Master of Arts in English with Literature emphasis

The master's degree in English with a literature emphasis is designed for students interested in developing their knowledge of American, British and global literature in English. It focuses on the ability to think and write critically about literary texts. The literature emphasis requires students to take a variety of courses dealing with different literary genres and periods, yet it also allows them to concentrate their studies in the areas they find to be of greatest interest. This emphasis is primarily, but not exclusively, intended for people who are preparing for Ph.D. programs or professions in which they will teach literature, conduct literary research, or write professionally.

Course requirements

  • Research methods: English 711, Introduction to Graduate Study, is required and must be taken at the first opportunity. It is customarily offered each fall semester.
  • Distribution requirements: The student must take at least one course in nine of the following fields: poetry, fiction, drama, linguistics, nonfiction/intellectual prose, rhetoric, literary criticism, American literature, British literature before 1800 and British literature after 1800. Five of the distribution requirements may be met by courses taken at the advanced undergraduate level (the equivalent of our department's 400-level courses) in which the student earned a B or above. The director of graduate studies, in consultation with the faculty, determines which distribution requirement(s) specific courses may meet.
  • Literature topic or field: The student must take at least two courses in a particular field of interest, determined in consultation with his or her M.A. committee chair. Fields or topics might, for instance, include the Renaissance, 19th century British poetry, or the American novel.

Professional paper

In consultation with his or her Master's degree committee chair, each student will complete a professional paper. No credit toward course requirements (see above) will be granted for work on the professional paper.

The professional paper is a substantial literary-critical essay. The student selects one seminar paper written in the M.A. program and revises it, ideally with the professor under whose guidance it was originally written. The revised, polished paper will be presented to the committee as an example of the student's ability to perform research and write a convincing, reasoned argument on a topic related to literature. The paper should be about 20 pages long and should be of professional quality.

Written comprehensive examination

In consultation with the committee chair, each student will put together a reading list based on his or her particular topic or field of concentration. The list should consist of 10-15 items, at least eight of which should be book-length. The written portion of the comprehensive exam will be designed to demonstrate the student's mastery of the materials on this reading list. The student completes a one-day exam on the reading list. The exam questions will be set by the members of the student's committee, who will then evaluate the written exam.

Thesis plan

The first step is to present a prospectus, written in consultation with the student's committee chair, to the student's advisory committee. This prospectus should constitute a sound plan for writing the thesis and may include a bibliography and a tentative table of contents. The prospectus is normally approved before the student completes the written exam. He or she then writes the thesis, working closely with committee members. The student must register for six credits of English 797, Thesis.

Comprehensive examination (oral) and thesis defense

The oral exam lasts about an hour and a half and is administered by the student's committee. In the non-thesis plan, the student takes the oral exam after completing the professional paper or portfolio and the written exam; the oral will include questions on each of these works. In the thesis plan, the student takes the final oral exam after the completed thesis has been approved by his or her committee. In addition to those works covered in the exam for the non-thesis plan, the oral for students who choose the thesis plan also includes a defense of the thesis. It is the responsibility of the student to schedule the oral exam with his or her committee. The student must register for English 795, Comprehensive Examination, one credit, the semester he or she will be completing the oral exam.

Please review the M.A. literature checklist of degree requirements.