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Department of History

The English Major's Notebook, Portfolio, and Reading List

Students who enter the Department beginning with the 2008-2009 catalog have been given an English Major's Notebook to use throughout their careers in the Department. This notebook will be part of their work in ENGL 291 and will be used throughout their courses, culminating in their work in ENGL 491. The material that follows is provided to them in the foreward to the notebook. It covers three areas:

Part I: Advising Materials

Each semester you will meet with your ENGL advisor to discuss your plans for the upcoming semester, your reading notebook, your career plans, and other issues related to your success as a student at Winthrop. In this section of the notebook you should keep your Degree Checklist (formerly known as “Degree Inventory Sheet”) and your planned schedule for each semester. This usually takes place immediately after the semester break, so watch for signs on campus and e-mail reminders to sign up on the sheet on your advisor’s door. (You can find your advisor’s name on Wingspan; office addresses, phone numbers, and e-mails are on the English department web page. Remember: it’s your responsibility to make an advising appointment—and to keep it!

To be advised, consult your catalog and your Degree Checklist sheet to see what requirements you need to complete, and check Wingspan for which required courses will be offered. Plan a tentative schedule (with options in case you get closed out of classes) and bring this with you to your advising session.

Bring this notebook, including your reading notebook entries, to your advising session every semester so that you and your advisor can best assess your progress toward your degree. Advising is also the time to ask your advisor about career plans, graduate schools, and other questions regarding your time at Winthrop and beyond, so come prepared to make the most of the experience!

Part II: Portfolio Materials

By the time you enroll in ENGL 491, you will need to assemble a portfolio of your best work from your experience as an English major. Part of this portfolio will be composed of papers you have written in previous classes. Among the papers you are required to submit for your portfolio are

  • ENGL 203 Researched Critical Essay (no abstract needed)
  • ENGL 208 Researched Critical Essay (no abstract needed)
  • ENGL 211 Researched Critical Essay (no abstract needed)
  • ENGL 300 Researched Critical Essay 
  • ENGL 305 Researched Critical Essay
  • Two additional research papers,  from 300- and/or 500-level ENGL or WRIT courses
    • ENGL 507 research paper is a required inclusion for students in the CSST track
    • With instructor permission, those in the LLAN and WRIT tracks may include one research paper from a designator other than ENGL or WRIT

We recommend that you print out a clean hard copy of your major research papers in your survey,  300-, and 500-level courses and file them in this section of your notebook so that you will have them when you need them for ENGL 491. In addition, we strongly suggest that you archive an electronic copy on your Z-drive, flash drive, or other PERMANENT storage material so that you can retrieve them for editing should you need to. Make a folder called “ENGL Portfolio” in your storage space and keep the papers there; that way you won’t lose them! Please note that if you delete papers (or courses) from your Turnitin.com account, your instructors will no longer have access to online copies of your papers as a backup. Therefore, we recommend that you not delete any Turnitin accounts for courses in the major while you are enrolled.

Part III: Reading Notebook

By thinking of things you could understand them. -- James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

No student can read everything; we know that. And students who are planning on being professional writers in a technical field may focus on very different kinds of readings than those who plan to teach secondary school or those who plan to pursue a Ph.D. in literature or linguistics. But for some years, students have been asking Department faculty for a listing of what they should have read by the time they graduate from the department. While the answer to that question will vary depending on your track, career plans, and interests, the lists that follow will give you a sense of what we hope every student who completes the B.A. in English will have read by the time graduation rolls around. That's why we've created our English Major's Reading List (pdf- 120 kb), which you can access by clicking here.

We have tried to keep the number of strongly recommended authors in each category to around a dozen (though as you can see, our math is sometimes shaky). All students should have read most of the strongly recommended works; students who wish to be exceptionally prepared, such as those heading for graduate school in literature, should also have read as much of the suggested reading as possible. You may read these works on your own or in the classes you take.

For each work you read on your own, we suggest you complete a reading notebook entry to help you recall its contents and importance. Each entry should contain, at minimum, a note to remind you of what this writer’s work was like or what it was about, what you thought of it, and at least one question. These may be questions about things you did not understand, or more open-ended discussion questions about style, form, themes, meanings, and connections to other texts. You may also want to include references to passages that you found particularly difficult or interesting (identify by page and paragraph or line number), good quotes, summaries of long works, lists of characters, connections you’re seeing among works or writers, and any personal associations the work sparks for you. For works you read in class, we suggest that you photocopy or re-copy your class notes about the work into this notebook.

If you are preparing to take the GRE in preparation for graduate study, we also suggest that you add entries for the historical introductions to the major literary periods in an anthology such as The Norton Anthology or The Longman Anthology. These will help you put the works you’re reading in context.

We ask you to discuss the progress of your reading notebook each semester with your advisor, so that you can make better-informed choices of classes for the upcoming semesters and also tailor your reading to your career plans. By the time you come to ENGL 300 and ENGL 491 in your junior and senior years, this notebook should be full of raw material that will help you succeed in these courses.

Keeping this notebook as you go along will help you “process” your reading.

The result will be a full portfolio of reading notes that will serve you well in graduate school, in teaching positions, and when you’re preparing for your appearance on Jeopardy.