Department of English Department of English College of Arts and Sciences
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Literary and Cultural Studies MA Exam

The MA exam in Literature is a four-hour long, proctored exam given twice a year, once in the Fall and once in the Spring.

The exam consists of two sections.

In the first section, students identify and define a set of literary terms (usually about 10-12) and give examples of those terms. These terms come from a list of literary terms provided to students in ENGL 7000.

In the second section, students must write two essays. Each essay is concerned with a single focus area. The individual student is responsible for informing the Chair of the MA Exam Committee on which two focus areas he or she wants to be tested at least three weeks before the exam. The students chose two out of the following seven focus areas:

  • British Literature to 1798
  • British Literature from 1798
  • American Literature to 1865
  • American Literature from 1865
  • African-American Literature
  • Theory and Cultural Studies
  • Poetry and Poetics


For each of the essay sections on the exam, students will be given a choice of two questions from which they will select one to answer.

The Chair of the MA Exam Committee will provide students with lists of texts on each focus area—prepared by specialists of those focus areas— for which students will be responsible. The lists will be composed of approximately 30 texts (25 primary and 5 secondary). Students may choose to discuss other texts on the MA exam, but they will be expected at the very least to have a thorough knowledge and understanding of those on the list.

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Last Updated: 7/7/14