For students who opt to write a thesis, the Candidacy Exam must be taken in an area separate from the area investigated in the thesis.
The examination consists of a morning and an afternoon session, each lasting two hours.
- The morning session includes five brief, key passages chosen from works on the reading list. Each passage represents a significant moment in the text from which it is taken, or is characteristic of its author’s thought or literary style. The examinee is asked to identify the passages by author and title, and to write a one paragraph (four or five sentence) explanation of why the passages are significant in terms of the work as a whole and in terms of the literary historical period in question.
- In the afternoon session, the student will write a one-hour essay which refers to at least four works from the period.
The Master’s Candidacy Examination is based on the following reading list of works that represent the major genres, periods and authors of these literatures. The student is expected to be familiar with all of the works, including the critical works, in two of the listed subject areas, unless submitting a thesis, and to be able to place and discuss the works in critical and historical contexts.
Literatures in English shall be divided into the following subject areas:
- Medieval-Renaissance (to c. 1640)
- Transatlantic British & American (c. 1640-c. 1800)
- Nineteenth Century (Romantic, Victorian, & American)
- Twentieth Century – present (Modernist & post-colonial)
- Specialized Studies (the specialized list may focus on such areas as Criticism and Critical Theory, Rhetoric, Media Studies, Linguistics, Childhood Studies, etc.)
Subject areas I-IV are fixed lists. A student must take one exam from subject areas I or II and one from subject areas III or IV. Alternatively, a candidate may take an exam on one of these lists (I-IV) and develop a list in Specialized Studies subject area V (which must not overlap with the category in which the student is taking an exam) under the supervision of a professor with whom the student has previously worked. The student selecting subject area V may fulfill the requirement either by examination or by a thesis.
The examination consists of a morning and an afternoon session, each lasting three and one half hours. Each session is devoted to a particular subject area and consists of two parts: brief passages chosen from works on the reading list and an essay. Each passage represents a significant moment in the text from which it is taken, or one that is characteristic of its author’s thought or literary style. The student is asked to identify the passages by author and title, and to explain why the passages are significant in terms of the work as a whole and in terms of the literary historical period in question. The essay portion of the exam asks the student to refer to specific works, usually three or four, from the list.
Students who write a scholarly thesis may likewise be responsible for one, rather than two, subject areas. However, the area must be a different one than the area covered in the thesis.
Procedure for Examination in Specialized Studies
After completing five courses (one of which is Introduction to Graduate Literary Study), a student will be eligible to propose a specialized area of study.
If the proposal is approved, the student will be examined on reading list in the specialized area of study and on the list of works in one of the subject areas I-IV.
- The student will identify a faculty advisor and propose in writing to be examined on a specialized list in the area of the faculty member’s area of expertise. This should occur as early as possible after completion of the fifth course, but not later than the close of the semester prior to taking the examination.
- The faculty advisor will draw up a reading list of approximately 15-20 literary works, taking into account student interest. The works will represent material beyond that read in courses that the student has taken. A “work” is defined as a discrete text, or group of texts in the case of short poems, essays, or stories. The reading list will focus on a clearly defined topic of a historical, generic, thematic, or critical nature. The list will also include at least 3 works of literary criticism or theory that pertain to the literary selections.
- The student will submit the list to the faculty advisor, who will forward it to the Graduate Director for approval, by end of the second week of the semester in which the student plans to take the exam. The student must also arrange for a second reader.
- The Graduate Director will approve the proposal for the specialized list based on GPA (normally 3.65 or higher), the quality of the proposal, and the recommendation of the faculty advisor who will supervise the project.
- Students may choose to work collaboratively to construct a reading list in a specialized subject area, in which case the group will be examined on the same list.
The Master’s Examination is given twice a year, once in late October or early November and again in late March or early April. You must notify the graduate director in writing of your intention to sit for the exam by the beginning of the term in which you plan to take it. Please note: you must have completed ten graduate courses or be enrolled in your tenth course (one of which is Introduction to Graduate Literary Study) in order to take the examination. Incomplete courses do not count.
The graduate director offers an information session several weeks before the examination. The workshop is primarily for students who are registered for the exam, but any student is welcome to attend.
Each exam will be read by two faculty members. Each reader will assign a mark of “no pass,” “pass,” or “high pass.” In case of disagreement, a third reading will be sought. A score of “high pass” on both halves of the exam is necessary to graduate with “Examination with Distinction.” A score of “no pass” on either portion of the exam requires that the student be re-examined only on that portion that was not passed. The results will be reported to the student no later than two weeks after the date of the examination. Where necessary, re-examination will be scheduled by mutual agreement between the student and the graduate director after they have discussed any deficiencies appearing in the first examination.