English & Modern Languages

Literature MA Program

Students pursuing the M.A. in the literature option are introduced to the practices, challenges, and rewards of conducting original investigations in English 5010: Graduate Literary Research. Students take a collection of courses in British, American, and World Literature, as well as genre. This work prepares students for their capstone project: either the comprehensive M.A. Exam or the M.A. thesis. Through these projects, students demonstrate their advanced understanding of the role literature plays in human history and culture, and the skills necessary to conduct research, communicate, and analyze these texts.

Their studies will prepare them for a number of career paths, whether they choose to continue their education in a Ph.D. program, pursue or enhance a teaching career in high school or community college classrooms, or move in to industries like marketing, editing, law, and so on.

For required coursework, see the University Catalog.

Students MUST ENROLL in ENG 6970 in order to take the Comprehensive Exam. However, enrolling in ENG 6970 requires department authorization. One to two weeks prior to registration, email Connie Cuellar. Let her know your intention to take the exam and provide her with your option, directed electives or second option, and your Bronco ID. Failure to do this means you will be unable to register for ENG 6970, and thus unable to fulfill your culminating experience, or graduate.

The Comprehensive Exam in Literature is administered during weeks 7 through 10 of the Fall and Spring semesters. The examination consists of three take-home essays where students respond to essay prompts using textual evidence and research. One essay is drawn from a “Common Read” text that is announced the year prior to the exam. Exams are evaluated by multiple faculty members using a grading rubric. Students only examine in their primary option.

Reading List

Reading lists for the exams are automatically generated from faculty syllabi; no deviations are allowed. Students are expected to be familiar with all the texts on the syllabi. In addition, students are asked to read a Common Read. Every year, faculty members decide on a single text that has not been taught in any course. Students are expected to transfer their knowledge gained in the classroom to an unfamiliar text.

*** The 2021-22 Common Read text was Toni Morrison’s Paradise ***

*** The 2022-23 Common Read text was Ama Ata Aidoo’s Changes: A Love Story ***

*** For 2023-24, the Common Read text is Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s Turkish Embassy Letters ***

*** For 2024-25, the Common Read text is Shirley Ann Williams’ Dessa Rose ***

Literature Examination

Students examining in Literature will turn in a total of three take-home essays. Each essay will be a minimum of 3,125 words (10+ pages). The essay prompts will be distributed on Monday of week 7 and all essays will be due 4 weeks later, on Friday of week 10.

Exams are evaluated anonymously by multiple faculty members using a grading rubric. Every year, faculty members decide on a single text that has not been taught in any course. Students are expected to transfer their knowledge gained in the classroom to an unfamiliar text.

Essay 1 (worth 33.3%): Common Read essay with an emphasis on close reading and in-depth analysis. Students are provided with two prompts on the Common Read text and select one.

Essay 2 (worth 33.3%): Breadth essay. Rather than produce close readings of texts, students produce a critical synthesis at a broad level of no fewer than eight literary texts from their coursework at CPP to make claims about a period or genre. Students are provided with three prompts and select one. Possible prompts may consist of discussing the evolution of a genre over time, analyzing the relationship between history and literature, or considering the function of setting in various time periods and/or geographies.

Essay 3 (worth 33.3%): Thematic essay. Students are provided with three prompts and select one. The essay prompts are not course specific but rather focus on a thematic, a problematic, a question, a literary movement, a genre, etc. In response to one prompt, students discuss at least three literary texts from their coursework at CPP.

Appendix: Students produce a bibliography of all the primary texts they cited in their three essays, and include the date of original publication. The bibliography must be formatted according to MLA guidelines, 8th edition only. Students must show a diversity of texts in essays 2 and 3, working across periods with a required range of a hundred years, not including the common read. Failure to submit a bibliography that conforms to these guidelines results in a grade penalty of 5% on the comprehensive exam.

Study Resources

Students should study the following:

  • The grading rubric. These are the measures that will be used to assess your exam. Know what you’ll be tested on. The grading rubric is based on the department's learning outcomes.
  • Your course syllabi. Review the texts from all your syllabi, not just the sequences. Part I IDs will come from the primary texts in the course, and studying the secondary texts will help prepare you for the essays in Part II.
    • To prepare for Part I, review the texts and write brief abstracts about them in which you identify the major themes, historical connections, genre/stylistic conventions, and a list of significant scenes and quotes.
  • The period/genre. Both Parts I and II evaluates your knowledge of the text’s historically-specific moment. Knowing the periods will help you situate the text, find unique analytical insights, and because faculty outside the field will be reading your responses, it will demonstrate your familiarity with the discourse.
  • The Common Read. The Common Read provides an opportunity for students to transfer their skills outside their coursework to a new text. You are expected to read the text and conduct significant research. In addition, you may find it helpful to form study groups and prewrite material.

Students may also choose to write an M.A. Thesis, a directed, in-depth research project. For more information, see the guidelines (PDF). Then speak with an advisor before filling out the petition (DOC).