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The MA in English

The MA is a two-year program that provides intensive training for students who want further background in English, including those who aim to teach at the secondary level or want to prepare for a doctoral program. The degree focuses on literature and students are encouraged as well to take related seminar offerings in the teaching of English, including Teaching Writing, Teaching Literature, Teaching Business and Professional Writing, and TESOL (Teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages). Financial aid is available to students in the form of Teaching Assistantships (TAs). A highlight of our MA program is our mentoring for MA TAs. We offer unparalleled training for new college-level teachers. In the first semester, students complete a seminar in the theory and practice of composition studies and shadow a graduate faculty member in a composition course. From the second semester on, TAs teach their own classes with routine supervision and feedback from graduate faculty.

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Curriculum, Master of Arts in English

Two-years full-time, may be completed part-time

The MA program provides students advanced training in language, literature, and composition/rhetoric in preparation for varying personal and career goals. Such training provides students with the sound foundations needed to teach in the secondary schools, to teach in two- and four-year colleges, and to enter fields in which verbal and analytical training is essential, and to prepare for further graduate work in MFA or PhD programs. There are three main components to the MA: 1) Coursework, 2) a Foreign Language, and 3) a Final Project.

1) Coursework

Students must complete 30 credits in English, 18 of which must be at the 6600-level including:

  • English 6612: Introduction to Graduate Studies in English
  • One seminar (a 662x course), focusing on pre-1800 literature
  • One seminar (a 662x course), focusing on post-1800 literature
  • One language studies/linguistics class (see ISU Graduate Catalog for complete listing of courses that fulfill this option)

2) Foreign Language

There are many ways to fulfill this requirement, but students need to demonstrate that they have completed:

  • the equivalent of two years at the undergraduate level within four years of beginning the program (usually by passing two years at the undergraduate level);


  • six credits of graduate-level coursework in language studies, including either ENGL 5586 Old English or ENGL 5587 History of English. Note: These courses are beyond the 3 cr. of language studies required for all students as part of the degree, and beyond the 30cr. of coursework required for the MA.

See the ISU Graduate Catalog for a complete list of options.

3) Final Project

Students choose one of the following options for a final project.

  • Set Text Exam: A written exam on 5-8 texts set by the department each year, with an emphasis on their historical and critical contexts.
  • MA paper: A revision of a graduate paper into a 25pp. essay of publishable quality. Note: Up to 3cr. of MA paper count toward up to 3 of the required 6600-level credits
  • Thesis: An extended critical study of a topic proposed by the student and developed in consultation with a member of the graduate faculty (a minimum of 50 pages). Note: Up to 6cr. of thesis count toward up to 6 of the required 6600-level credits. For a list of recent student theses, see the section below.
  • Coursework/Portfolio: In addition to the required 30 credits, at least 18 of which must be at the 6600- level, students complete 6 additional credits at the 6600-level in their last two semesters. Work in each of these seminars must include a research/critical paper. In the final semester, students will compile a portfolio of major assignments from the two additional seminars along with a reflective essay outlining the students' goals and development throughout the program.

Please see the MA Program Handbook for further details.

Special Admissions Program for Secondary School Teachers

Local, full-time High School English or Language Arts teachers who would like to take graduate courses in English or pursue the MA in English part-time to increase their certification are eligible for expedited admission to the MA program. For more information, please contact the Director of Graduate Studies in English.

Our MA Students' Doctoral Programs Admissions

Graduates of the Master’s program have gone on to Ph.D. programs at a number of institutions, including the University of Leeds (United Kingdom), Arizona State University, the Ohio State University, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University, the University of Kentucky, the University of Michigan, and the University of Washington.