MA Program

Our English MA program differs from many of its peer-programs by virtue of its concentrated timeline. Lasting a single academic year, our immersive, intensive course of study prepares students to launch confidently and efficiently into the next stage of their careers—whether in teaching, writing, editing, media production, university administration, arts management, public relations, marketing, the non-profit world, or further academic pursuits. See our typical schedule page for a detailed outline of the program.

During their time at the University, MA students benefit from all of the same resources and opportunities as the department’s first-year PhD students, enrolling in the same courses, working with the same faculty, and participating in the same events.

Like the PhD program, the MA program offers students a highly individualized experience. At the end of the program, MA candidates complete a capstone project of their own design and choosing: an MA essay (either scholarly or creative) or a comprehensive MA exam. Our alumni have found each of these options to be effective springboards for professional paths of all kinds. To see what our MA alumni are doing, visit our placement page.

Graduate Student Handbook

Please consult the English Department Graduate Student Handbook for the most up-to-date requirements of the graduate programs in English, including, but not limited to: field exams, language requirements, teaching pedagogy, and advisor selection.

For rules and regulations concerning graduate-level study at the University of Rochester, see the Graduate Bulletin.

Film Preservation Program

In addition to the traditional English MA, the department also offers—in cooperation with the George Eastman Museum’s L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation—a special English MA that combines a concentration in film and media studies with certification in preservation and archiving.

Students completing this degree will receive a master’s degree in English with a Certificate of Advanced Achievement in Film Studies and Preservation. The first museum-based university collaboration of its kind, the program joins humanistic study with hands-on training in curatorial and conservation work. See our typical schedule page for a detailed outline of the program.

Professional Development

Each year the graduate program sponsors a number of workshops designed to further the academic and professional goals of our MA students. These include sessions on:

  • Applying to PhD programs (writing an effective statement of purpose)
  • Planning the capstone MA essay (choosing a topic, finding an advisor, plus researching/writing strategies)
  • Applying to and attending conferences (writing successful paper-proposals; how a conference paper differs from a seminar paper)
  • Adjunction and other opportunities for those students looking to fill the months between the completion of their MA program and entrance into a PhD program or other full-time occupation
  • Non-academic tracks suitable for English MAs (publishing, editorial work, etc.)

For more professional development resources, see the graduate professional development page.

MA Essay

The MA essay is approximately fifty pages in length, and explores a scholarly, critical, or aesthetic question in depth. The topic for the essay is worked out in detail between the student and a faculty advisor.

It is possible to do a creative writing portfolio as an MA essay. Specific requirements for such an option are worked out with the guidance of the creative writing faculty.

See the sampling of MA topics page for a list of past essay subjects.

MA Exam

The MA exam is held no later than August 1. Students are expected to answer four questions on the examination (one from each of four fields, pre-selected by the student from a list of designated periods/topics).

The exam is written and evaluated by an exam committee, consisting of one faculty member per field. Students may assemble the committee themselves or ask the MA advisor to do so. We recommend students consult with each member of the committee at least once prior to the exam in order to get a sense of the kinds of questions he/she might put on the exam, and to talk through sample answers.

The exam consists of two parts, to be taken in the morning on two consecutive business days; each part covers two fields. Students will respond to one question from among a selection of two or three per field. For each question, the student is given half an hour to read and plan out an answer, plus one and a half hours for writing.

This means that the student will begin Part I of the exam at 9 a.m. and turn it in by 1 p.m. on the first day. On the second day, the student will begin Part 2 of the exam at 9 a.m. and turn it in by 1 p.m. Exams may be provided and submitted in one of two ways: either in person (with students picking up and dropping off the exam at the department offices) or via email (with students receiving the exam, and submitting their answers, in the form of an attachment). Students should make arrangements for one or the other option in consultation with the MA advisor.

Exams are closed-book, and students are expected to observe an honor code in the taking of these exams. If you would like the department to provide space for you to take the exam on campus, please inform the MA advisor. See the sampling of exam questions page for a list of recent exam questions.