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Department of English

Comprehensive Exam for the English MA: The Publishing and Print Culture Emphasis

The comprehensive examination for the M.A. in English with Emphasis on Publishing and Print Culture is administered by the candidate's examining committee. Traditionally, the examining committee consists of three members from the Departments of English or 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 with Selected Secondary Texts

One part, lasting two hours, is based on an approved text (a literary work, critical/theoretical work, or electronic text such as a web site). The text must be selected and the examining committee approve it at least four weeks before the examination.


A list of 5-8 secondary works read in conjunction with the preparation of the text is to be submitted at the same time; complete bibliographical information should be included for these works. 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:


  1. The list should consist of whole works, substantial parts of whole works, or groups of works by 25-30 authors.
  2. 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: Related Field of Minor

The third part, lasting an hour, is based on the student's work in the related field or minor. The questions are usually prepared by a representative of the related field or minor on the examining committee. Texts and notes are not allowed for the second and third parts of the examination unless an individual's committee decrees otherwise. 


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".


Samples of a Reading Lists: Emphasis in Publishing and Print Culture

Samples of Primary Texts and Critical Readings for the First Part of the Exam

Example 1

Primary Text



Example 2

Primary Text



Samples of the Kinds of Readings for the Second Part of the Exam

(Students should select 25-30 works, with some representation from each of the three major categories.)


1. Primary/Literary


2. Secondary/Scholarship/Theory

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Last modified on 04/04/13 11:22 AM
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