“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” – Dead Poet’s Society
Bitten by the language and literature bug? Well, you are not the only one. Every year thousands of students make their way to universities to learn, to write, and to celebrate the written word. A love for language and books is a good way to start your journey. A solid language or literature program will expand the way you think and approach the subject.
The United States is known for top notch universities that offer students varied programs. English language and literature programs cover everything from the structure of the English language to the analysis of the works of literary greats. To their credit, many of these universities and colleges, big and small, have seen some of the greatest literary figures pass through their doors. A few indicators of the standards of a university’s program include their accreditation, class sizes and resources, and the qualifications and experience of staff.
These are a few of the universities known for their English language and literature programs in no particular order. A university’s ranking may change based on the specialty that you choose to pursue.
10 Best English Language and Literature Universities in the U.S.
Penn’s program in Comparative Literature aims to give students a thorough grounding in critical theory, literature and cultural history. For those who want to focus on writing, there are Creative Writing and Critical Writing programs. Its Linguistics department is known for interdisciplinary research. The University also offers intensive English language programs, and many options for those looking to major in English.
Where: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Alumni: Ezra Pound
Those of you interested in working as teachers and scholars can consider the Ph.D. program in English. This degree prepares you to even take on the role of a critic. The undergraduate degree in English is an intensive one, designed to develop analytical abilities. Started in 1935, the university’s Linguistics department focuses on theoretical learning and encourages research. Comparative literature is taught by well-qualified faculty, and is a comprehensive study of literature and culture.
Where: Chicago, Illinois
Alumni: Susan Sontag, Harvey Levin, Kurt Vonnegut
Ranked as one of the top schools in the U.S. for English programs, UC Berkeley offers graduate and undergraduate programs in Comparative Literature, a Creative Writing minor program, and Linguistics. The latter is known to be the first Linguistics department to be set up in North America when it began in 1901.
Where: Berkeley, California
Alumni: Rebecca Solnit, Vicki Iovine
Among Princeton University’s 35 departments are English and Comparative Literature programs. Courses include Literature and Photography, Reading Literature: The Essay, American Literature, Magical Realism, and Middle English Religious Literature. Linguistics will take you through Situated Language Usage, Melodies of English, Syntax and more.
Where: New Jersey
Alumni: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Eugene O’Neill, Jodi Picoult
NYU’s programs include Journalism, English, English and American Literature, English as a Second Language, and English Education. It is known for its graduate program in Creative Writing, and its location in New York is believed to be as inspirational as the courses offered at the university that are led by well-known writers and editors.
Where: New York City
Alumni: Judy Blume, Candace Bushnell, Elizabeth Gilbert
Started in 1992, the University’s part-time Master of Arts in Writing Program includes both fiction and non-fiction courses. They also have a non-credit liberal arts program called Odyssey. Its regular undergrad programs in Humanities cover English, Expository Writing, Film and Media Studies, Language Education, and Writing Seminars.
Where: Baltimore, Maryland
Alumni: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Jeffrey Blitz
Apart from degree programs in English, one of the oldest Linguistics programs in the U.S., and Comparative Literature that has expanded from Western European Literature, Harvard also offers a Writing program with expository writing courses.
Where: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Alumni: John Updike, T.S.Eliot, Margaret Atwood, William S. Burroughs, E.E.Cummings
Georgetown University offers undergraduate programs in Comparative Literature, English and Linguistics. Graduate programs include a Ph.D. in Linguistics and M.A. in English, Linguistics, and Language and Communication.
Where: Washington D.C.
Alumni: Jonathan Nolan, John Guare, Margaret Edson
Columbia’s departments include Creative Writing, Comparative Literature and Society, and Linguistics. Its MFA Writing Program is one of the most comprehensive programs, and journalists-in- the-making can consider the Columbia Journalism School. Columbia is also known to be the place where the Beat poets took off.
Where: New York City
Alumni: Allen Ginsberg, J.D. Salinger, Langston Hughes, Louise Glück
Brown is known for its undergraduate and Ph.D. courses in English that cover history and culture, literary analysis, and criticism. It also offers a non-fiction writing program.
Where: Providence, Rhode Island
Alumni: Lois Lowry, André Leon Talley, Marilynne Robinson, Scott Snyder
Before you send your applications, talk to mentors, teachers and counselors. Assess your strengths, interests, scores in qualifying examinations, college fees and scholarships. This will help you zero in on the right program of the right duration, and to shortlist universities that are the right fit for you.