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Undergraduate Major Seminars


What should I expect from an Advanced Seminar?

Most English majors will find their Seminars their most memorable intellectual experiences at Penn: fun, intense, and challenging them to do their best work. We consider them our marquee courses, the place where students have the opportunity to engage in depth with a subject on which a professor is currently doing cutting-edge work. They are open to all interested students, without prerequisites. While we recommend that you begin with at least one introductory (ENGL 100-106) or intermediate (ENGL 018-098) course in way of preparation, you should never let inexperience stand in the way of a seminar that looks wonderful to you.

What are the various forms of Seminars?

All majors (class of 2017 and later) must take English 200, the Junior Research Seminar. Each year we offer 8-12 of these on different subjects so that majors can find one that best suits their interests and their concentrations. 

Our Advanced Writing Seminars (English 110-199) are taught by successful professional writers who are also excellent teachers. They challenge students to take their writing beyond competetency a new level, whether they be writing poetry or fiction, drama, screenwriting, or non-fiction prose.

Our Advanced Literature Seminars (English 218-295) are small (usually around 12-15 students, capping at 25), taught by our best standing faculty, and cover their topics in far more depth than core surveys.

Our Benjamin Franklin Seminars (English 318-395) are even smaller (capping at 18 students). They are open to everyone, but sometimes require the permission of the instructor (just write the professor to ask). 

Advanced undergraduate majors are also eligible (with permission of the instructor) to take 400-level CGS graduate seminars and 500-level graduate courses. We especially encourage students considering post-graduate study to enroll in one of these courses each semester of their senior years.

How many should I take?

English Majors electing the Standard Curriculum should take English 200 and at least four Seminars to fulfill the requirements of the degree. Most majors take more. At least two of these seminars can be double-counted in the core if the last two digits of their course numbers correspond to an eligible course. Thus, a major could take English 264 instead of English 64 to fulfill Sector 6 of the Standard Curriculum.

Of these four required seminars, however, two may not be double-counted in the core: the pre-1700 seminar and the pre-1900 seminar. We make this stipulation because we wish majors to take at least five of their twelve courses in Literature of the 19th century and earlier.

Creative Writing and Cinema Studies have slightly different rules. The Creative Writing track requires that you take English 200, three Creative Writing Seminars (10, 110-199) and two Literature Seminars (218-599); one of these must be in Literature before 1900. The Cinema Studies track requires that you take two Advanced Cinema Seminars and two Advanced Literature (non-cinema) Seminars, one of which must be in Literature before 1900.