Students admitted to graduate study in the Department of English pursue a 30-credit program (ten courses or the equivalent) leading to the Master of Arts degree. The program offers degree candidates a challenging and supportive learning environment in which to enhance their knowledge, explore new ideas, and gain experience in research, writing, and teaching. Students explore the aesthetic and pragmatic dimensions of the written word in seminars and workshops that balance tradition with innovation in local and global contexts.
The program allows students to explore new facets of English study – everything from the intricacies of skills such as creating an assignment-sequence for a class, preparing technical documentation, grant-writing, or editing a short story, to the challenges of poetics, literary and rhetorical theory, and empirical field-research on writing – while also deepening and widening their knowledge of literature. The degree culminates with a professional portfolio that graduates use to advance their goals toward PhD or MFA programs, teaching careers, employment in the private or public-sector, or personal growth.
Graduate students are central actors in the program’s intellectual community: they serve on committees, organize events, participate in research expos, and have their own symposium. Teaching Assistantships in the award-winning first-year composition program include full-tuition waivers, close mentoring, a one-one teaching load, generous stipend support, and a strong benefits package. Students can apply for a third year of funding through the competitive Ulrich Wicks Distinguished Teaching Assistantship. Poets in the program are eligible for support through the Millay Prize for Poetry.
The department offers optional concentrations in Creative Writing, Gender and Literature, Poetry and Poetics, and Writing Studies. English M.A. students may also pursue the interdisciplinary concentration in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, offered by the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program.
The degree provides valuable training for teachers of English in high school and community colleges. Those interested in competing for top doctoral programs in literature or writing studies or pursuing a competitive MFA will receive solid preparation for future studies. Alumni of our program have also gone on to careers in journalism, law, publishing, library science, theater, politics, consulting, editing, web and social-media content, photography, and all sectors of public and private education.
In the scheduling of its courses and in the design of the required MA Degree Portfolio that candidates use to demonstrate their accomplishments, the Department presents a substantial and coordinated curriculum of graduate study. The English Department is home to “College Composition,” its award-winning first-year writing program, of which our 21 teaching assistants are vital members. It is also home to the Center for Poetry and Poetics (formerly the National Poetry Foundation), which regularly hosts international conferences on modernist and postmodernist poetry, and publishes the scholarly journal Paideuma: Modernist and Contemporary Poetry and Poetics as well as many books of and on poetry. To these enterprises graduate students have sometimes contributed editorial assistance as well as articles, and the NPF offers a graduate work-study assistantship providing experience in the practical side of scholarly publishing.
Applicants normally are expected to have at least a 3.0 grade-point average in English from an accredited institution, and to provide us with three letters of recommendation, official transcripts, a personal statement, and a 10-20 page sample of formal literary analysis (applicants to the creative writing concentration must also submit a 10-20 page sample of creative work.)
Applicants who wish to complete one of the concentrations should indicate this on their application forms. Those wishing to be considered for teaching assistantships will respond to a teaching exercise provided by the department on completion of their application to the graduate program.
The department offers 21 teaching assistantships, of which about half are awarded to incoming students in a typical year. Applicants wishing to be considered for an assistantship beginning in September should have their complete application materials (transcripts, writing samples, personal statement, three letters of recommendation, and teaching exercise) on file with the department by the previous January 15th. The English program accepts applications for graduate studies on a rolling basis; however, applicants for teaching assistantships and other financial aid must submit their materials by January 15th.
Of the usual 30 hours of coursework, at least 24 hours must be in English courses numbered 500 or above, including up to six hours of thesis credit (ENG 699). Students with teaching assistantships normally take two years to complete the program; other full-time students sometimes finish more quickly. Typically, four or five graduate courses are offered each semester and two each summer.
All candidates demonstrate their readiness to graduate via a comprehensive and selective Degree Portfolio that illustrates a range of coursework while also highlighting the candidate’s special research interests. Degree Portfolios accepted for review are comprised of roughly 50 pages of the candidate’s best work, introduced by a 10-12 page (double-spaced) critical-reflective letter. Thesis candidates, including creative writers, also do one-hour defenses of their theses. Thesis candidates take 3-6 credits of thesis work. All students in the creative writing concentration produce a thesis consisting of a substantial body of original work (e.g. a novel, a collection of stories, a collection of poems). The thesis is optional for students in other concentrations.
Four of the ten courses normally required for the degree must be graduate literature courses distributed across three different time-periods. Graduate teaching assistants are required to take ENG 693 Teaching College Composition during their first semester of teaching.
Specific requirements for the optional concentrations are as follows:
Concentration in Writing Studies: 9-12 credits in courses exploring current theories about writing, the teaching of writing, and the contexts of writing–including linguistics, critical theory, and discourse analysis. ENG 579 Theories of Composing, ENG 693 Teaching College Composition, and an additional six credits which may include courses in literacy or rhetoric outside of the department, as approved by the student’s advisor.
Concentration in Creative Writing: 9-12 credit hours in creative writing, typically including six credits of workshop and three to six thesis credits.
Concentration in Gender and Literature: 9-12 credits in courses exploring the interrelationships of gender, language and literature, normally to include two offerings of ENG 549 Studies in Gender and Literature. One course may be taken outside the department, as approved by the student’s advisor.
Concentration in Poetry and Poetics: 9-12 credits emphasizing theoretical and creative approaches to poetry and poetics. This concentration allows students to combine interests in literary analysis and poetry writing. Includes three to six credit hours of ENG 580: Topics in Poetry and Poetics, three credit hours of ENG 508: Writing Workshop in Poetry & Poetics, and three credit hours of literature courses focused on poetry and/or theory
To learn more about graduate study in English, go to
Hollie Adams, Ph.D. (University of Calgary, 2014), Assistant Professor. Creative Writing, Postmodern Fiction, Canadian Literature.
Caroline Bicks, Ph.D. (Stanford, 1997), Professor and Stephen E. King Chair in Literature. Shakespeare, early modern drama and culture, history of science, women’s and gender studies, feminist theory, girlhood studies.
Carla Billitteri, Ph.D. (SUNY at Buffalo, 2001), Associate Professor. Literary theory; feminist theory and gender studies; poetry and poetics; nineteenth- and twentieth-century European and American Literature; drama.
Laura Cowan, Ph.D. (Princeton, 1988), Associate Professor. Modernist literature, poetry, nature literature.
Ryan Dippre, Ph.D. (University of California-Santa Barbara, 2014). Assistant Professor and Director of College Composition. Writing development: K-16 and lifespan; writing technology and beliefs; research methods.
Dylan B. Dryer, Ph.D. (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2007), Associate Professor and Coordinator of Graduate Studies. Research methods, rhetorical genre studies, writing development and assessment, corpus linguistics, language ideologies.
Steven R. Evans, Ph.D. (Brown, 1999), Associate Professor and Department Chair. Poetry and poetics; critical theory; sonic archives.
Benjamin Friedlander, Ph.D. (SUNY-Buffalo, 1999), Professor. Poetry and poetics; nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature.
Sarah Harlan-Haughey, Ph.D. (Cornell University, 2011). Associate Professor. Medieval literature, folklore, oral traditional studies, and literature and the environment.
Gregory Howard, Ph.D. (University of Denver). Associate Professor. Fiction writing, American fiction, postmodern literature.
Naomi Jacobs, Ph.D. (Missouri, 1982), Professor. British and American fiction, women’s literature, utopian literature.
Margaret A. Lukens, Ph.D. (Colorado, 1991), Professor. Nineteenth-century American literature, Native American literature, multi-cultural studies, theatre.
Jennifer Moxley, M.F.A. (Brown, 1994), Professor. Creative writing, poetry & poetics, translation.
Elizabeth Neiman, Ph.D. (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2011). Associate Professor. Romanticism, 19th Century British fiction, and gender studies
Deborah D. Rogers, Ph.D. (Columbia, 1982), Professor. Restoration and eighteenth-century English literature.
Kathryn Swacha, Ph.D. (Purdue University, 2018), Assistant Professor. Rhetoric and communication, rhetoric of health and medicine, rhetorical theory, institutional rhetorics, professional and technical writing