Literature

The Department of English offers a B.A., M.A. and minor in Literature.  The English major and minor, concentration in Literature, offers students a historically grounded study of British, American and “post-colonial” Anglophone literatures. Our Graduate Program in English Literature prides itself on its intellectual rigor, diversity of subjects and approaches, and commitment to excellence in teaching.

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Program Contacts

Sarita Cannon, Undergraduate Program Coordinator
Email: sncannon@sfsu.edu

Sara Hackenberg, Graduate Program Coordinator
Email: shackenb@sfsu.edu

Cynthia Losinsky, Application Process
Email: english@sfsu.edu

Undergraduate Advisors

Graduate Advisors

  • Sara Hackenberg, Associate Professor, 19th century British and American Literature
  • Geoffrey Green, Professor, 20-21st century American Literature; Literary Theory
  • Wai-Leung Kwok, Associate Professor, British Romantic Literature; Literary Theory
  • Julie Paulson, Professor, Late Medieval English Literature; Early English Drama
  • Gitanjali Shahani, Professor, Shakespearean and non-Shakespearean Drama; Postcolonial Studies

Bachelor of Arts in Literature

While Literature majors share a core curriculum of 8 required classes with English majors in Linguistics, English Education, and Professional Writing and Rhetoric, they also take a survey course in Literatures in English to 1800 (ENG 460), a course in theory or criticism, four literature electives, and a capstone course (ENG 690).The concentration in Literature offers students a historically grounded study of British, American, and “post-colonial” Anglophone literatures. The Literature program offers a wide range of courses centered on specific authors (Austen, Chaucer, Woolf), historical periods (“Age of Victorians,” “American Literature 1914-1960”), genres (“Detective Fiction,” “Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction,” “Lyric Forms”), and other special topics (“18th-Century Women Writers,” “Devils and Angels”), allowing students to pursue their individual interests and pleasures in fulfilling their elective units. No matter what the subject, all courses within the major foster students’ close reading, writing, and analytical skills. Literature majors can expect to hone their aptitude for writing, research, oral communication, and analytical thinking. This practical skill set prepares our majors for many career opportunities, including teaching, writing and publishing, law, information science, business and marketing, and more.

Students Starting Fall 2019: Requirements & Courses

  • Core Requirements (24 Units)
    • Lower-Division (6 Units)
      • ENG 218 -  Literature Is Not A Luxury: Writing For Self and Community (3 units)
      • ENG 250 - Topics in Literature and Culture (3 units)
    • Upper-Division (18 Units)
      • ENG 402 - Introduction to Professional Writing and Rhetoric (3 units)
      • ENG 420 - Introduction to the Study of Language (3 units)
      • ENG 461 - Literature in English Since 1800 (3 units)
      • ENG 480GW - Junior Seminar - GWAR (3 units)
      • ENG 583 - Shakespeare: Representative Plays (3 units)
      • ENG 640 - Global Texts and Practices (3 units)
  • Concentration Requirements (21 Units)
    • Survey (3 units)
      • ENG 460 - Literature in English to 1800
    • Theory or Criticism (3 units) [Select one:]
      • ENG 600 - Theory of Literature
      • ENG 601 - Literature and Psychology
      • ENG 602 - Literature and Society
      • ENG 606 - History of Criticism from the Eighteenth Century to the Present
      • ENG 611 - Modern Criticism
      • ENG 612 - Serial Narrative
      • ENG 614 - Women in Literature: Authors and Characters
      • ENG 615 - Imagery, Metaphor, and Symbol
    • Elective (12 units)
      • Four electives (12 units) selected with approval of advisor. One may be a lower-division course. One course, or the ENG 690 capstone course, must be in a pre-1800 literary subject.
    • Capstone Experience (3 units)
      • ENG 690 - Senor Seminar

What follows are a few general advising tips students should keep in mind:

  • Literature majors should be sure to begin with 6-units of lower-division literature (2 courses). These courses can be transfer courses, or taken at SF State. Lower-division literature courses offered by the Department of English at SFSU will generally be an ENG 250 course (variable topics).
  • Lower-division literature courses outside the ENG prefix can also count, but require an advisor’s approval.  Be sure any non-ENG course you want to take for this requirement will count by checking with an advisor.
  • ENG 480: Junior Seminar is the “Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement” (GWAR) course for all English majors; it is also considered the “portal” course for the major. Therefore, ENG 480 should be taken immediately after completing, or concurrently with, any lower-division coursework a student needs.
  • Transfer students should bring any transcripts (unofficial is fine) from previous institutions to their meeting with their major advisor. Advisors need to sign off on any transfer courses that count in the major on the student’s B.A. Checklist.
  • Be aware that the Degree Progress Report is not a substitute for major advising.  Although the DPR lists your English major requirements, there are several that the system cannot account for. For example, DPR does not know what non-ENG lower-division courses will count as prerequisite units and cannot sign off on transfer course units or substitutions.

The Literature B.A. Checklist is designed to help students keep track of their progress through the major. Please bring this checklist to all meetings with any faculty advisor.

Master of Arts in Literature

Our course offerings balance traditional literary history with new work in such fields as postcolonial studies; food studies; digital literacies; environmental humanities; cultural studies; literature and psychology; narrative, lyric, and performance theories; and feminist studies. Students in our program have the flexibility to design and personalize their master’s program to meet their diverse interests and provide opportunities for professionalization in the field.

The M.A. Program serves the needs of those whose goal is teaching in junior or community colleges or private high schools, pursuing a Ph.D., or advancing skills and knowledge in reading and writing about literature. Our graduates work as teachers in high schools and community colleges; enter the field of publishing; write for journals, magazines and online publications; earn Ph.D.s; enter law school; start their own businesses; and work for non-profits, foundations and government agencies.

We Offer:

Want to Learn More?

Post Fall 2019 Requirements & Courses

English Literatures (M.A.) – 30 units

Program Requirements

  • ENG 741  Seminar: Literary Theory and Research Methods 3

Literary History Course (3 units)

Select one:  

  • ENG 750  Seminar in Medieval English Literature  
  • ENG 751  Seminar: Studies in 16th Century English Literature  
  • ENG 752  Seminar: Studies in 17th Century English Literature  
  • ENG 753  Seminar: Studies in 18th Century English Literature  
  • ENG 754  Seminar: The Romantic Movement  
  • ENG 755  Seminar: Studies in Victorian Literature  
  • ENG 756  Seminar: 20th Century English Literature  
  • ENG 758  Seminar: Southern African Literature in English  
  • ENG 760  Seminar: Studies in American Literature 1600-1899  
  • ENG 762  Seminar: Twentieth Century American Literature  
  • ENG 763  Contemporary American Short Fiction  
  • ENG 770  Seminar: The Novel  
  • ENG 776  Studies in Caribbean Literature in English  
  • ENG 780  Seminar: Individual Authors  
  • ENG 782  Seminar: Chaucer  
  • ENG 785  Seminar: Shakespeare  
  • ENG 789  Milton  
  • or a course approved by an advisor

Literary Methods (3 units)

Select one:  

  • ENG 742  Seminar: Studies in Criticism  
  • ENG 744  Seminar: Literature and Psychology  
  • ENG 746  Seminar: Opera and Literature  
  • ENG 748  Rhetoric, Politics, and Ethics of Deconstruction  
  • ENG 790  Seminar: Selected Studies  
  • ENG 800  Rhetoric for Composition Teachers  
  • or a course approved by an advisor

Graduate Literature Courses (12 units)

Select four:  

  • ENG 717  Projects in the Teaching of Literature  
  • ENG 742  Seminar: Studies in Criticism  
  • ENG 744  Seminar: Literature and Psychology  
  • ENG 746  Seminar: Opera and Literature  
  • ENG 748  Rhetoric, Politics, and Ethics of Deconstruction  
  • ENG 750  Seminar in Medieval English Literature  
  • ENG 751  Seminar: Studies in 16th Century English Literature  
  • ENG 752  Seminar: Studies in 17th Century English Literature  
  • ENG 753  Seminar: Studies in 18th Century English Literature  
  • ENG 754  Seminar: The Romantic Movement  
  • ENG 755  Seminar: Studies in Victorian Literature  
  • ENG 756  Seminar: 20th Century English Literature  
  • ENG 758  Seminar: Southern African Literature in English  
  • ENG 760  Seminar: Studies in American Literature 1600-1899  
  • ENG 762  Seminar: Twentieth Century American Literature  
  • ENG 763  Contemporary American Short Fiction  
  • ENG 770  Seminar: The Novel  
  • ENG 776  Studies in Caribbean Literature in English  
  • ENG 780  Seminar: Individual Authors  
  • ENG 782  Seminar: Chaucer  
  • ENG 785  Seminar: Shakespeare  
  • ENG 789  Milton  
  • ENG 790  Seminar: Selected Studies  
  • ENG 803  Teaching Practicum: Literature  
  • ENG 820  The Constructed Body in Literature  
  • or courses approved by an advisor

Electives (6 units)

Culminating Experience (3 units)

Select one:

  • ENG 898 Master's Thesis  
  • ENG 896 & 896EXM  Directed Readings in Preparation for the CE Examination and Culminating Experience Examination

Subject Requirements

As part of their 30-unit program requirements, students must fulfill the following subject requirements:

  • One course (minimum 3 units) from those designated under the category Literary History as follows: Graduate pro-seminars and seminars: 711, 712, 750–789 or classes approved by an advisor.
  • One course (minimum 3 units) from those designated under the category Literary Theories and Methods as follows (this is in addition to English 741): Graduate seminars: 742; 744; 745; 746; 747; 748; 790; 800 or classes approved by an advisor.
  • Early Period Requirement: 3 of the 30 units (1 course) must be chosen from courses in literature before 1800. The early period requirement may be met by courses that also fulfill the above listed subject requirements (for example, the early period course might also count as the “Literary History” required course, or it might count as an elective). Thus, the early period requirement is a distribution requirement, not a course requirement.

All students must choose one of the following options:

Master’s Thesis (ENG 898) 

The CE Thesis consists of three parts: the prospectus, the prospectus examination, and the thesis itself. Before undertaking these, students ready for ENG 898 must discuss their idea(s) for the thesis with their adviser and/or the faculty members they would like to serve as readers. After the thesis committee has been established, the student must submit a prospectus to his or her committee members. The prospectus then becomes the basis for the oral prospectus exam, which is scheduled before a student begins writing the thesis. The prospectus is a written statement, usually including the controlling purpose of the thesis; the selection of literary sources; an overview of the relevant scholarship and criticism; and the value and interest of the study. The prospectus exam is a one-hour discussion of the prospectus conducted by the two thesis readers. Please consult the Thesis Guidelines and Prospectus Guidelines handouts for M.A. Literature Students available in HUM 484 and online. Also look for the department’s “Thesis Workshop” offered every fall semester. 

View the M.A. Literature Resources page to read more about the Thesis Guidelines and the Prospectives Guidelines.

Written and Oral Examination 

Students pursuing this option will be examined on texts in two fields of the discipline based on departmental reading lists and student’s special area of interest. A list of the required readings for each historical field is kept on file in the Department of English. For each field, students will typically select 25 texts from a list of 30 primary texts, and 5 texts from a list of 10 works of criticism. The students’ CE exam, then, will typically be based on a total of 50 primary texts and 10 works of criticism. In both fields, students will submit a 5 to 6-page written assignment, one for each field, or 10-12 pages total of writing. The CE culminates in a 90-minute oral examination. The exam will be conducted by two faculty members who will each examine the student in one of their two chosen fields. To receive Credit for ENG 896, students must pass the two sections of the CE Examination. Consult the handout: Procedures & Timeline For CE Exam ENG 896 available in the Department of English and online for more information.

Candidates who have selected the thesis option (ENG 898) as their CE project may NOT switch to the exam option (ENG 896), or vice versa, except upon advisement.

View the M.A. Literature Resources page to learn more about Procedures & Timeline for CE Exam ENG 896 and the CE 896 Exam reading list.

Seminar Grading

The department uses an A-F grading scale for all of its courses, including graduate seminars. Graduate students whose GPA falls below 3.0 are placed on probationary status; therefore, students receiving several Bs or below should consult their graduate adviser. Students must earn a grade of B or better in all courses listed on the ATC (Advancement to Candidacy Form).

Application Procedures & Advising

Admission to the program is competitive. It is also a two-part process: you must submit application materials to both Graduate Studies and the Department of English. GRE is not required for admission to the program. However, GRE is recommended for out-of-state applicants to determine eligibility for merit-based scholarships.

Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP)Eligible out-of-state students can now pay in-state tuition in the M.A. Literature program. 

IMPORTANT: Please review these (often time saving!) tips before applying: Graduate Studies Application for Admission Instructions.

If you have questions about the process, please contact: English@sfsu.edu.

1. Complete the online application through Cal State Apply.

Create your account AND Complete your profile. 
TIP: Students who will study on a F1/J1 visa must select Non-Resident for U.S. Citizenship Status under your Extended Profile.
Please note: You will only see a list of programs that aligns with your academic degree objective.

2. Submit the following online (A-D) by uploading on the Cal State Apply site’s “Program Materials” section:

  • A) Your completed English Department M.A. Literature application (PDF). Please use Adobe Acrobat to fill out the application.
  • B) A 1-2 page typed statement of purpose detailing your intellectual interests, the basis of your engagement in the field, and professional goals (#9 on the Literature application).
  • C) One writing sample (a critical or scholarly essay of 5-10 pages, preferably one written as part of a literature course).
  • D) Please upload legible unofficial copies of transcripts from each college or university attended. Including study abroad coursework, or community college coursework, even if this coursework appears as transfer credit appears on your degree transcript. Full academic disclosure is required. Photographs or screenshots of transcripts will be rejected. An incomplete academic history will significantly delay review of your application. 

3. If selected for admission, you will be required to submit official transcripts to the Division of Graduate Studies in order to secure your offer of admission. Please note: if you previously attended SF State, you do not need to submit a SF State transcript.

If selected for admission, please mail official transcripts to:

Graduate Admissions Office, ADM 250
San Francisco State University
1600 Holloway Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94132

4. If you are an international applicant, see Grad Studies International Admissions.

International applicants who are non-native speakers of English must also have official TOEFL scores sent (institution code: 4683, department code:14). IELTS scores are also accepted.

International applicants who are non-native speakers of English must also submit a certified financial statement.

5. Two or more academic letters of recommendation (preferably from one of your current or former literature professors). Use the Evaluations tab to manage submission of letters of recommendation. Letter writer email addresses should be from professional or academic organizations (ex. @sfsu.edu, @CA.gov or @ibm.com), not personal email addresses. Cal State Apply instructions on how to submit letters of recommendation.

For spring admission, October 15 is the early decision deadline and December 1 is the regular decision deadline. If you would like an early decision, please submit your application by October 15. For fall admission, February 1 is the early decision deadline, April 1 is the regular decision deadline, and July 31 is the late decision deadline. Please submit your application by February 1 for an early decision. International applicants should submit their materials by January 1 for fall admission or September 1 for spring admission. 

Admission Categories

Once a student has been admitted to the graduate program in Literature, s/he may be given CLASSIFIED standing if (a) s/he has completed an undergraduate degree in English comparable to the undergraduate major program at SF State, and (b) s/he has achieved a grade point average of at least 3.0 in the major. This CLASSIFIED graduate student is ready to take English 741, the seminar which functions as a “portal course” to further seminar work. Students admitted in one of the three categories described below may not take seminars in the range 741-790 until they have achieved CLASSIFIED status.

These are the three categories of CONDITIONAL CLASSIFIED status:

  1. CC/SD (Conditional Classified/Subject Deficiency): Usually given to students who have an undergraduate major other than English (with a 3.0 or higher GPA), or a background showing substantial personal interest in literature. This applicant will be required to complete a specified number of upper-division courses in literature determined by the admissions committee. These courses may not be credited toward the 10-course M.A. program.
  2. CC/P (Conditional Classified/GPA Deficiency): Usually given to students with an undergraduate English major GPA of 2.5–2.9 (without 9 or more units of graduate English courses taken with a GPA of 3.0 or higher). This applicant will be required to complete a specified number of courses (upper-division or possibly seminars) determined by the admissions committee with a GPA of 3.3 or higher. Once completed, these course do become part of the 10-course M.A. program.
  3. CC/SD & P (Conditional Classified, with both Subject and GPA Deficiency): Usually given to students with a course record described in (1) above with a GPA of 2.5–2.9.

Questions About Applying?

Contact our Graduate Programs Administrative Coordinator, Cynthia Losinsky by email at english@sfsu.edu.

Career Options in Literature

Our Graduates

Graduates of the M.A. in Literature work as teachers in high schools and community colleges; enter the field of publishing; write for journals, magazines, and online publications; earn Ph.D.s; enter law school; start businesses; and work for non-profits, foundations, and government agencies. We have a strong record of placing our students in tenure-track teaching positions at two-year colleges in California, particularly when they pursue a Composition and/or Reading Certificate in conjunction with the M.A..

Doctoral Program Placements

Recent graduate students of the M.A. in English Literature program have gone on to Ph.D. programs at Brown, Northwestern, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Riverside, UC Santa Cruz, University of Southern California, University of Texas, Austin, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champagne, and Stanford among others.

 

The documents on this website/webpage might not be fully accessible to persons with disabilities. We are working to fix these accessibility barriers by June 15, 2022. If you experience difficulty in accessing this content, please contact the Department of English by email at engdept@sfsu.edu and we will provide you with accessible alternatives.

View our M.A. Literature Resources section to learn more about:

  • Literature New Student FAQs
  • Student Opportunities
  • Opportunities to Gain Teaching Experience
  • Graduation Timelines
  • CE Guidelines
  • Forms

Faculty

Cannon, Sarita
Sarita Cannon (She/Her/Hers)
Professor
Literature Program Coordinator
(415) 338-7462
Christmas, Bill
William Christmas (He/Him/His)
Professor
Literature Advisor
(415) 338-7463
Will Clark
William Clark (He/Him/His)
Assistant Professor
De Guzman, Kathleen
Kathleen De Guzman (She/Her/Hers)
Assistant Professor
M.A. Literatures Advisor
(415) 338-1886
Green, Geoffrey
Geoffrey Green (He/Him/His)
Professor
M.A. Literatures Advisor
(415) 338-7414
Hackenberg, Sara
Sara Hackenberg (She/Her/Hers)
Professor
M.A. Literatures Program Coordinator
(415) 338-7453
Lawrence Hanley
Lawrence Hanley (He/Him/His)
Professor
(415) 338-1539
Angela Jones
Angela Jones (She/Her/Hers)
Associate Professor
(415) 338-1607
Martha Klironomos
Martha Klironomos (She/Her/Hers)
Professor
(415) 338-1074
Kwok, Wai-Leung
Wai-Leung Kwok (He/Him/His)
Associate Professor
Literature Advisor
(415) 338-1459
Jennifer Mylander
Jennifer Mylander (She/Her/Hers)
Associate Professor
(415) 338-7461
Julie Paulson
Julie Paulson (She/Her/Hers)
Professor
M.A. Literatures Advisor
(415) 338-3107
Schoerke, Meg
Meg Schoerke (She/Her/Hers)
Professor
Literature Advisor
(415) 338-3099
Gitanjali Shahani
Gitanjali Shahani (She/Her/Hers)
Chair
(415) 338-2264
Mary Soliday
Mary Soliday (She/Her/Hers)
Professor
(415) 338-1469
Star, Summer
Summer Star (She/Her/Hers)
Associate Professor
(415) 338-2240
Loretta Stec
Loretta Stec (She/Her/Hers)
Professor
Literature Advisor
(415) 338-1451