Students and professor discuss literature at a table with books and notebooks

Literary Studies

In this program, we examine literature as a living process intimately connected with the complex problems of its place, culture, community and history through courses in writing, rhetoric and literary theory.

Why Saint Martin's University?

Literary Studies is an enriching and professionally useful major in many colleges and universities, but at Saint Martin’s, we specialize in introducing students to “community” as a many-dimensioned approach.  Our courses bring global and historical literary worlds to the forefront; moreover, our activities—Literary Nights at the Lambert Lodge, Public Readings of Romantic poetry on Saint Valentine’s Day (and scary prose on Halloween), and various other events—make the connection that community is readily present in the lived experience as well as the written word.  Pushing the idea of community out even further, every faculty member of the English Department has taken students abroad to study and experience literature at its source:  Shakespeare at the Globe, Tolkien at Oxford, Austen at Bath, Dante at Florence—the list goes on and on. 

The literary studies curriculum introduces our majors and minors to a substantial body of knowledge in British, American and Anglophone literature, as well as literary works in translation from across the globe and throughout history. Literary studies majors are encouraged to become familiar with a broad array of literary traditions and critical methodologies before specializing in a capstone project—a research-intensive, interpretive thesis undertaken in the senior year. 

English/Literary Studies - what’s the difference?

“English,” the traditional name for both the Department and the Major, comes from a time when the body of knowledge was rooted in the British and American canon of “great books.” Although we are still the “English Department,” we have changed our major’s name to “Literary Studies,” to emphasize the form (literature) over the language (English). We teach British, American, Anglophone, and World Literature in translation to prepare our students for a globalized world with a constantly developing media dimension.

Why major in Literary Studies?

In a world that questions not just the value of a humanities degree but also that of a college education, you might be asking what value Literary Studies might have for you. Here are Ten reasons why majoring in Literary Studies makes excellent sense in the twenty-first century.

Why minor in Literary Studies?

Literary Studies teaches essential skills that complement every major, and a minor in Literary Studies pairs with the following majors particularly well: Communications; Business Administration; History; Psychology; Theatre Arts; Secondary Education; Women's, Gender, and Ethnic studies.


Our Common Home Farms is a community farming project led by Saint Martin’s faculty that strives to address food justice issues and model environmental stewardship in our local community. We respond to the cry of the poor by feeding the hungry and respond to the cry of the earth by educating high school and college students in sustainable, resilient, community-based agriculture.

Service opportunities at the farm are open to all members of the SMU community and are built into selected COR100, COR120, and COR210YW courses taught by Julia Chavez. Athletic teams, student clubs, and other groups come out frequently for service days. If you are interested in setting up a visit, please contact Julia Chavez at

For information about other service opportunities, contact Emily Alberts, Program Manager for the Office of Campus Ministry.

Career paths

The need for people who can analyze complex systems, assess resources, identify problems, and construct lucid prose marks perhaps the most emphatic interconnection between Literary Studies and the professional world. Whatever you do for a living, being able to write well and see critically will be important skills. A major in literary studies is excellent preparation for:

  • Jobs that require skills in communication, research, analysis and public relations
  • Continued professional studies at the graduate level (e.g., business, law, medicine, public administration, library studies)
  • Specialized employment in education, journalism, publishing, creative arts, libraries

For a complete list of professional applications, visit "What Can I Do With This Major?" For additional information about how Saint Martin’s can help you find the career for you, visit our Center for Career and Calling

Literary Studies Requirements

  • University core requirements (40-46 credit hours)  (Visit the undergraduate academic catalog for a complete breakdown of core requirements for bachelor's degrees.)
  • 40 credit hours of literary studies courses
  • Students must take at least one course that focuses on literature written before 1800

See Moving through your Literary Studies Major for a visual guide.

Phase I: Introduction to literary studies

Choose one (4 credits):

  • ENG 210: Literary studies
  • ENG 220: Literary foundations

Phase II: Literary histories

Choose two (8 credits):

  • ENG 251: British literature I
  • ENG 252: British literature II
  • ENG 261: American literature

Phase III: Upper-division literature courses

  • ENG 335: Comparative literature  -OR-  ENG 340: Literature in the medieval world  (4 credits)
  • ENG 345: Literature, race, and ethnicity  -OR-  ENG 350: Gender and sexuality in literature  (4 credits)
  • ENG 382: Literary theory and criticism  (4 credits)
  • Choose 12 additional credits of electives from ENG 302 to ENG 395

Phase IV: Capstone

  • ENG 499: English seminar  (4 credits)


Complete list of Literary Studies course offerings  4 year schedule of courses 4 Year with language suggested schedule 4 year with writing suggested schedule

Phase I: Introduction to literary studies

Choose one (4 credits):

  • ENG 210: Literary studies
  • ENG 220: Literary foundations

 Phase II: Literary histories

Choose one (4 credits):

  • ENG 251: British literature I
  • ENG 252: British literature II
  • ENG 261: American literature

 Phase III: Upper-division literature courses

  • Choose 12 additional credits of electives from ENG 302 to ENG 395 

Complete list of Literary Studies course offerings  

Learn more about the writing minor here

Literary Studies at a Glance

Bachelor of Arts
Program Type
Main (Lacey)
Type of Instruction
In Person
College of Arts and Sciences
What can I do with this major?

Explore Literary Studies

Reverse image of plant and roots

Hear it from a Saint

“I'm so glad I chose to be an English major! The English Department helped me develop critical reading and writing skills, as well as find a sense of community on campus. Definitely take advantage of all the department has to offer, including getting to know your professors and checking out student-led events and publications." - Amy Pollard '16 | Writer/Editor at Partners in Health, a global non-profit

Student activities

Study tour in Italy

Faculty-led study abroad trips

Students can combine literary studies courses with immersive faculty-led study abroad programs, or shorter study tours across the globe. Recent trips include: Florence, Rome, Ravenna, Pisa, Lucca, Montecatini Terme, and Assisi; London, Oxford, Edinburgh; Spain & Morocco; and Vietnam.

Nicola Griffith, Les Bailey Writers Series

Les Bailey Writers Series

Named after Leslie G. Bailey, Ph.D., an inspiring professor and alumnus, who at taught at Saint Martin's from 1975 until his death in 2010, this series brings authors to campus to talk about their craft and stories. Recent visiting writers include Nicola Griffith, Kathleen Flenniken, Jim Lynch and Jess Walter.


The Belltower

Students staff the campus newspaper, The Belltower, learning about reporting, layout, etc.

Sigma Tau Delta

Literary Studies Club

Saint Martin’s local chapter of the international English honor society promotes interest in literature, writing and the English language.

Transformative Outcomes Icon Transformative Outcomes Transformative Outcomes Icon

Transformative Outcomes

Hear it from a Saint

Teaching with Heart
"I think Saint Martin’s helps you grow into the person you thought it wasn’t quite possible to be. When you look back, you think, wow, they helped me discover myself."
Bethany Partin '03 and Mariah Partin '18
Elementary Education and English Studies
Class of 2003 and 2018
Living Our Benedictine Values
Community Living Icon
Community Living
To become who we are by our relationships with others. “Let all things be common to all.” — Rule of Benedict 33
Teaching with heart
Bethany Partin '03 and Mariah Partin '18
Elementary Education and English Studies
Class of 2003 and 2018
Supportive Community Icon Supportive Community Supportive Community Icon

Supportive Community


Contact us

College of Arts and Sciences

Spanning the arts, humanities, natural sciences and social sciences, and characterized by an educational environment that is both rigorous and supportive, the College of Arts and Sciences offers 20 undergraduate major programs and 20 minor programs.