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MA English Literature


The Master of Arts Program in English offers students the opportunity to refine and expand both their knowledge of literature written in English and their facility with its criticism. The program begins with an introduction to the theory and practice of literary criticism and research, and continues with coursework allowing students to work with faculty in small classes to investigate the discipline of literary studies and the scope of British and American literature from their beginnings to the present day.  In this way, the M. A. program supports students’ pursuit of careers in teaching at the elementary, middle or secondary school level (or enhances the skills and qualifications of those already teaching); helps prepare students for further advanced study in a doctoral program; and gives them the tools necessary for other careers involving the reading, writing and analysis of texts.

Students entering the program are assigned an adviser with whom they should meet regularly, and in consultation with whom they develop an individual plan of study that allows them to pursue their interests while assuring that they take courses covering the full range of British and American literature.  Students take thirty credits of course work, including an introduction to literary research, criticism and theory (to be taken as soon as possible in the first year of study), and at least one intensive seminar in British literature, in American literature, and in a literary period.  The program concludes with a capstone experience for which the student chooses, with departmental approval, either to take a five-question comprehensive examination based on an assigned reading list or to write a thesis on a topic of particular interest to the student, developed in consultation with the thesis director.

The M. A. Program in literature offers over twenty courses each year, including Research in English; seminars in British and American literature; Topics in Literary Periods, and Advanced Studies in British and American Literature focusing on specific figures, genres, periods or themes.   Students may also take a limited number of 400-level classes, in which graduate students take on additional responsibilities.  Course topics range broadly, from Old English to hypertext, Shakespeare to Pynchon, romance to cyberpunk, reflecting the diverse interests of the English Department’s faculty.  Typical approaches include in-depth examinations of individual authors, comparative studies of two or more authors, explorations of established or emergent literary forms, historical treatments of particular periods, and investigations of important critical or theoretical methods.  Independent studies and guided readings are also available to allow students to pursue interests not addressed in scheduled courses. 

With its diverse, engaged faculty and structured but flexible program, the English Department’s M. A. in literature offers both full-time and part-time students a thorough, rigorous training in British and American literature and literary studies that allows students to tailor their experience to meet their professional and intellectual needs and interests.

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