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2019-2020 Undergraduate & Graduate Catalog

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Master of Arts in English

For additional information about opportunities your college offers, please refer to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences section in this catalog.


Program Description

The Master of Arts in English is a program intended to provide students with advanced studies in the various literatures written originally in English, as well as world literatures translated into English. The program concentrates on the range of British, American, Anglophone, and world literatures with emphasis on literary history, history of genre, close analysis of individual authors and themes, cultural context, and critical theory.

The degree offers two tracks, one requiring 33 hours of coursework followed by qualifying examinations, and the other requiring 27 hours of coursework followed by a six-credit-hour thesis project. Students must take courses in an author or topic, a literary period, and a genre. These are all variable-content courses and may be taken more than once. The curriculum also requires a course that introduces students to the history of literary studies and provides them with the conceptual and critical vocabulary of the discipline, as well as instruction in research methods.

Admission to the Master of Arts in English Program

  • A brief statement of purpose explaining the applicant's academic preparation, interest in this program, and professional goals.
  • An original essay writing sample of 10 to 15 pages (approximately) that demonstrates the writer's potential for literary analysis, including the use of sources. (It may be a paper written for a previous course).
  • Contact information for three people who can assess the applicant's academic preparation.
  • Applications are considered throughout the year.

Program Requirements

  • Track One: 33 credit hours of coursework plus qualifying examinations
  • Track Two: 27 credit hours of coursework plus a six-credit-hour thesis

Core Requirements Credits: 12

Degree-seeking students must take ENG 600 - Graduate Literary Studies Seminar before completion of more than nine credit hours in the program.


  • Track One: 21 Credit hours
  • Track Two: 15 Credit hours

Qualifying Examinations

Students who elect Track One must complete 33 credit hours of coursework in the program, including the required core courses. After all coursework is completed, they must take qualifying examinations. Students must pass the M.A. exam to be awarded the degree.

This track is appropriate for students who wish to take more coursework than the thesis option requires or don't need the kind of research experience a thesis project provides.

1) Description: The exam consists of two essays written in a total of four hours. The purpose of the exam is for students to demonstrate a range of skills and knowledge in literary study, including familiarity with a variety of approaches to literature. Students will choose two of the following areas to write on, which correspond with the core courses in the program:

  • Major author
  • Literary historical period
  • Literary genre
  • Criticism and theory

2) Exam Committee: The committee is made up of the student's choosing, in addition to the graduate director. At least one semester before taking the exam, the student will choose and consult with a faculty member specializing in one of the selected examination areas. This faculty member will serve as the student's exam advisor and will help the student to select another faculty member to serve as an area specialist.

3) Reading Lists: In consultation with the advisor and the area specialist, the student will draw up a separate reading list for each area of the exam. The student will submit the preliminary reading lists to the faculty advisor and area specialist, who will revise them. The advisor will then submit them to the graduate director for final approval. (This step helps to ensure consistency among the various Exam Committees over time.) The reading lists will consist of major primary texts, as well as significant critical works in the field.

4) Exam: Students will arrange with the graduate director a date for the four-hour exam period during either fall or winter semester. (Students may choose to write for a single four-hour period or two two-hour periods on the same day.) The exam must be scheduled by the third week of the semester and may not take place during the last three weeks of the semester. The exam will present the student with a choice of questions, from which the student will choose two, one from each of the selected areas.

5) Evaluation: Both exam essays will be read by the student's advisor and area specialist. Both readers will assign to each exam essay one of the following grades: High Pass, Pass, or Fail. If the two readers disagree on their rating, the graduate director will serve as the third reader.

Any student who does not earn a passing score after two attempts will not be awarded the degree and will not be eligible to retake the exam. However, a student who does not earn a passing score on the M.A. exam may, with the permission of the graduate director and in consultation with the student's faculty advisor and area specialist, be allowed to propose a thesis project, which includes registering for six hours of thesis credit. As in every case, the student's thesis prospectus must be approved before the student can register for thesis credits (see Thesis Preparation for details).

Thesis Preparation

Students who elect Track Two must complete 27 credit hours of coursework in the program (including the required core courses) and may then begin work on the thesis. A more detailed flowchart for thesis preparation is available on The Graduate School website. Students must follow these steps in writing the thesis:

  1. Select thesis advisor and receive advisor's approval of topic.
  2. Submit prospectus (including thesis statement and bibliography) for approval of the advisor and the graduate director. After the prospectus is approved, the student enrolls in ENG 695 - Master's Thesis. A student must enroll for one to six credits of ENG 695 per semester (summer, fall, and winter) until the thesis is successfully defended and accepted.
  3. Select two other faculty members for thesis committee.
  4. Submit draft for suggested revisions from committee.
  5. Submit final draft for approval of committee. Minimum length for the thesis will be 50 pages (double-spaced, not including bibliography).
  6. Thesis defense. The thesis director will schedule a time for the defense when the entire committee can be present. The student must have registered for a total of at least six credit hours of ENG 695 before the defense is scheduled. The defense may be scheduled in summer, fall, or winter terms and should be at least three weeks before the end of classes for that term. The revised draft of the thesis must be submitted to the committee at least two weeks prior to the defense date. Copies will be made available for other interested faculty members to read. All English Department faculty will be invited to attend the defense and participate in the discussion. The defense will be open to other English graduate students as observers.
  7. After the defense, the committee may require further revisions; if so, the student will have 30 days to submit the revised thesis for final determination. If the committee votes not to accept the thesis, the student would have the option of changing to Track One, which would require taking six additional credit hours of coursework and passing the qualifying examinations.
  8. Once the thesis has been approved, the student submits the final PDF file to ScholarWorks at [email protected]

Course Offerings

English Program Description

Click here for the program description.

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