English Language & Literature

Our Department of English Language and Literature is one of the oldest departments of literature in Canada, dating back to 1888, but it also deals with contemporary writing and new media like graphic novels. The English curriculum is structured to ensure that in each year of your program you will be in one class small enough to let you feel comfortable making your voice heard and where you won't get lost in the crowd. Our first-year lecture is supported with tutorials to help ease the transition from high school to university level writing and analysis; our second-year seminars allow you to study in depth a single major work or cluster of related works. Our Creative Writing Program, led by nationally recognized writer/mentors Carolyn Smart and Armand Ruffo, offer workshops and collaborative response to your own work to help you hone your craft. This intensive classroom experience is enhanced by our Writer-in-Residence program which allows all creative writers, not just those in creative writing courses, to consult with a professional writer who offers advice and mentorship to our students.

See our Major Map to learn more

Watson Hall
Room number: 
Department Head: 
Dr. Sam McKegney (Acting Head)
Undergraduate Chair: 
Robert G. May
Graduate Chair: 
Sam McKegney

Degree Options

Bachelor of Arts (Honours) - BAH

Major in English
A major is an intensive course of study in one discipline, with approximately half of your courses within the discipline with room for an optional minor in any other Arts and Science discipline.

Medial in English
A dual course of study in English and any other Arts discipline.

Minor in English
A minor is a less intensive course of study in the discipline that must be combined with a major in another discipline.

For a full list of Degree Plans, see the Academic Calendar

Graduate Degree Options

English - PhD
English - MA

Study Abroad in English

A number of our students take the opportunity of studying abroad for a term or an entire year, benefiting from bilateral exchanges to universities in a wide array of countries.  They also have access to the Bader International Study Centre (BISC) in Herstmonceux, England, where an array of Queen’s English Department courses are offered, including ENGL 100.

Job and Career Opportunities for English Grads

The study of English will help you come to a deeper understanding of your culture and how it shapes the way you think. It will enrich your life by acquainting you with great novels, poems, plays, and essays, and prepare you for the working world by developing your analytical and communication skills. The Department of English at Queen’s offers a wide historical coverage of lit era ry trends and traditions beginning with Old English and extending to contemporary literature. We offer a range of courses in British, Canadian, American, and Postcolonial writing (including works from the Caribbean, Africa, India, and Australia). Special interest courses, such as those in Women’s Writing, Children’s Literature, Fantasy, and the Bible and Literature, cut across national and historical divisions. Other courses, like "Math and Poetry" and "Literary Modernism," invite thinking about the relationship be- tween literature and other arts and disciplines. All students majoring in English are advised to take a core course in Literary Criticism and Theory that encourages reflection on the principles guiding literary analysis and on the contribution that trained literary critics can make to society.

Some of our English grads work in the following industries:

  • Administration
  • Advertising
  • Archival Science
  • Broadcasting - Radio and T.V.
  • Communications
  • Consumer Services
  • Copyright Law
  • Corporate Training/Development
  • Editing
  • Education (including English as a Second Language)
  • Foreign Service
  • Human Resources
  • Immigration Services
  • Journalism
  • Librarianship
  • Linguistics
  • Media – Electronic & Print
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • Pubic Service & Administration
  • Public Relations
  • Social Work
  • Speech and Language Therapy
  • Translation
  • Travel & Tourism

Career paths for English grads handout from Career Services >

Undergraduate Course Highlights

“History of Children’s Literature” has become one of our most popular courses for English specialists and as an elective for other students. Offered regularly both on campus and online, this course explores the cultural role played by works written especially for younger readers such as Charlotte’s Web and Alice in Wonderland. Other exciting courses are Global Shakespeare, and the new Literature and the Fantastic which is a study of literature dealing with the fantastic or containing supernatural or uncanny elements including samples of myth, romance, Gothic literature, and fantasy.

Undergraduate Admission for English

Students apply to Queen’s Arts (QA) through the OUAC (Ontario Universities Application Centre) website (ouac.on.ca). Secondary School prerequisites include six 4U and 4M courses, including a minimum of three 4U courses, one of which must be ENG4U. Applicants outside of Ontario may have additional requirements.

Graduate Studies in English

Master’s and Doctoral programs at Queen's are among the longest established and most distinguished in Canada. They are designed to combine the highest academic standards and intellectual challenge with student-oriented professional training and experience. Our aim is to introduce degree candidates to leading issues in current literary and cultural fields of research, to preserve a traditional range of historical expertise, and to allow students the independence to explore a diversity of interests, in order to build a solid career foundation. Our faculty comprises scholars who research and teach in all major historical periods, from medieval to contemporary, and we are likewise home to a wide variety of editorial, historical, and theoretical methodologies. Our graduate course offerings each year represent this diversity, as do individual faculty home pages, PhD students’ Special Topic Presentations and array of thesis topics. So does our Research Forum, a biweekly gathering of faculty and students to hear presentations from visiting speakers, faculty research, and advanced doctoral work in progress. The Queen's approach to the MA and PhD is to offer students of the best abilities and passion for learning, reading and writing, the opportunity to consolidate a traditional knowledge base in literary studies, to stretch their knowledge of contemporary issues in literature and culture, to develop their individual interests and direction, and to enjoy a meaningful teaching experience. We admit about 20 MA students and 10 PhD students every year; our students can therefore easily get to know each other and members of our staff, and class sizes are small.

The Master’s program is primarily an advanced coursework degree, although a thesis option may be available if arranged during the application process with a prospective supervisor and the Graduate Coordinator. The program aims to introduce students to current ideas and approaches in the professional study of literature across an array of seminars, and to provide the strongest basis for possible applications to doctoral programs. Courses are selected by the student to balance further study in his or her special fields of interest with consolidation of a broad, literary historical knowledge at an advanced level. In addition to advanced seminars, MA students also attend the Research Forum and a Professional and Pedagogical Skills seminar; the latter provides introductory teaching training and professional career guidance. Teaching assistantships are assigned in consultation with all incoming students as to their course preferences (as with all students in our programs), and are designed to minimize teaching workload so that time remains free for doing one’s best in coursework.

The Doctoral program aims to produce professional scholars with a clear and original contribution to their area of specialization, a comfortable foundation in the wider reach of their historical field, a substantial engagement with interdisciplinary or cross-field issues, and training and experience in advanced and independent teaching. The academic path of the program proceeds through advanced coursework, a disciplinary field exam which provides the foundation for a career field and for informed development of an area of thesis research, a special topics presentation which requires the student to develop, with faculty assistance, an independent reading program on a topic that crosses disciplinary or historical field boundaries and which culminates in a talk presented to the department, and finally, a dissertation that builds on all of these. Our professional program is carefully staged to provide a ladder of types of teaching professionalization—from teaching assistantships limited to counseling and grading, to tutorial seminar leaderships, to independent lecture courses in the degree candidate’s field of study. We also provide guidance in seeking award funding, dissertation progress, and preparing for the academic job market.

Inquiries about the Graduate Program:
Lovorka Fabek-Fischer

Research in English at Queen's

The English Department at Queen's University is a professionally oriented research department located in one of Canada’s leading universities. As the accompanying faculty profiles reveal, our research strengths are distributed across a broad historical and geographical range of literatures written in English, to an exceptional standard affirmed by our most recent Ontario Council on Graduate Studies assessment (2010) and an Internal Academic Review (2013). Recent publications and conference presentations include ongoing work on globalization, diaspora and migration, indigenous politics, environmental and interspecies studies, book history, popular entertainment media, the economics of literature, cultural memory, literature and social justice, queer theory, translation studies, and creative writing. The quality of department members’ research has been recognized in major grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Fulbright Foundation, and other research institutes, as well as university-wide competitions in both research and teaching excellence. Our faculty are engaged in a number of significant international research collaborations, and in recent years the Department has hosted conferences on American Exceptionalism, Alternative Economies of Creativity in Theory and Practice, Animal Studies, and English Dictionaries in Global and Historical Context. Graduate students are active and avid participants in the research culture of the Department, and have contributed greatly to our collective success.

Alumni Profile

Ying Lee (Queen’s PhD) is a novelist whose books include The Agency: A Spy in the House (Candlewick, 2010) and The Agency: The Body in the Tower (Candlewick, 2010). Her novels are set in Victorian England and share the story of a young female detective with a taste for adventure. Check out Ying’s blog to read about how she got her first book published after completing her degree at Queen’s.