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Bachelor's Degree Completion

English Major in Writing

Undergraduate English Major in Writing

The undergraduate writing major offers students disciplined training in creative writing. Writing courses are conducted as workshops to provide feedback, foster peer review skills, and nurture talent. Writing majors examine poetry, fiction and nonfiction with a writer's eye while developing their own work. Students' creative development is guided by instructors who are respected writers themselves. The specific course of study in the writing major is based on genre — fiction, creative nonfiction or poetry – while literature courses provide a substantial grounding in analyzing literary texts and using literary theory. In introductory and advanced writing workshops, writing students develop their craft and technique and gain facility in giving and receiving constructive feedback through peer critique and the workshopping process.

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About English Major in Writing

English Major in Writing Goals & Curriculum

Undergraduate English Major in Writing Courses

Explore Undergraduate English Writing Courses for descriptions, locations, and schedules. Classes are held on Northwestern's Evanston or downtown Chicago campuses, and meet once weekly in the evening or on Saturdays.

English Writing Major Admission & Transfer Policy

Application to Northwestern University School of Professional Studies bachelor's degree programs is completed online. Once admitted, many students create a shorter path to degree completion by applying transfer credit. View detailed application instructions and transfer credit policies on the Admission & Transfer Policy page.

English Writing Major Tuition & Financial Aid

The School of Professional Studies offers competitive tuition rates for undergraduate courses. The Tuition & Financial Aid page lists current per-course tuition rates in addition to financial aid and scholarship opportunities. 

Registration for English Writing Majors

Registration for courses opens 8 to 10 weeks before each quarter and is accessed CAESAR,  Northwestern's online student records system. View course registration timelines and instructions on the Registration Information page.

Career Options for English Writing Majors

The English Major in Writing develops versatile writers who use their advanced skills in an array of fields. For details, see the Career Options page.

Find out more about the English Major in Writing

Program Courses:Course Detail
Reading and Writing Poetry <> ENGLISH 206-CN

Intended for students with little or no formal training in the elements of writing poetry, this course combines both seminar and workshop methods and includes extensive reading of poetry. Students use analytical skills presented in the course to critique each others' drafts of poems written during the quarter. May not be audited or taken P/N. Advanced composition course or equivalent writing experience strongly recommended.


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Reading and Writing Fiction <> ENGLISH 207-CN

Intended for students with little or no formal training in the elements of writing fiction, this course emphasizes the processes and assumptions unique to fiction writing and the development of a personal voice. Students analyze technique and form in works of various authors. Writing assignments include at least two stories developed and revised in a workshop format. Lectures, workshops, and individual conferences. May not be audited or taken P/N. Advanced composition course or equivalent writing experience strongly recommended.


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Creative Nonfiction <> ENGLISH 208-CN

What is creative nonfiction? Creative nonfiction is a broad category that includes personal essays and memoirs, profiles, nature and travel writing, food writing, descriptive essays, idea-based essays or “think pieces,” narrative essays, lyric essays, and literary journalism. The term "creative nonfiction" may sound like an oxymoron because it is. As nonfiction, these works are, to some extent, "true." If the writer states that an event occurred at a certain time and place, it must have occurred then and there. At the same time, creative implies that the writer has an additional aim: to interest, amuse, entertain, move, persuade, or instruct the reader.

At the beginning of the quarter, you’ll generate ideas to write about and create a writing schedule you’ll actually stick to. Over the weeks that follow, you’ll learn the following key skills: writing description, scene, and summary; balancing characterization and ethics; developing research techniques for memoir, interviewing, immersion writing, profiles, and think pieces; and learning storytelling techniques, such as using suspense, framing stories, and employing dialogue. All classes will be conducted in seminar and workshop formats.

May not be audited or taken P/N. Advanced composition class and strong basic writing skills highly recommended.


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American Literary Traditions I <> ENGLISH 270-A

This course covers masterpieces of American literature written from the Puritan era to the Civil War. We read and discuss the works closely in order to explore their artistry and meaning, and also consider the works in relation to one another, examining the qualities of thought, sensibility, and style that comprise a distinctly American literature. Authors include Bradstreet, Franklin, Emerson, Douglass, Whitman, Melville, Hawthorne and Dickinson. Students should have fulfilled the SPS writing requirement or completed equivalent writing courses. 


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Advanced Fiction I <> ENGLISH 307-A

The goal of this writing-intensive class is to take your writing and observant reading skills to the next level. We will divide our time between exercises and writing prompts, workshopping student stories, and discussing published pieces. Our particular interest will be in the form stories take, how they build structure, and the use of style as a tool of expression. We’ll start workshopping student stories in the second class, so start writing now! Must attend the first class. 

Prerequisite: ENGLISH 207, previous introductory level fiction writing course, or similar writing experience. Students who have not completed ENGLISH 207 should obtain instructor's consent and confirmation of appropriate writing experience. Please send an email to the professor with your writing background to request a permission number once registration for the quarter has opened on November 13.


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Advanced Fiction II <> ENGLISH 307-B

For students who have completed at least one course in fiction writing, this course will provide further study of matters of technique and structure, with an emphasis on the exploration of character and discovery of plot through the process of revising. Short stories by contemporary authors will be read as models. The course builds on the premises, assignments, and goals of English 307-A, but students may enroll without having completed that course. May not be audited for taken P/N.

Prerequisite: ENGLISH 207 or 307-A or comparable courses in creative writing with permission of instructor. Students who have not completed ENGLISH 207 or 307-A should obtain instructor's consent and confirmation of appropriate writing experience. Please send an email to the professor with your writing background to request a permission number once registration for the quarter has opened on February 26, 2018.


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Advanced Nonfiction <> ENGLISH 308-A

This workshop course is for students who have taken courses in creative nonfiction or who have been writing creative nonfiction on their own. Students apply their developing command of creative writing techniques and forms to frequent short writing exercises and essays. Class discussion of published essays and excerpts from longer works and student drafts may address such topics as voice, style, structure, the uses of research, and truth.

May not be audited or taken P/N. Prerequisite: ENGLISH 208 or permission of instructor. Students should have previous creative writing experience in an academic setting. Students who have not completed ENGLISH 208 should obtain instructor's consent and confirmation of appropriate writing experience. Please send an email to the professor with your writing background to request a permission number once registration for the quarter has opened on November 13.


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Advanced Nonfiction II <> ENGLISH 308-B

For experienced nonfiction writers, this course will provide continuing work in the analysis and writing of creative nonfiction, emphasizing close reading of assigned selections and careful writing and revision of student work. The course builds on the premises, assignments, and goals of 308-A, with focus on the writing of a longer work; students may enroll without having completed that course. May not be audited or taken P/N.

Prerequisite: ENGLISH 208 or 308-A, or comparable courses in creative writing with permission of instructor. Students who have not completed ENGLISH 208 or 308-A should obtain instructor's consent and confirmation of appropriate writing experience. Please send an email to the professor with your writing background to request a permission number once registration for the quarter has opened on February 26, 2018.


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Chaucer <> ENGLISH 323-CN

Geoffrey Chaucer was a "renaissance man" before the concept was conceived. In the second half of the 14th century, Chaucer served as courtier, diplomat, civil servant, husband, father, and spy. However, it is for his poetry that Chaucer is remembered; his Canterbury Tales ranks as one of the greatest poetic works in English. This course is essentially a "survey" of these tales in which we discover the richness of Chaucer's literary creation offering various medieval genres (epic, chivalric narrative, fabliaux, allegories, and homilies) and medieval themes (fate and providence, marriage, the role of women in society, sexuality and sin, patience, and love). The tales are read in Chaucer's dialect of Middle English, that of the City of London, from which the forms of Modern English are derived. Participants discuss the tales as a class and to independently research the literature, history, and culture of Ricardian England. Meets the pre-1798 requirement for English majors.


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American Lit: Chicago Way <> ENGLISH 378-CN

Urbanologist Yi Fu Tuan writes, "What begins as undifferentiated space becomes place when we get to know it better and endow it with values." In The Untouchables, Sean Connery tells Kevin Costner, "You want to get Capone? Here's how you get Capone. He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He puts one of yours in the hospital, you put one of his in the morgue. That's the Chicago way." In this class, we will examine "the Chicago way" from many different angles in order to interrogate the values with which various artists have endowed Chicago. We will read in a broad range of media: journalism, poetry, song, fiction, film, and sequential art to see how a sense of Chicago as a place works over time. We will pay close attention to depictions of the construction of American identity, and to the role of the artist and intellectual in the city. The course includes discussion, brief lectures, guest speakers, and an optional urban tour.


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Topics in Combined Studies: Dystopian Literature <> ENGLISH 385-CN

In the last one hundred years, we have seen radical attempts to create new societies, from the Marxist-Leninists of the early 20th century to the fascist states of Italy and Nazi Germany, to the remaking of China under Mao Zedong. In response, literary artists have created dark visions of fictional worlds dominated by the collective and hostile to individuality. We will begin by studying Utopia by Thomas More, an influential Renaissance book that portrays a harmonious and virtuous collective society. Then we will turn our attention to the opposite of that, the “dystopian” worlds created by George Orwell in 1984, Margaret Atwood in The Handmaid’s Tale, and Eugene Ionesco in the absurdist play Rhinoceros. Students will also be asked to do a presentation on a dystopian film or television series (or another dystopian literary work).


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The Situation of Writing ENGLISH 392-CN

Writing students are well-versed in literary tradition, but often have limited knowledge of the industry in which they hope to participate. This course explores the culture of literature and literary publishing and the place of serious writing in contemporary society. "Situation" in this context means both the condition of writing itself and how it is positioned in the greater social and cultural world; students consider their roles as readers and writers. The course has a particular focus on the role of publishing in shaping and reflecting literary culture and examines topics in the history and current state of book and journal publishing. Topics discussed include the establishment of literary publishers, the evolution of the paperback and other publishing models, the development and diffusion of publishing programs, the effects of the internet, electronic publishing, and e-books on publishing and bookselling, the roles of review publications and reviewers, the tension between the literary and the commercial, and related matters. The course will combine class meetings and independent online work, and will include lectures, discussion, and group work. By the end of the quarter, students will have a firm grasp of the book publishing industry and a well-developed sense of the writer's position within it. Students will produce two short written reports, one oral presentation, and a ten-page final research paper, and participate in online discussions. Previous literature course strongly recommended. Students should have fulfilled the SPS writing requirement or taken equivalent writing courses.

This course has been cancelled.


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