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Programs / Arts / English

Program Details

Carleton’s English program ranges from some of the most famous names in English writing to lesser-known authors, taking into account regional, national and global perspectives. You will have a chance to discuss the pressing issues and enduring ideas behind literature, as well as examine the ways in which books spring from cultural contexts and fit into the arc of literary history. You will explore how British and Canadian literary traditions have evolved and how alternative, underground and non-Western voices trouble and enrich those traditions. You may take workshops in creative writing and drama, either as electives or in the context of the department’s concentrations in Creative Writing and Drama Studies. We also offer a minor in Digital Humanities as well a minor in Drama Studies. Overall, the program is designed to develop students’ abilities to analyze texts accurately, contextually and critically, to write clearly and persuasively in a variety of genres, and to conduct independent research—skills that are key to your future endeavors in the world beyond university.

Carleton’s English students study in a robust department with internationally-recognized professors who have won awards for their research and teaching. Course offerings are diverse, class sizes are relatively small, professors are accessible, and there is a strong sense of community amongst students. Our students have the opportunity to study creative writing with published authors, get involved in the production of plays with experienced theatre directors, participate in research internships, study abroad, contribute to student-run literary magazines, and join the English Literature Society, which organizes literary readings, writing circles, and field trips to local theatres.

Library and Archives Canada and the National Gallery of Canada both contribute to the cultural advantages of studying in the nation’s capital. Our co-op students benefit from a wide variety of work placement opportunities, from the federal government to Ottawa’s high-tech sector. Ottawa also has a lively and long-established literary community that hosts writers’ festivals, readings, and workshops throughout the year. Carleton students are entitled to attend all Ottawa International Writers Festival events for free, simply by showing their Carleton card.

All of Carleton’s English programs are designed to introduce students to an exciting range of historical and cultural contexts and literary genres.

Bachelor of Arts (Honours)

The four-year Bachelor of Arts (Honours) requires a minimum of 10.0 English credits of the 20.0 credits required for graduation.

Bachelor of Arts (Combined Honours)

The four-year Combined Honours BA allows students to major in English and another subject at the same time. Also known as a double major, the Combined Honours program requires a minimum of 7.0 credits in English in addition to the requirements of the second major.

Bachelor of Arts (General)

The three-year Bachelor of Arts (General) requires a minimum of 6.0 English credits of the 15.0 credits required for graduation.

Co-operative education

The English co-op program gives students a chance to find quality paid work terms in Ottawa’s public and private sectors, as well as in places elsewhere in Canada or even internationally. Most importantly, it gives our students a chance to gain the kind of experience that can lead to permanent careers.

Creative Writing Concentration

The Creative Writing Concentration allows English students with an interest in creative writing to extend their participation in the many creative writing courses that they can take for credit towards their English degree. Students are eligible to register for the concentration after the successful completion of 1.0 credit in writing workshops at the second-year level and 1.0 credit in writing workshops at the third-year level. Admission to writing workshops is based on portfolio submissions. Details about the concentration can be found on the English Department website at carleton.ca/english.

Drama Studies Concentration

Our Drama Studies Concentration allows students to make the study of the history and criticism of drama, and to a lesser extent, dramaturgy, a substantive part of their BA program. It exposes students to a range of drama contexts and genres to nurture originality, innovation, love of language, and artistry. Course options include theatre and screenwriting workshops and courses on Greek and Roman, Shakespearean, and world drama. A Drama Studies Minor is also available for non-English majors.

Digital Humanities Minor

The Digital Humanities Minor allows students to explore how new media are changing every aspect of culture and society, including literature and the arts, libraries and archives, politics, law, and education. Courses explore topics such as the fate of reading and writing in the age of twitter, blogs and e-books; how social media are altering our individual and collective identities; and how digital networks are changing popular culture.

The first year of the program focuses on developing skills in reading, analyzing, and writing, and introduces English as a scholarly discipline.

First-year Seminars

First-year BA students are strongly encouraged to include a First-Year Seminar (FYSM) in their first-year course load. Our First-Year Seminars give students the chance to discuss and debate topics in a small class consisting of a professor and around 30 students.

FYSM 1004 fulfils the first-year required 1.0 credit for English majors (see pathway options below). Majors who choose a different pathway may take a FYSM in another discipline. Students are limited to one FYSM.

Recommended first-year courses

Majors choose one of three pathways to acquire their first-year required 1.0 credit in English: 1) FYSM 1004 (seminar): Literature, Genre, Context (1.0 credit); 2) ENGL 1000 (lecture): Literature, Gender, Context (1.0 credit); or 3) ENGL 1010: Writing an English Essay (0.5 credit) plus one of the first-year thematic courses (0.5 credit)

These introductory English courses are designed to facilitate the transition from high school modes of reading, writing, and thinking to those demanded by university-level English through the study of a range of texts and genres and through a focus on critical reading and critical thinking, solid research and documentation skills, and clear, effective writing.

In addition to the required 1.0 credit, majors may take electives in creative writing and drama studies, along with courses in other disciplines. Before choosing their pathway, students should consult program requirements and individual course outlines at carleton.ca/english.

A sample first year

  • 1.0 required credit in first-year English (The pathway options are listed above.)
  • 4.0 credits in electives (Majors may take a First-Year Seminar in a discipline other than English if they do not select FYSM 1004 as their English pathway.)

Second-year

In second year, students combine Canadian and British Literature courses with courses in American, African, South Asian, Celtic, or Caribbean literatures. This provides students with a broad base from which to determine their own areas of interest and to make informed choices about their upper-level English program. These core courses develop cultural literacy by introducing important literary and cultural figures as well as the social and political concerns of key literary periods and movements.

The Department also offers a range of second-year electives in topics such as science fiction, women and literature, and popular culture, as well as workshops in creative writing and drama.

Third-year

Third-year English consists of the last of the core survey courses, British Literatures II, and advanced courses in specific areas to which students were exposed in second year. Students may take classes in literary theory or genre study, as well as classes focusing on specific historical and geo-political contexts, including postcolonial and Indigenous topics. Third-year workshops in creative writing and drama are also offered.

Fourth-year

Specialized fourth-year seminars are the capstone of the English Honours program. Groups of 15-20 students explore a specific topic related to theory or genre, or to historical or national literature. The seminar format develops research, presentation, and communication skills. Visit carleton.ca/english for detailed information about the English courses offered in a given year.

The workplace

A degree in English provides a valuable first step into many different and exciting careers. Our students are trained to think critically and to write well, both of which are valuable professional skills in high demand in public and private sectors. Students learn how to communicate clearly, to research effectively, to assemble and organize materials, to define problems, and to propose solutions. Our graduates have become published authors, teachers, editors, journalists, librarians, lawyers, social workers, civil servants, publishers’ representatives, public relations and communications officers, professional writers, and corporation representatives, both in Canada and abroad. Find out more about our alumni on our website.

Graduate studies

Graduates of any of our Honours programs in English are well qualified to go on to graduate studies in a variety of fields including English, cultural studies, and social history. If you think that you may wish to pursue an advanced degree, you are encouraged to investigate graduate programs early to ensure that your English program is suited to meet the relevant graduate-level requirements.

Professional programs

Many professional programs, including law and teaching, welcome well-rounded applicants from a variety of backgrounds. Carleton’s Certificate in the Teaching of English as a Second Language (CTESL) prepares English majors for teaching English as a second language.

What students are saying about English


The students in the Creative Writing concentration are a very close-knit community, so your peers quickly turn into your friends and a larger network of writers you can share ideas with. Every class is filled with familiar faces and friends who are more than willing to assist with your work. Without the concentration, I'd be scribbling half-finished stories on bits of paper, instead of getting some writing published and sharing my voice.
Christine Lyons, English with concentration in Creative Writing student