Departmental Reading List

This list of significant representative works of literature will serve as a foundation for students majoring in English at Centenary College. While this list is by no means exhaustive, it will prepare you for two major exams: the major field test in English (MFT) and a comprehensive essay exam, both of which are administered by the faculty during the fall semester of a student's senior year. Several of these texts will appear on course syllabi. Students are expected to read the rest outside of regular courses.

Classical Literature

Homer. The Odyssey (700 BC?)

Ovid, Metamorphoses (8 AD)

British Literature

Chaucer, Geoffrey. Canterbury Tales. (late 14th c)
• General Prologue
• Miller’s Prologue and Tale
• Wife of Bath’s Prologue
• Nun’s Priest’s Tale

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (late 14th c)

Tottel, Richard. Songes and Sonnets (Tottel’s Miscellany) (1557)

Spenser, Edmund. The Fairie Queene, Book One (1590)

Shakespeare, William
• Selected Sonnets
Midsummer Night’s Dream

Donne, John. Selected Poems.

Milton, John. Paradise Lost (1667)

Behn, Aphra. Oroonoko: or, the Royal Slave (1688)

Pope, Alexander. The Rape of the Lock (1712)

Fielding, Henry. Joseph Andrews (1742)

Sterne, Laurence. Tristram Shandy (1759-1767)

Wordsworth, William and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Lyrical Ballads (1800) and the 1802 “Preface”

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice (1813)

Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre (1847)

Tennyson, Alfred. In Memoriam (1850)

Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations (1860)

Wilde, Oscar. The Importance of Being Earnest (1895).

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway (1925)

Yeats, William Butler. Selected poems.

American Literature

Paine, Thomas. "Common Sense" (1776)

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter (1850)

Melville, Herman. The Confidence-Man (1857).

Whitman, Walt. “Song of Myself” (1855).

Dickinson, Emily. Selected poems.

Wharton, Edith. The Age of Innocence (1920).

Anderson, Sherwood. Winesburg, Ohio (1919).

T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land (1922)

Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying (1930)

Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. (1953)

DeLillo, Don. White Noise (1985).

Morrison, Toni. Beloved. (1987).

McCarthy, Cormac. The Road. (2006)


Common Texts for English Majors

In an effort to reduce costs for students and to create a coherent experience across the major curriculum, the faculty of the English Department has agreed to use the following texts in a number of courses. While English majors may not end up using all of these texts as they progress toward their degree, they will use a number of them, and it is the faculty’s belief that these texts will be important volumes in the library of any life-long student of literature. (Prices found on

Required Texts

Baym, Nina, et al, Eds. The Norton Anthology of American Literature (Shorter Seventh Edition) (Vol. 1) New York: Norton. ISBN: 978-0393930566.  $49.99

Baym, Nina, et al, Eds. The Norton Anthology of American Literature (Shorter Seventh Edition) (Vol. 2). ISBN: 978-0393930559.  $49.35

Note: American Literature Volumes 1 and 2 together cost $62.36 on Amazon; ISBN: 978-0393930580

Greenblatt, Stephen, et al, Eds. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Volumes A-F. 8th ed. New York: Norton.

Middle Ages (Vol. A). ISBN: 978-0393927177
16th Century/Early 17th Century (Vol. B). ISBN: 978-0393927184
Restoration and 18th Century (Vol. C). ISBN: 978-0393927191
The Romantic Period (Vol. D). ISBN: 978-0393927207
The Victorian Age (Vol. E). ISBN: 978-0393927214
20th Century and After (Vol. F). ISBN: 978-0393927221
Note: Prices for volumes of English Literature vary between about $25.00 and $30.00 and can be purchased in bundles for a significant discount.

Parker, Robert Dale. How to Interpret Literature: Critical Theory for Literary and Cultural Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. ISBN: 978-0199757503. $28.31

Recommended Texts

Parker, Robert Dale. Critical Theory: A Reader for Literary and Cultural Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. ISBN: 978-0199797776. $49.95

Abrams, M. H. and Geoffrey Harpham. A Glossary of Literary Terms. 10th ed. Wadsworth, 2011. ISBN: 978-0495898023. $48.78

This is an exceptional glossary and a must-have for students of literature. However, if you prefer a less expensive glossary, we recommend this one:

Hamilton, Sharon. Essential Literary Terms: A Norton Guide with Exercises. New York: Norton, 2006. ISBN: 978-0393928372. $22.58

Note: This can be purchased directly from Norton at a discount if you buy it along with any Norton anthology.

If you decide to use an online glossary here are several good choices:
Bedford/St Martin


Departmental Honors

A student majoring in English may also opt to earn English Departmental Honors in literary, film, or cultural criticism or in creative writing. 

Contact Info

Jeff Hendricks

Department Chair

Notice of Nondiscriminatory Policy The institution does not discriminate in its educational and employment policies against any person on the basis of gender, race, color, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin, or on any other basis proscribed by federal, state, or local law.