group of students in london

Fast Facts

  • Our annual literary festival has sponsored nationally acclaimed speakers and writers, such as Robert Bly, Sonia Sanchez, and Peter Coyote, who come to offer readings and conduct workshops and writing master classes.
  • English majors have the opportunity to serve as a research assistant for faculty members, work at the university’s Writing Center, and receive hands-on work experience in professional writing.
  • One of the highest honors for an English major is induction into Sigma Tau Delta, the international English honor society.
  • Many clubs and organizations are associated with the English Department, like the Theater Appreciation Club or Lumen, the fine arts and literary magazine.

Learning Outcomes

  • Present a specific thesis as the basis for an academic argument.
  • Demonstrate key elements of successful writing (i.e.: control of voice, focus, and organization) when presenting writing to an academic audience.
  • In essay form, produce close readings of assigned literature to demonstrate understanding of the formal and aesthetic features of texts.
  • Locate, use, and document (in current MLA format) appropriate academic sources through print and electronic research.
  • Write about texts critically to demonstrate knowledge of the relationship between literary texts and their cultural and historical contexts.
  • Select and apply appropriate oral communication forms in small or large group settings to convey information, positions, and ideas.
  • Discriminate between more and less credible and accurate readings of texts to determine whether certain positions are warranted.