Top Universities for English Literature: Five Schools to Research

Ginger Abbot

Feb 24, 2023

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The English language has produced many incredible works deserving of college-level study. Perhaps your classes in high school inspired your love of the great novels and poetry, or it’s something that’s held your heart since childhood. Whichever it is, studying this subject in college will be a fascinating dive into the works you know well and those you’ve never heard of. But what are the top universities for English Literature?

You can receive an excellent education for your degree at many schools, but some stick out as the best of the best. If you’re getting ready for college or are looking to transfer, you should check out a few of these schools. These are the top universities for English Literature.

1. University of Oxford

Naturally, the University of Oxford is one of the best places to study English Literature. It is the oldest English-speaking university, potentially starting as early as 1096. They’ve garnered a worldwide reputation as one of the best colleges to attend — and their English degree is no outlier.

The program spans many different time periods and subjects. You can study anything from early 7th-century writing to contemporary works. They even have programs for Language and Linguistics as well as Textual Editing. The University of Oxford has longstanding notoriety for its incredible English Literature program, so give it a look if this is your degree of choice.

2. University of Cambridge

Another fantastic UK school, the University of Cambridge is an incredible place to learn about English writing. It had its origins in 1209 and now has had a remarkable legacy of educating students throughout its years. Much like Oxford, they have world-renowned prestige as one of the top universities for English Literature.

When you first start there, you’ll spend your initial two years studying the entire history of the language. Once you make it to year three, you can choose which of these periods captured your interest the most and explore it more in depth. You’ll also have the opportunity to read writing by essayists and philosophers along with more-standard genres. The University of Cambridge can give you a well-rounded education and help you discover your passion.

3. Harvard University

This prominent university is also located in Cambridge, but the one in the United States. Original benefactor John Harvard actually graduated from the University of Cambridge in 1635, while the college itself was founded in 1636. Its original location was called Newetowne, but was renamed to — you guessed it — Cambridge in 1638.

Like Oxford, Harvard has a variety of concentrations you can choose from. However, you will be required to take a class on current literature and another on literary methods. You’ll have to take three courses on pre-1700, 1700-1900, and 1900-2000 works, but the specifics depend on the class you select. You can also take on a senior thesis or take a few creative writing courses if that’s up your alley. Like the UK schools, Harvard has its place among the English greats.

4. University of California, Berkeley

A relatively new school compared to the others on this list, Berkeley was founded in 1868 after the gold rush ramped up U.S. interest in heading west. When it started, there were only 10 educators and 40 students. Currently, this college has more students with Pell Grants than any of the eight Ivy League schools.

Berkeley’s program is a bit like Cambridge’s. You’ll learn about the overall history of English throughout your time there. They also require three small seminars where you’ll learn about close reading, how to engage with the work critically, and one drawing on everything you’ve learned for a scholarly essay. With its comprehensive survey of the language, it’s no wonder Berkeley is one of the top universities for English Literature.

5. Yale University

Yale’s history started around 1640, but it officially became a college in 1701. However, it wouldn’t be called Yale until 1718. While it does have an outstanding law school and music department, it also has notoriety in English Literature. However, the program itself wasn’t an original part of the school. Instructors in the 19th century started planting the seeds that eventually became Yale English.

To graduate from this school’s English program, you must take 14 classes relating to or supporting your major. You do have a few foundational courses to take, along with at least one class in Medieval, Renaissance, 18th and 19th century, and 20th and 21st-century literature. The school also asks you to meet with their research librarians within the first four weeks of class. Yale is an excellent place to earn your English degree rooted in history and modernity.

Study at the Top Universities for English Literature

Spending your college career discovering the intricacies of the English language is a tremendous undertaking. You get to learn about the greats of the past and those who could enter history’s lexicon of iconic writers. Attending one of these iconic schools can give you a degree with authority and notoriety. If you want to graduate with the ball rolling, look into the top universities for English Literature.

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