Professor Karen Tei Yamashita, author of the National Book Award finalist I Hotel (2010), Anime Wong: Fictions of Performance (2014), and Letters to Memory (2017).


The study of literature at UC Santa Cruz is organized as an interdisciplinary field coordinated through a single Department of Literature, rather than through separate departments of English, modern languages, and classics. This structure fosters innovative and comparative approaches to literature among both faculty and students. Courses in the major encompass traditional literary history and interpretation as well as cross-cultural inquiry and current theoretical debates.

Degrees Offered

  • B.A.
  • M.A.
  • Minor
  • Ph.D.

Study and Research Opportunities

  • B.A. with the concentrations listed below; M.A.; Ph.D.
  • Students in the creative writing concentration work with faculty in upper-division workshops to improve their creative writing skills. In the senior year, each student produces a senior project consisting of a significant body of creative work. Admission to this concentration is selective.

Information for First-Year Students (Freshmen)

In addition to completing the courses required for UC admission, high school students planning to major in literature at UC Santa Cruz should emphasize reading and writing skills in high school. Background in a foreign language is helpful. The Literature Department faculty require that all literature majors have one year of college-level proficiency in a second language.

Information for Transfers

Transfer students planning to major in literature should have some training in analytical and expository writing; an introductory course in literary interpretation and one additional literature course are especially desirable. Transfer students are urged to complete the Literature language proficiency requirement before transferring to UC Santa Cruz. The Literature language proficiency requirement is as follows: one year (three quarters or equivalent) of college-level study of a non-English language or demonstrated reading ability at this level.


After graduation, students with degrees in literature typically begin careers in publishing across various media; in teaching at all levels; in public service, law, and international relations. Many also go on to graduate school. Whatever path they choose, their powers of expression and analysis are highly prized. Please visit the UCSC Career Center for career-related information associated with the literature major, including information on the following career paths:

  • Advertising
  • Civil service
  • Communications
  • Editing
  • Journalism
  • Law
  • Library science
  • Literary criticism
  • Literary research
  • Professional writing
  • Publishing
  • Teaching
  • Translation


Students who participate in a University of California Education Abroad Program (EAP) may use up to three upper-division courses from EAP toward the literature major, or up to two upper-division courses toward the literature minor. Education Abroad Programs are available in over 43 countries throughout the world. Please see for more information about the UCSC Education Abroad Program.


The Dickens Project at UCSC, founded in 1981, focuses on the study of the novels of Charles Dickens and other Victorian-era writers. During the Project's annual summer conference, The Dickens Universe, undergraduates study with Dickens scholars from around the world in a series of events that includes discussion seminars, lectures, movie screenings, and even a Victorian dance!

Awards, Honors, and Recognitions

Associate Professor Christine Hong (2015) and Lecturer Melissa Sanders-Self (2016) are recipients of UCSC's Excellence in Teaching Award.

Professor Kimberly Lau is the author of Erotic Infidelities: Love and Enchantment in Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber (Wayne State University Press, 2014).

Professor Deanna Shemek is the translator and editor of Isabella d’Este: Selected Letters (ACMRS Publications, 2017).

Associate Professor Ronaldo V. Wilson is the author of Farther Traveler: Poetry, Prose, Other (Counterpath Press, 2015).

Alumni Focus

William Finnegan (B.A., Literature, 1974) received a 2016 Pulitzer Prize for his memoir Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life (Penguin Books, 2015). He is a staff writer at The New Yorker.

Alma Guadalupe López (B.A., Literature, 2001) is an English Department faculty member and Puente Club Advisor at San Bernardino Valley College.

Michael Scherer (B.A., Literature, 1998) is a national political reporter for The Washington Post; he was previously the Washington Bureau Chief at TIME.

Department Website

General Catalog Information

Literature Major Options

The Literature Department offers three concentrations, each providing exposure to a variety of literary traditions and focusing on the mastery of six critical approaches that provide a set of tools for lifelong thinking:

  • General Literature: broad exposure to a variety of world literary traditions;

  • Language Literature: study of literature within the framework of particular languages or national and regional traditions, studied in the original language;

  • Creative Writing: exposure to a variety of world literary traditions, along with upper-division creative writing workshops.

Students also have the option to complete an intensive major in a literature concentration. The intensive literature major is recommended particularly for students who plan to continue their studies in graduate school. The requirements for the intensive major include the study of literature in two languages; advanced proficiency in a second language is therefore required.

Requirements of the Literature Major

Literature major: Twelve courses are required: two lower-division and 10 upper-division courses. One of the latter may be a Senior Seminar, which may be used to satisfy the campus comprehensive (exit) requirement. In exceptional cases, and with faculty permission, students may write a senior thesis to satisfy the exit requirement. Students must successfully complete Literature 1 (Literary Interpretation) or its equivalent prior to declaring the literature major or minor.

Intensive literature major: Fourteen courses are required: two lower-division and 12 upper-division courses. One of the upper-division courses may be a Senior Seminar, which may be used to satisfy the campus comprehensive (exit) requirement. In addition to the Standard Literature major requirement of one year (three quarters or equivalent) of college level study of a non-English language OR demonstrated reading ability at this level, students must complete at least two upper-division courses in a second-language literature studied in the original language. Upper-division literature coursework may require completion of a lower-division language sequence or the equivalent.

The literature major requires basic language proficiency: one year (three quarters or equivalent) of college level study of a non-English language or demonstrated reading ability at this level.

Lower-Division Courses

Lower-division courses are introductions to critical reading and writing. Students should complete their lower-division coursework before beginning upper-division work.

Two lower-division courses are required:

  • Literature 1, Literary Interpretation: close reading and analysis of literary texts. This is a writing-intensive course.

  • One Literature 61-series course: categories, methodologies, and problems of literary study, or one Literature 80-series course: topical, thematic, and comparative studies of literary and filmic texts. Literature 61 and Literature 80 courses are recommended for both majors and non-majors.

Upper-Division Courses

Ten upper-division courses are required; 12 are required for the intensive major:

  • Literature 101, Theory and Interpretation: approaches to literary and cultural theories.

  • Literature 102, Translation Theory: approaches to literary and cultural translation, or one upper-division non-English literature course studied in the original language.

  • Eight upper-division courses as described for each concentration.

  • Intensive major only: two additional upper-division courses in a second-language literature studied in the original language.

Upper-division courses provide detailed treatment of literary and theoretical problems, themes, and periods. Students are strongly encouraged to take courses across chronological periods and national boundaries, and to balance small seminars with lecture courses. Students must successfully complete the language proficiency requirement before enrolling in Literature 102.

Critical Approaches to the Study of Literature

Within their upper-division coursework, all literature majors must take at least one upper-division course in each of six Critical Approaches to the study of literature.

Canons: The study of influential authors or works, and their critical afterlives: what books get read, which are forgotten, and how is that decided?

Genres: The study of fiction, poetry, drama, epic, testimonio, etc. across time and space: what happens when we classify together works of similar form?

Geographies: The study of local, regional, national, transnational, or global contexts: how do we use notions of place to group texts together?

Histories: The study of texts through socially or aesthetically defined periods or movements: how do historical pressures affect literature’s possibilities?

Media: The study of the written word as one medium among others: what can we learn from the analysis of visual, performative, sonic, filmic, and other media?

Power and Subjectivities: The study of human and other subjects as individuals and in collective groups: who has the power to speak, write, and read under different social conditions?

The Concentrations

General Literature: broad exposure to a variety of world literary traditions.

National/Transnational Literatures: These concentrations examine literature within the frameworks of particular languages or national and regional traditions. National/transnational concentrations require that texts be read in the original language.

  • French literature
    The study of French and Francophone literatures, languages, and cultural practices of France, Africa, and the Caribbean.
  • German literature
    The study of the literature, language, and cultural practices of the German-speaking areas of central Europe including Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
  • Greek and Latin literatures
    The study of the literature, languages, and cultural practices of ancient Greece and Rome. Students may choose to concentrate in Greek or Latin or both.
  • Italian literature
    The study of Italian literature, language, and cultural practices from the Middle Ages to the present.
  • Spanish/Latin American/Latino literatures
    The study of literatures, language, and cultural practices of Spain, Latin America, and Latino populations in the United States.

Creative Writing: The Department of Literature offers a sequence of workshops from introductory through advanced levels in both poetry and fiction. Other activities available to interested students include participation in the production of literary journals on campus, attendance at readings by visiting writers, and use of a creative writing reading room.

Admission to this concentration is selective. Interested students are required to take one lower-division creative writing workshop at UCSC before applying to the creative writing concentration; however, students are strongly encouraged to complete two lower-division workshops (at least one at UCSC) before applying.

Students accepted into the concentration must complete three advanced writing workshops and a senior project (e.g., a group of stories, a significant portion of a novel, a collection of poems). To apply for admission to the creative writing concentration, students should submit a completed application form (available at the Literature Department Office) and a thoughtful selection from their work (8–10 pages of poetry or fiction). Once accepted into the concentration, students are required to declare (or redeclare) the major in literature. At that time, students should meet with their adviser to discuss plans for a senior project.

More Information

Department of Literature
Humanities 1, Room 303
University of California, Santa Cruz
1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, California 95064
(831) 459-4778