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This list offers a wide sampling of texts we strongly recommend for an English major. It is emphatically NOT a canon, but it provides some convenient hooks to hang a lot of ideas about literature, literary periods, genres, literary approaches, influences and reactions to influence. Some of the works listed under "English and American Literature" will be assigned in your upperclass English courses, but precisely because we have had the sample so large, most of them will not.
At the end of your junior year, as you look ahead to the comprehensive examination in your senior year, you should consult this list to see whether there are substantial breaks in your reading which could be usefully corrected by reading some of these works. You may find it useful to sit down with your advisor and identify what you have read, what you can expect to be reading in courses at the beginning of the senior year, and what writers you would find it personally useful to add to your life-list. The comprehensive examination never presupposes that everyone will know any single work in detail, but it offers questions which can be well answered by knowing a number of works by the authors listed here.
We have listed more than one work by some writers so that you will be reminded that an author's contribution may be assessed in more than a single novel, poem, play or essay. With poets we have sometimes listed individual poems and sometimes collections (e.g. Selected Poems or a volume by Rich, Levertov, Williams, et. al.). We suggest reading at least a cluster of a poet's work, so that you do not have to assess his or her work on what might be a single untypical poem. Be sensible and discriminating in planning out how you will supplement course-readings. If you love a particular period, you might want to fill in embarrassing blanks. Remember, one part of the comprehensive invites the student to bring a specific text, complete with marginal notes, into the examination, to organize a question around it. Using this list early can be a considerable help in using that option effectively.