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Department of English

Comprehensive Exam for the English MA:
Literature, Language, and Culture Emphasis

The comprehensive examination for the M.A. in English with Emphasis on Literature, Language, and Culture is administered by the candidate's examining committee. Traditionally, the examining committee consists of three members from the Departments of English and Writing Studies and one related field/minor examiner from outside the departments. (Candidates offering linguistics as an internal related field or a designated minor should familiarize themselves with the description of "Linguistics as an Internal Related Field or Designated Minor.") 

 

The comprehensive examination consists of a six-hour written portion and a one-hour oral component.

 

Written Portion

The written exam is a three-part test taken on two days.

 

Part One: Primary Text and Selected Secondary Texts

One part, lasting two hours, will be a close analysis of an approved text from a work of literature (in English or another language), non-fiction prose or linguistics, with 5-8 secondary or critical works related to the primary text, selected and approved at least four weeks before the examination. Complete bibliographical information should be included for these works for approval. The text and notes about the secondary works may be used during this part of the examination.

 

Part Two: General Reading Lists

The second part, lasting three hours, is based on a reading list approved by the examining committee. The list must be approved at least four weeks prior to the examination; ideally, reading lists should be prepared by the candidate gradually and more or less continuously as courses are completed. In devising the list, the student should observe the following:

 

A. The list should consist of whole works, substantial parts of whole works, or groups of works by 25-30 authors.

B. The authors should be chosen from the three following categories, with some representation for each one: 

 

In the reading-list part of the examination. there will be some choice of questions. They will assume the student's general familiarity with three major categories as well as detailed knowledge of the chosen works.

 

Part Three: Comparative Analysis

The third part, lasting an hour, is comparative analysis of readings chosen from each of the three lists above, to be chosen and approved at least four weeks before the examination. 

 

All parts of the written examination will test the candidate's writing ability.

 

Oral Portion

On the fourth working day after successful completion of the written exam portion, the candidate will meet with the examining committee for the one-hour oral component (see "Principles and Procedures For Conducting the Oral Component of the Comprehensive Exam").

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