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Top Schools for English Language and Literature

Find out which top schools offer degree programs in English language and literature. Learn what four leading colleges have to offer in terms of literary opportunities and reputation, and use the list at the end of the resource to see what other schools in the U.S. have English language and literature programs.

Many colleges and universities in the United States offer programs in English language and literature, but some schools, including Williams College and Amherst College, have been ranked as some of the best by U.S. News & World Report.

School Information

Students in English language and literature programs explore a variety of literary traditions while participating in critiques and completing reading and writing assignments. Individual programs may allow for the study of both fiction and nonfiction works representing different genres and time periods, including medieval, romantic and contemporary writings. The four schools summarized below are high-ranking colleges for 2017 that offer undergraduate programs in English literature and language, according to U.S. News & World Report. In addition to coursework, some programs offer literary prizes or the chance to study abroad.

Williams College in Williamstown, MA

School Highlight: Williams runs the 'Lit:' series, which focuses on contemporary writing.

Williams College, one of the oldest postsecondary schools in the U.S., was ranked as the number one liberal arts college in the country in the 2017 U.S. News & World Report listing. At the college, students can pursue undergraduate programs in the humanities, science and social science. The Department of English awards annual prizes to students who excel in the categories of fiction, poetry, non-fiction and essays.

Amherst College in Amherst, MA

School Highlight: Amherst's curriculum emphasizes close reading.

According to the 2017 U.S. News & World Report listing, Amherst College was one of the nation's best liberal arts colleges, ranking second in the country. Amherst offers an open curriculum, providing students with the opportunity to choose their own coursework for their selected major. Amherst's Department of English offers the MacArthur-Leithauser Travel Award to one or two second-year or third-year English majors for the purpose of exploring foreign cultures relevant to their writing.

Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, PA

School Highlight: Swarthmore invites several accomplished authors for readings and guest lectures.

Swarthmore College tied for fourth in the 2017 U.S. News & World Report list of liberal arts colleges, a designation based upon the school's commitment to public service, research and outreach to low-income students. Swarthmore's Department of English Literature provides students with the opportunity to study literature outside of the Anglo-Saxon tradition, including African, Caribbean, Asian and other foreign literary works.

University of Oregon in Eugene, OR

School Highlight: The English department at the University of Oregon has over 30 fields of focus.

The English Department at the University of Oregon offers programs at the bachelor's, master's and PhD levels. The department consists of almost fifty full-time instructors, many of whom are well-published in the field. Coursework gives students a broad foundation in English literature and language and includes such diverse areas as drama, feminism, and Native American and Latino studies in addition to more traditional areas of English studies.

Top English Language and Literature Programs

The following schools also have highly rated English programs.

  • The University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC, runs a program called, 'The Open Book Series,' where authors come in and discuss their works.
  • At the University of Chicago, located in Chicago, IL, students study works from the Medieval era up to the present.
  • The University of California - Berkeley's graduate program in English ranked number one by U.S. News & World Report for 2017.
  • Columbia University, located in New York, NY, publishes the Columbia Journal of Literary Criticism.
  • At the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA, English professors have won numerous teaching awards.
  • At the University of California - Los Angeles, over 1,000 students major in English.

Students interested in pursuing a degree in English language and literature can find programs at colleges and universities throughout the United States, but these schools offer some of the best. Each program has different offerings that may appeal to students, such as published or awarded faculty, school-run literary magazines and author readings.

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