Masters of Arts in English

The M.A. in English program provides students the opportunity to take literary and theoretical courses that represent a range of historical periods, movements and theoretical developments. The M.A. prepares students for doctoral study and careers outside academia including editing, publishing, technical writing and other fields that value skilled writing, research and critical thinking skills.

The English M.A. is a two-year program that requires 24 credit hours of graduate course work plus six thesis or exam credits for a total of 30 credits. In the course of their graduate program, graduate students must complete two core courses: Principles and Problems of Literary Study (ENG 6009) which serves as an introduction to graduate study and disciplinary research and Literary Criticism I or II (ENG 5018, 5019). In addition to the these required courses, students choose one of the following areas of concentration for their studies: American Literature, British Literature, Multicultural and World Literatures, Rhetoric and Composition, or Science Fiction and Fantasy. M.A. students must fulfill (or test out of) a foreign language requirement (two semesters of intermediate level or a reading for research course) or enroll in   History of the English Language (LIN 6107) to fulfill this requirement.

Recent graduate course offerings in these areas include "Race, Gender and Disability in American Literature"; "Postwar American Poetry"; "Queer Theory"; "Theorizing Science Fiction"; "Rhetorics of Incarceration: Writing Identities"; "Cyborg Rhetoric"; "Contemporary African American Literature: The Post-Soul Aesthetic"; "Comics and Graphic Novels"; "Homoeroticism and Crossdressing in the Literature of the English Renaissance"; and "Medieval Comedy." Other recent seminars have focused on individual authors or groups of authors such as William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, Philip Roth, and a course on Poe, Dickinson and Whitman.

Spring 2019 Course Offerings

AML 6938: Colonial Indigenous Literature: Questions, Archives, Methodologies
Professor Shelby Johnson 

The most recent edition of the Norton Anthology of American Literature: Beginnings to 1820 makes a curious choice in its selection of Native American literature: it covers a selection of creation myths and trickster tales, as well as speeches delivered by indigenous diplomats and leaders – most written down from memory by white observers. The anthology does not include writings published by literate Native Americans in the colonial period (such as Samson Occom or Joseph Johnson) or the early republic (such as William Apess, George Copway, Elias Boudinot, or Jane Johnston Schoolcraft). The anthology, in short, prioritizes indigenous oral cultures. While this editorial decision makes a certain amount of pedagogical sense, given many students’ unfamiliarity with Native American story cultures and lifeways, it does contribute to several shibboleths that continue to influence how these literatures are read, anthologized, and interpreted: that indigenous literature is necessarily oral, that indigenous literature foregrounds fiction (as myth, legend, or tale), and that indigenous literatures are “inauthentic” once they take written form. In this course, we will reconsider the oral/written binary by exploring a range of manuscript and published Native American life writing and non-fiction from the 1760s into the 1840s. We will focus our exploration on one anthology (Early Native Literacies in New England) and three writers (Samson Occom, William Apess, and Jane Johnston Schoolcraft) because they intervened in multiple colonial and early American discourses on racial identity and white supremacy, territorial expansion and settler colonialism, and spiritual conversion. As we will see, indigenous speakers and writers engage in a range of persuasive and rhetorical positioning across legal documents, petitions and wills, conversion narratives and autobiographical poetry, and activist reportage. We will supplement with secondary readings by (primarily indigenous) literary scholars and historians in order to think analytically about the kinds of questions that drive contemporary Native American scholarship. By doing so, my hope is that we will have opportunities to critically reflect on our own research and writing methodologies across the disciplines we call “home.” 


AML 6943: 21st Century African American Literature
Professor Sika Dagbovie-Mullins 

What, if anything, characterizes twenty-first century African American literary production? In her essay and introduction to a special issue of American Literary History, Stephanie Li identifies African American “twenty-first-century writers’ wide-ranging determination to claim their dead and envision a home for the living.”  This, for example, contrasts with Kenneth Warren’s assertion that African American literature came to an end when Jim Crow ended.  This course will focus on the diverse array of African American literary texts published since 2000. We will ask ourselves: what cultural, social, and political movements and events have shaped African American literary production in the new millennium? How does one define a black aesthetic?  We will consider the politics and rhetoric of black literary art in the twenty-first century. Texts will likely include Paul Beatty’s The Sellout, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, Percival Everett’s Erasure, Ladee Hubbard’s The Talented Ribkins, Mat Johnson’s Loving Day, Kiese Laymon’s Long Division, Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric, Nafissa Thompson-Spires’ Heads of the Colored People, Danez Smith’s Don’t Call Us Dead, Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones among other texts. 


ENC 6930: Visual Literary
Professor Jeffrey Galin 

This course is designed to examine visual literacy/rhetoric in writing and cultural media and to use visual texts to analyze and apply frameworks for thinking about social issues.  We will also discuss the teaching of visual arguments. It will be a project-based course with readings.  Short projects will offer analyses of photos, advertisements, and websites reading them rhetorically for issues such as race, gender, politics, and design.  A final substantial project will allow you to explore a topic of your own interest that emphasizes social action within a specific cultural context—think of political, culture, or humanitarian relief argument built with visual representations with some textual enhancements.  The work of Sharon Daniel and others will serve as starting places for discussions of these projects.  The goal of the class will be to help support you to produce new and original work or contribute to work you are already doing.  This course is open to all MA, MFA, and PhD students in English and Communications. 


ENG 5018:  Literary Criticism I
Professor Tom Martin 

Bertrand Russell once said that all philosophy since Plato is merely a footnote to Plato. The ancients not only knew the Earth is round, but one Greek actually calculated its circumference using a stick, a well, and mathematics. Literary Criticism I challenges the cultural amnesia that afflicts our time. The course covers all the foundational concepts of Western literature laid out over the first two thousand years of its history that are still in effect today. 

We consider the formations of poetic theory, dramatic theory, and narrative theory as literary genres develop well into the nineteenth century. Everything from allegory to symbol, fancy to wit, mimesis to myth, rhetoric to romance, satire to the sublime, and more principles are covered. As we look at the way certain fundamental issues arise again and again across the tradition, we also glance forward to how they are addressed by theorists and creative writers today. 

To bring life to the course, we read contemporaneous with the critical treatises Umberto Eco’s international bestseller The Name of the Rose. Eco’s novel is a cerebral exploration of a time filled with its own promise and contradictions, a vivid walk through an erudite world that was. 


ENG 6009:  Principles and Problems of Literary Study
Professor Taylor Hagood 

Description forthcoming. 


ENL 6455:  Speaking Bodies in Early Modern Literature
Professor Clarissa Chenovik 

This seminar will focus on representations of the body’s ability to “speak” in early modern English poetry, prose, and drama. In sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England developments in dissection and anatomical knowledge made it seem to many people as if the secrets of the body were becoming more available to discovery. During this era as well, most people had far more confidence than we do today about the possibility that human emotions and even personalities could be “read” in certain legible signs written on the body. Indeed, the voice itself was considered to hold direct clues to the personality and moral character of the speaker while also serving as the physiological vehicle through which the thoughts of the heart were projected into the world – and into other bodies through the sense of hearing. Based on these beliefs about the communicative potential of the body, rhetoricians and actors developed elaborate taxonomies of gestures that could be used to convey particular emotions to an audience, while poets, dramatists, and preachers drew on this rich field of possibilities in their written and performed explorations of the nature of truth, personal identity, and social relations. 

This seminar will examine some of the many literary and dramatic texts informed by early modern ideas about how the body could speak, and how it could be made to speak (e.g. through dissection). Our texts will include comedies and tragedies by William Shakespeare, Tom Ford, and John Webster, poetry by Mary Wroth, Edmund Spenser, John Donne, George Herbert, and Richard Crashaw, and short prose writings including William Baldwin’s bizarre and fascinating early novel Beware the Cat, which gives human voices to cats. Alongside these texts, we will study sixteenth- and seventeenth-century contextual sources on anatomy and dissection, early forms of phrenology, and theories of voice in order to shed light on the ways early modern poets and dramatists try to make bodies speak the truth – or highlight the fundamental pitfalls of this project. We will also consider the role of the viscera (heart, stomach, liver) in motivating speech and action. 


LIT 6105: World Literature in English: Sexuality and Colonialism
Professor Ashvin R. Kini 

This interdisciplinary course will interrogate how colonial power relations are organized and articulated through discourses of gender and sexuality. Through critical readings of literature, cinema, visual culture, activist movements, and scholarship, we will consider 1) how the production of gender and sexual normativities lies at the heart of colonial racial projects; and 2) that colonialism, anticolonialism, and decolonization are unevenly experienced by those deemed gender and/or sexually deviant. Course materials will likely include cultural texts by Shani Mootoo, R. Zamora Linmark, Ama Ata Aidoo, Deepa Mehta, Patricia Powell and Saleem Haddad, as well as scholarship by M. Jacqui Alexander, Qwo-Li Driskill, Jasbir Puar, Gayatri Gopinath, Lisa Lowe, Dean Itsuji Saranillio, Ann Laura Stoler, Scott Lauria Morgensen, Anne McClintock, Deborah Miranda, and Nayan Shah. 


LIT 6932: Science Fiction and the Cold War
Professor Carol McGuirk 

The course covers science fiction, mostly by US writers, from the conclusion of World War II in 1945 to the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. Smoldering hostilities between these two superpowers threatened to engulf the planet in another global war. Philip K. Dick refers to this conflict as “World War Terminus” because the nuclear warheads likely to be deployed were powerful enough to destroy all life on earth. Susan Sontag observed in “The Imagination of Disaster” (1965) that “This nightmare . . . in science fiction . . . is too close to our reality.” Cold War sf remains all too pertinent today, when discussions of climate change are equally haunted by ecological catastrophe, from loss of human population centers in coastal areas to mass extinction of animal species. 

Major milestones in the genre occurred during the Cold War, including feminism in the 1970s (we will read stories by Joanna Russ, Ursula K. LeGuin, and “James Tiptree, Jr”/Alice Sheldon) and cyberpunk, which arrived around 1980 (we will read stories by William Gibson, Pat Cadigan, and Bruce Sterling). The texts are a mixture of novels and shorter fiction.


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