Narrative Studies Major

Narrative studies prepares students for the development and evaluation of original content for novels, films, theatre and other narrative platforms, but recognizes that the range of professional opportunities in literature and the performing arts is much wider than the roles of author, screenwriter or playwright.

To recognize a good story, to critique, help shape, realize and transform it, requires a background in the history of narrative, cross-cultural and contemporary models, and an understanding of the broader context of popular culture.

Narrative Studies assumes that an effective narrative will be adapted from the medium in which it first appears as new media become available. In the past this has most often meant from written fiction to another form, but the future will likely present more opportunities for narratives written originally for new story-telling environments. To prepare students for a future in which the platform is likely to change, the Bachelor of Arts in Narrative Studies allows students to study across the current platforms while concentrating on the techniques of effective construction common to them all.

In so doing, it draws upon course work from several schools of art but finds its home in the humanities. To help develop the flexibility necessary to understand how stories change across platforms, students are expected to complete at least three courses in literary and three courses in performance-based media. The remaining three courses may be chosen to reflect the student’s personal preference and initial career aspirations.

MDA 490 Directed Research or MDA 494 Directed Creative Projects are capstone experiences: Students work under the guidance of a faculty member in a relevant discipline or professional field, which may include full-time faculty from the college or the participating schools of the arts. Projects intended for the stage should be done under the direction of School of Theatre faculty.

More information about the major in Narrative Studies can be found here:

  • Learning Outcomes for the Narrative Studies Major

    To study narrative is to study the control of implication, to recognize that what isn’t said – or seen, or heard – is as important as what is said and how it is said.  These aspects shift according to culture, time, and audience, with shared understandings, perspectives, materials, media, and procedures.  No single discipline embraces all of these aspects to the exclusion of other disciplines.  Conversely, disparate explorations need to be brought together in a way that makes personal sense to each individual student.  Our studies in narrative are based in the humanities, coordinate with practice in the arts and media, and culminate in an individual project that will be unique to each student.

    Students will learn to

    • study narrative and its structure from the perspective of several disciplines
    • develop and evaluate original content for novels, visual media, theatre, and other narrative platforms
    • recognize professional opportunities beyond the roles of author, screenwriter or playwright
    • recognize a good story, to critique, help shape, realize and transform it
    • understand the history of narrative, cross-cultural and contemporary models, and the broader context of popular culture
    • realize that effective narratives in new media are apt to emerge from an earlier medium
    • understand the variety of current platforms while concentrating on the techniques of construction common to them all
    • coordinate studies in humanities with studies and practices in fine arts
    • integrate perspectives and methodologies from different fields
    • design an individual and thematic curriculum
    • engage in self-directed research
    • identify and develop an independent research project
    • work with scholars in different disciplines who share a common academic interest
  • Spring 2016 Narrative Studies Course Substitutions

    Narrative in Cross-Cultural Perspective/Global Narrative Traditions
    COLT-375 “Latin American Cultural and Literary Theory”
    COLT-382gw “Zen and Taoism in Asian Literature”
    COLT-445 “Europe and the Writing of Others”
    EALC-352g “Chinese Literature and Culture”
    EALC-333 “Introduction to Korean Film”
    EALC-358g “Transnational Chinese Literature and Culture”
    EALC-380 “Cultural Topics in East Asian Literature: Transnational Chinese Literature”
    MDES-343 “Modern Arab State and Society II: Culture and Literature”

    Western Narrative in Historical Perspective/European and American Literary Narratives
    COLT-374gm "Women Writers in Europe and America"
    COLT-476 “Narrative and the Law”
    ENGL-461 “English Drama to 1800”
    ENGL-466 “The 19th Century English Novel”
    ITAL-350g “Italian Renaissance Literature in Translation”

    Contemporary Fiction and Drama
    COLT-346 "Fictions of the First Person"
    ENGL-376g “Comics and Graphic Novels” (and for Narratives in Visual Media)
    ENGL-451 “Periods and Genres in American Literature” (and for European and American Literary Narratives)

Unit requirements

24 units of NARS major coursework must be unique to the Dornsife College. A maximum of 12 units for the major can be from professional schools.

Documents & Forms

The following items are available to download on the Department of English's Documents page.

  • Narrative Studies Advising Record
  • Information about Overseas Studies and NARS
  • Information about the Capstone
  • Capstone (MDA-490/MDA-494) Contract



Narrative Studies students must inform the academic adviser when registering for substitute courses to update the STARS report. Unless students inform the adviser that they have registered for a non-traditional NARS "Fall or Spring Only Course", that course will not appear in their STARS reports.

For advisement, see:
Tim Gotimer
THH 404H
(213) 740-3725

Undergraduate alumni publications pictured above:
Hiram Sims, Photoetry: Poetry and Photographs from South Central L.A., Figueroa Press 2014; Susan Straight, Between Heaven and Here, McSweeney's 2012; Brad Thor, Hidden Order: A Thriller, Pocket 2014; Patrick Ness, More Than This, Candlewick Press 2013; John J. Gobbell, Edge of Valor, Naval Institute 2014; Ellen Plotkin Mulholland, Birds on a Wire, Logos 2013.

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