MA Literature Program Requirements

Degree Requirements | Thesis Options | Languages | Comprehensive Exams

Degree Requirements

With the exception of students admitted into the master's program to pursue a concentration in Renaissance studies, all candidates for the master's degree are required to take the following:

  • 3 hours in bibliography and research (EN 537 Introduction to Graduate Studies, which is normally offered every fall and which students are encouraged to take in their first semester, for maximum benefit);
  • 3 hours of critical theory (EN 535 Literary Criticism, EN 536 Advanced Modern Criticism, or EN 635 Seminar in Literary Criticism);
  • 3 hours of teaching practicums (students with teaching assistantships take the summer practicum, EN 533, and EN 534, for a combined three hours of pass/fail credit); and
  • Students not writing the thesis (Plan II) will take 6 credits of electives to acquire the 30 credits for completion. Students writing a thesis (Plan I) will take 6 thesis hours.

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Thesis Options

Plan I (thesis plan) students must complete at least 24 semester hours of coursework in English before writing the thesis, which must be a historical, critical, or otherwise analytical treatise. Thesis-plan students must take 6 semester hours of thesis research (EN 599) in addition to their 24 hours of coursework for a total of 30 hours. At least three of these courses must be at the 600 level. (See the general requirements for a master's thesis listed under "Academic Policies" in this catalog. For additional information regarding the master's thesis in English, contact the director of graduate studies in the English department.)

Plan II (nonthesis plan) students must take at least 30 semester hours of coursework in English. At least three of these courses must be at the 600 level. See the course requirements for all master's students cited above.

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Foreign Language Requirement

A reading knowledge of one foreign language is required. The foreign language requirement may be satisfied by one of the following: (a) the certification through the appropriate department of a "B" average or the equivalent of two years of undergraduate- or graduate-level study in a single foreign language, completed within five years of admission to the master's program; or (b) passing the foreign language reading examination prepared by the Department of Modern Languages and Classics. Students who are not native speakers of English may use their native language to fulfill this requirement.

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Comprehensive Exams

The MA Comprehensive Examination is a written exam of three hours in duration which is designed to assess graduating MA-Literature students’ broad knowledge of literary form, literary history, and literary criticism and theory. Rather than undertaking an encyclopedic survey divorced from the community of the graduate classroom, students demonstrate their comprehensive grasp of literary study by building upon the content of the courses they have taken. Each examinee constructs a personalized description of his/her UA English graduate coursework and graduate papers, both completed and in-process.  Under the oversight of the MA Comps Committee, composed of three members of the department’s graduate faculty, the candidate then proposes a set of four examination questions based upon this individualized set of graduate experiences.  Each question should build upon the set of readings and critical approaches featured in a course, while at the same time advertising the student’s mastery of the broader literary-historical, generic, and/or theoretical subfield(s) under which that course falls.   Students will have three hours to answer two of their original four questions.  Exams will be closed book and closed note. Once the exam is completed, the MA Comps Committee will read the responses, talk collectively about them, and then, on the basis of consensus whenever possible, and on the basis of a majority if consensus is unreachable, assign the examinee a final grade of Distinction, Pass, or Fail. 

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