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M.A. Examinations

In the fourth semester of study, students shall take a Master’s exam consisting of 3 parts. Each part is written by one of the three-member committee, at least one of whom must be of the core faculty in CWL (n.b.: this is the new exam structure as of Fall 2016).

The three parts are normally completed within a month:

  1. A critical theory exam based on materials covered in CWL 501-502 and the student’s area of specialization, covering several different critical approaches (4 hours in length). The reading list shall consist of 20 works divided into 4 categories and selected in consultation with the examiner. The exam consists of three or four essay questions covering various aspects of the reading list. The student chooses only two questions and answers them in a coherent essay of no less than five double-spaced pages each (2 hours per question).

  2. A period exam in the major literature (4 hours in length), based on a reading list of 20-25 works. The exam consists of two parts. First, two or three essay questions on any aspects of the reading list. The student chooses only one question and answers it in a coherent essay of no less than five double-spaced pages (2 hours). Second, a passage in the original language, chosen by the examiner from any single work on the reading list, which the student explicates in no less than four double-spaced pages. The passage can be in the form of a short poem or a prose passage of about 500-700 words, and it should be sufficiently rich to allow for a nuanced analysis that draws out not only the specific features of the passage and the work to which it belongs, but also general characteristics of the period and the literary or cultural tradition in question, showing “the universe in a grain of sand” (2 hours).

  3. A period exam in the first minor literature (2 hours in length), based on a reading list of 15-20 works. The exam consists of a passage in the original language, chosen by the examiner from any single work on the reading list, which the student explicates in no less than four double-spaced pages. The passage can be in the form of a short poem or a prose passage of about 500-700 words, and it should be sufficiently rich to allow for a nuanced analysis that draws out not only the specific features of the passage and the work to which it belongs, but also general characteristics of the period and the literary or cultural tradition in question, showing “the universe in a grain of sand.”

Exams are normally given in April—i.e. the fourth semester of graduate study.  It is the student’s responsibility to assemble an examining committee in the semester before the date of the examination.  Consultation on the procedures should first be sought from the DGS.  Examiners are recognized specialists in the literature(s) in question and must be approved by the DGS and Program Director beforehand.

Each exam is made up by the faculty member responsible for its evaluation.  The entire committee, however, reads and comments on every exam.

Exams are graded high-pass, pass, low pass, or fail.  A passing grade on the M.A. exams does not guarantee admission to the Ph.D. Program.  A standing committee of the faculty, in collaboration with the chair of the examining committee, will review each student’s performance on the exams, the student’s record in course work, and other relevant factors.  Only then will the committee recommend to the faculty at large whether the student should receive a terminal M.A. or should be admitted to the Ph.D. Program.

A student may elect to receive a terminal M.A.  In this case, the request must be made in writing prior to taking the first of the M.A. examinations.  Otherwise, it is assumed that the student wishes to be considered for admission to the Ph.D. Program.

If a student fails one or more of the M.A. examinations, the student is given one more chance to take the examination(s) in question.  A second failure results in no degree being granted and dismissal from the Program.