Literature Concentration

The Concentration in Literature (MA-LIT)

Students electing the Literature Concentration must take ENGL 5000 and complete at least 27 more units of applicable course work. Of these 27 units, at least 12 must be in Literature courses numbered ENGL 5000 through ENGL 5999. Literature students may apply no more than three units of each of the following (9 units total) toward their MA degree: undergraduate courses in Literature, independent study (ENGL 5980) courses, and courses not offered by the English Department. Students not completing 6 units of thesis must take 6 units of 5000-level literature seminars.

Thesis and non-thesis options: Students in the MA-LIT Concentration may elect either the thesis or non-thesis option. Those planning to enter a doctoral program in English may want to write a thesis; only students who maintain a grade point average of 3.5 or higher for the first 24 units of the Concentration may elect to write a thesis. Students not eligible or not electing to write a thesis will instead complete six further units of 5000-level literature seminars. A student electing to write a thesis may take a maximum of six units of ENGL 5990 (Thesis) to meet MA course work requirements.

Students who have completed six units of ENGL 5990, but not yet completed their theses, must register for a unit through Extension to maintain University status and privileges.

NOTE: Students exercising the thesis option must submit a thesis prospectus at least one semester before signing up for ENGL 5990 Thesis. Students must submit the completed theses or advanced projects at least four weeks prior to the end of the semester targeted for graduation.

Comprehensive Examinations

M.A. exams in the Literature Concentration will be offered twice during the academic year: once in the fall term during November, and once in the spring term during April. Examination dates will be determined annually by the Department Graduate Committee and widely disseminated at the start of fall term. Examinations will consist of two parts; for each part, candidates will have two and a half hours to complete an essay (so, for example, students will have from 9-11:30 to complete part one, then return and complete part two from 1-3:30).

Part one, stressing breadth of knowledge, will contain the same historically comprehensive question for all exam takers. The goal of this question is to determine that candidates are able to think holistically about British and American literatures as cultural practices that evolve through time subject to differing local contexts. Part two, stressing depth of knowledge, will contain a question written by a faculty member who has agreed to serve as the student's major professor. The major professor is one with whom the student shares an interest in a given subject area and whom the student has asked to serve as a mentor and guide through the comprehensive examination process. With guidance from the major professor, the student will compile a list of ten works and use this list to address the question in part two of the exam.

For the purposes of the comprehensive examination, students are responsible for forty-five works. Thirty of these are primary literary texts drawn from the canons of American and British literatures, fifteen from each. Students are also responsible for a list of five critical works intended to provide context and theory. The faculty of the English Department compile these lists and are responsible for reviewing and updating them periodically. These lists are made available to students immediately upon their entrance into the MA program. Each student is also responsible for a list of ten works selected in consultation with his or her major professor. This list will represent the student's focused area of interest--medieval literature, American modernism, African American Literature, British Romanticism, etc.  When students have compiled their lists they will fill out a Comprehensive Examination in Literature Form, have it signed by their major professor, and put it on file in the English Department. This should be done by the first week of the semester during which the student plans on taking the exam.

Readership: All literature faculty will serve as readers. Each exam will have three: the major professor of a given student plus two additional faculty members.

Grading options for comprehensive examinations will be "no pass," "pass," and "high pass."

Master List for the MA Comprehensive Exams in Literature (2012-2013):


1. Anne Bradstreet, The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung up in America

2. Mary Rowlandson, A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson

3. Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself

4. Henry David Thoreau, Walden

5. Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

6. Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

7. Emily Dickinson, Essential Dickinson (ed. Joyce Carol Oates)

8. Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

9. W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk

10. William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury

11. Langston Hughes, Selected Poems of Langston Hughes

12. John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

13. Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

14. Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony

15. Sandra Cisneros, Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories

British Literature

16. Beowulf

17. Geoffrey Chaucer, Selections from The Canterbury Tales: "The Knight's Tale," "The
Miller's Tale," "The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale," "The Clerk's Tale," "The
Franklin's Tale"

18. Margery Kempe, The Book of Margery Kempe

19.  The Faerie Queene, Bk. 1

20. William Shakespeare, King Lear

21. John Milton, Paradise Lost

22. Aphra Behn, The Rover

23. William Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads, 2nd. ed.

24. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

25. George Gordon, Lord Byron, Don Juan

26. George Eliot, Middlemarch

27. Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

28. James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

29. W.B. Yeats, Collected Poems (ed. Richard J. Finneran)

30. Samuel Beckett, Endgame

Critical Theory

Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism
T.S. Eliot, "Tradition and the Individual Talent"
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own
Henry James, "The Art of Fiction"
Edward W. Said, Introduction to Orientalism