M.A. Literature Resources

This section serves as additional resources for the M.A. Literature resources, including the culminating experience, FAQs, forms, and more.  Most of this information can also be found in handout form in the Department of English office, Humanities Building, Room 494.  You can also read more about our M.A. in Literature on the program page.

Culminating Experience (CE)

Where do these ideas come from?

From your study of literature and your special interests. Ideally, the thesis ought to, though not necessarily, develop out of a seminar paper or an independent study. Your papers and/or the suggestions of professors may help you frame and develop your topic. You may consult bound copies of theses in the Library. You should undertake considerable primary and secondary reading in order to convince yourself that your project has worth. The range of possibilities for an M.A. thesis is immense; areas include (but are not limited to) literary theory, literary criticism, literary history, biography, textual studies and editions, and translations.

What should the structure of thesis be?

The thesis should develop in detail a focused and structured literary argument. It can be single chapter of publishable quality or a multi-chapter work. It should extend in scope and conception beyond the range of a seminar paper and be more concise than a dissertation or book-length study. The number of pages depends entirely upon the individual project, but, generally speaking, the range is between 40 and 60 pages.

How do I find my readers?

You will choose a first and second reader for your thesis project at the beginning of the semester before you begin your thesis project. Your thesis committee must include a first and second reader from the English department faculty. Depending on your topic, you may wish to have third reader from outside the department. Initially, you must find a first reader who is interested in your general topic and responsive to you and your approach. Your first reader should have some specialization, or at least interested experience, in one or more of the areas of your topic. (For a list of faculty interests and specializations, see the department website, or the list in the main office.) To find such a reader, you must appear with a fairly clear idea and some enthusiasm as well as flexibility. Bring a short description of your project to present to prospective readers. This description should articulate your research questions, list some of the texts you wish to examine, and what you think you might find. Once you have found a first reader, you should discuss who might serve as second reader on the committee. If, for any reason, you experience difficulty finding readers, you should consult the Program Coordinator for advice.

What’s the difference between the proposal and the prospectus?

The “Proposal” is the paragraph summary of your project that you submit on the “Proposal for Culminating Experience Form.” This form is due, with your ATC form, the semester before you plan to graduate (see #8 below). The prospectus is not a form but a written statement that establishes the main lines of argument and organization for the thesis. As part of your prospectus, you must submit a timetable, developed with your advisor, demonstrating that the thesis will be completed within two semesters. The prospectus is also the basis for the Prospectus (or “Oral”) Exam. The prospectus should be written in consultation with your committee. As described in the department’s Blue Handout, the prospectus presents “the controlling purpose of the thesis; the selection of literary sources; an overview of relevant scholarship and criticism; and the value and interest of the study.” The format might well look like this (but there is no absolute standard for organization):

  • Statement of controlling idea and its significance
  • Chapter outline
  • Working bibliography of major primary and secondary sources
  • A finished prospectus tends to be about 15 pp. in length (including bibliography)

See the “Prospectus Guidelines for M.A. Literature Students” (available online on the next tab of this page and in the department office) for more information.

Consult with your committee members well in advance of your Prospectus Exam. Plan on sharing your prospectus with your committee at least two weeks before the meeting. (A draft is usually submitted to your first reader for commentary and revision before going to the full committee.) Some faculty members may ask to see materials earlier or later.

What is the Prospectus (Oral) Exam?

The Prospectus Exam is less an “exam” per se than it is a conference with your committee discussing your project (based upon the completed prospectus) and evaluating your readiness to start writing. The exam should be scheduled at the end of the semester before you intend to begin writing. Upon successful completion of the exam, your committee members will sign a “Prospectus Form” for your file. Expect the prospectus exam to last about an hour. First, you’ll be given a chance to explain how you chose your topic and your approach to it. You must be prepared to present and argue the case for a well-delineated plan of research. You will defend or modify your plan of study in response to questions and suggestions from your readers. Take copious notes during the exam! This is the only time you will have all of your committee members together in a room, so it is also your opportunity to ask them as many questions about the projects that you like.

Be sure to print out and bring the Prospectus Form to the exam.

May I change my mind?

Yes, if you mean that your thesis takes different twists and turns as you write. If you simply wish to change the title (but not the content) of your thesis, you simply need to fill out a new CE form and have it signed by your first reader. But, if you

move completely away from the original proposed topic—say, from women in Shakespeare to Melville’s short fiction—you must write a new proposal, develop a new prospectus, and take a new oral exam. (Not to worry, this is a rarity.)

How does the writing process work? What are the roles of the first and second readers?

Working backwards from your intended filing date, consult with your readers to develop a timeline with individual chapters or sections and due dates. As you develop this timeline, note that you are not obliged to write the chapters of your thesis in any particular order. Students often find it is helpful to write their introduction last. At some early stage—perhaps at the end of your oral—readers’ responsibilities will be clarified for your particular project. Often it is helpful for the first reader to proceed through the complete manuscript before submitting it to the second reader; sometimes the second reader will want to see drafts of chapters immediately after the first reader has perused them. Check with your committee to formulate the most appropriate plan of submission. It is important to allow sufficient time for your readers to read and respond to your chapters, and to apportion time for your revisions and modifications. Plan on giving your readers the full thesis, with all suggestions incorporated, at least four weeks before the Graduate Studies Deadline. (Some faculty members might ask for it earlier or later.) Readers need this time to read the full project and give feedback, and you need this time to make revisions, check formatting and printing requirements with Graduate Studies, and get signatures. What all this means is that in a sixteen-week semester, allowing for research and revision time, you will typically have only a few weeks to write each chapter of your project, allowing for research and revision time. Work with your committee to set a flexible but serious and realistic set of deadlines to guide you though your process.

If it is taking longer than you anticipated to complete your thesis, it your responsibility to talk to your advisors about your situation and develop a new timeline for completion.


What is the schedule for the submission of various forms?

In the semester before your last 6 units in the program, complete the ATC form, have it signed by your graduate advisor, and submit to the graduate secretary by the announced deadline. This and other deadline dates can be found online at the Graduate Division website (www.sfsu.edu/~gradstdy), click on “Current Students” and open “Deadlines for Completing a Master’s Degree.” Complete the “Proposal for Culminating Experience” form and show it to your first and second readers for their approval and signature; submit by the announced deadline. Both forms are only available online through the Graduate Division’s website and should be submitted together. After your ATC and “Culminating Experience” forms have been filed, you may sign up for ENG 898 (Master’s Thesis) in the first two weeks of your final semester. You can only do so the old-fashioned way: by hand. Fill out the add form, have your first reader sign it, and return it to the English Office so that the graduate secretary can e-mail you the permit number. You will also need to apply for graduation in your final semester. The application form is available on the Graduate Studies website.

How do I submit my thesis?

Be sure you know the thesis submission deadline for the semester you intend to graduate (check Graduate Division website). As noted above, you will need to submit the final draft to your committee members with enough time for them to read it and for you to make any last minute changes (usually 4 weeks before the published deadline). English department Literature theses should follow the latest MLA Style Manual (available in the Library). Graduate Division guidelines for formatting and submission can be downloaded from their website (look for “Thesis Guidelines” under “Graduate Forms”). You will need to take the final approved copy of your thesis to both your first and second readers for signature; you are now ready to file it!

What if I don't make the deadline for completing thesis at the end of the semester that I signed up for ENG 898?

You will be issued a grade of “RP,” which indicates satisfactory progress. You have one “grace” semester to complete your thesis; you do not need to re-register or pay any extra fees during the grace semester. However, students who do not complete their thesis within two semesters must enroll in a zero-unit College of Extended Learning CE (“Cumulating Experience”) course every subsequent semester until your thesis is completed. You will also be subject to a fee (to be set annually and not to exceed the Open University laboratory unit fee). Students will be assumed to have withdrawn from their degree program if they fail to maintain continuous enrollment status after the grace semester. (For the purpose of this policy, only the fall and spring semesters are counted as semesters.) Please see the Culminating Experience Continuous Enrollment Policy for full details.

If you received an “RP” grade for Eng 898 in a previous semester, you will need to file a Grade Change Petition form and have it signed by your first reader to get a CR for the course.

If I don't finish, do I need to reapply for graduation?

If your graduate application was approved but you did not finish your thesis, you will need to re-apply for graduation in the semester that you complete the thesis.

How long do I have to complete the thesis?

The university has a 7-year limit for completing post-graduate programs: you should endeavor to complete the thesis within 7 years of the date of the earliest course work listed on your ATC form. As indicated above, students are subject to fees if they do not complete their thesis in two semesters.

Timing the Prospectus

All students should plan to fulfill the oral exam component of their thesis process the semester before they plan to file their thesis. This is general departmental policy, and it exists for some very good reasons. First and foremost, you will need at least a full semester to complete your thesis. Students who attempt to go through the process of proposing their thesis topics in the same semester in which they wish to file are rarely able to complete their theses by the deadline.

The Prospectus Process

The prospectus is a strange genre, for in it you must describe a project that you have yet to actually do. For this reason, writing a prospectus can be frustrating. In order to produce a solid and useful prospectus (that is, for producing writing that you can actually use in the thesis itself), approach the prospectus as an occasion to start doing real thesis work. Think of the prospectus not as the provisional starting point of your project, but as a document that records your research and hypotheses about a project on which you have already substantially embarked. This is an effective way to conceptualize the prospectus; however, changes to your project may and will occur during the Prospectus Exam and during your committee’s revisions. Aim to avoid vague, place-marking language such as “I will look at” or “I will think about” or “I plan to examine/research” in your prospectus: instead, go ahead and do some looking, thinking, examining, and research, and then use what you find to articulate your project’s overarching, working argument as substantially, specifically, and concretely as possible. Always include a working bibliography. In addition, please plan to give your committee a draft of your prospectus at least two weeks before the scheduled date of your oral exam. (Some faculty members may ask to see it earlier or later.) Using the feedback you receive to revise the prospectus will make for an especially successful and useful exam.

The Prospectus (Oral) Exam

The prospectus exam is not really an exam; it is a serious conversation with your readers about your project and your plan for completing it. Your readers will want to use the meeting not to catechize you but rather to see how you present your project, what you want to do with it, and to offer you feedback about the underlying ideas and implications of your work. That said, it is fairly common for thesis committees to ask you for additional writing or an additional meeting at the end of the conversation (however, as mentioned above, giving your readers a prospectus draft well in advance of the exam can help the meeting go more smoothly and satisfyingly). If you are asked for additional writing or for an additional meeting, please understand that this is not punitive; your committee simply wants to help you approach the thesis from the best possible place, and to reach the highest level of achievement in your work.

Looking Ahead

When thinking about the logistics of completing the thesis, work backwards. Find the date by which you must submit the thesis in its final form, and prepare yourself in advance for the steps you must take to prepare and format your thesis for submission to the university. When thinking about your writing schedule, keep in mind that you must submit the full, revised, penultimate copy of your entire thesis to your readers at least three, ideally four weeks before the submission deadline. Additionally, you will want to give your readers chapter drafts as you complete them. Give your readers chapter drafts that are as polished and complete as possible.


Written and oral examination on texts in two fields of the discipline based on departmental reading lists. Note: Candidates who have selected the THESIS OPTION (Eng 898) as their CE project may NOT switch to the EXAM OPTION (Eng 896) EXCEPT UPON ADVISEMENT.


The exam MUST be taken in the semester the student is enrolled in Eng 896. No grace semesters will be granted except in the case of a documented emergency.


Students enrolled in ENG 896 will be required to read in two different fields of their own choosing within the discipline.

The two fields are to be chosen from the following list of historical fields:

  • Medieval
  • Early Modern
  • American Colonial to Early Republic
  • 18th C British
  • 19th C American
  • 19th C British
  • 19th C Transatlantic
  • 20th & 21st C American
  • 20th & 21st C British
  • 20th & 21st C Global

Textbooks/Reading Assignments

A list of the required readings for each historical field will be kept on file in the Department. For each field, students will 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 be based on a total of 50 primary texts and 10 works of criticism.

Written Assignment

In both fields, students will submit a 5 to 6-page written assignment produced in consultation with the faculty member examining the student that field. (Students will thus produce two 5 to 6-page written assignments, one for each field, or 10-12 pages total of writing.) Students must submit both of their written assignments to both of their examiners by November 1, if they are taking exam in the fall, or by April 1, if they are taking exam in the spring. The specific assignment for the written portion of the exam in each field is to be determined by the examiner in that field. The assignment should be drawn from one of the following options:

  • A response to a specific research question posed by the examiner, incorporating at least 6 works from that field’s reading list.
  • An integrative/synthesis essay, calling upon the candidate to provide a critical integration or synthesis of the 6 works from that field's list. The synthesis might be thematic, structural, analytic, theoretical etc. in nature and include contextual research.
  • A “quotation collage” researched from at least 12 texts from that field’s reading list. In addition to a list of quotations, students will provide a short (2-3 page) narrative explaining

Procedure for Oral Examination

The 896 course culminates in a 90-minute examination. The written part of the exam must be successfully completed before the oral exam can be given. The exam will be conducted by two faculty members who will each examine the student in one of their two chosen fields. Each faculty member will have 35 minutes to conduct their portion of the exam, with the remaining 20 minutes to be used for deliberation. The oral examination should take place around the 14th week of the semester.


All committees and field designations are made by through the Graduate Literature Coordinator. Faculty examiners will be determined by the Graduate Coordinator, according to student’s need and faculty member’s availability. Students do not request or approach specific faculty to be examiners.

Pre-exam Meeting

During the semester before the semester a student is scheduled to take the exam, the student and both examiners will meet to 1) discuss the reading lists and the student’s rationale for the texts he or she has chosen; 2) determine the type(s) of written assignment; and 3) set up a procedure and schedule for mentoring.


CR/NCR. To receive Credit for ENG 896, students must pass both sections of the CE Examination. It is up to each field examiner to determine a passing or failing grade for his or her field. A student who fails one or both fields of the CE Examination must retake the failed sections of the exam within (and not to exceed) 20 semester days (counted M-F). A student who fails one section of the exam, need only retake the failed section, but both examiners must be present.

Assessment of a students’ performance on each section of the exam will be based on their having satisfactorily met the following learning goals:

  • To read broadly in two different historical fields
  • To have basic knowledge of major elements of texts selected for examination, such as plot, character, thematic issues, philosophical theories, critical argumentative claims
  • To prepare verbally, in consultation with faculty members on the exam committee, to discuss the importance of the exam texts to literary studies, demonstrating mastery of oral argument
  • To prepare written answers to examiner-selected questions that focus on synthesizing knowledge from various exam texts and analyzing details of those texts within a given exam field
  • To participate in a culminating oral exam conducted by the two examiners, demonstrating both a breadth of knowledge of literary, theoretical, and/or critical texts selected at the start of the course, as well as analytical insight into how those works can be compared and contrasted to each other to constitute a field of knowledge.



Semester Before Examination

  1. Student submits CE proposal form and ATC by department & university deadlines
  2. Student identifies 2 fields and submits them to the Graduate Coordinator.
  3. Graduate coordinator provides students with reading lists and assigns faculty examiners.
  4. Students and examiners hold exam meeting to discuss reading lists, writing assignments, and mentoring procedure.

Semester of Examination

  1. Student enrolls in Eng 896
  2. Student works with advisors to prepare for and schedule examination
  3. Students prepare written assignment and for oral examination, meeting periodically with examiners in each field
  4. November 1 (Fall) or April 1 (Spring): student submits written part of the exam to both examiners. The written part of the exam must be successfully completed before the oral examination can be given.
  5. Student takes examination around the 14th week of semester


  1. Chaucer, Canterbury Tales (selected prologues, tales, etc.)
  2. Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde
  3. Chaucer, Parliament of Fowls
  4. Gower, Confessio Amantis (selections)
  5. Langland, Piers Plowman
  6. The Examination of William Thorpe
  7. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
  8. Beowulf
  9. Pearl
  10. Julian of Norwich, Showings
  11. Book of Margery Kempe
  12. Hilton, Scale of Perfection
  13. Malory, Morte Darthur
  14. Alliterative Morte
  15. Dream of the Rood
  16. York Mystery Cycle
  17. Mankind OR Everyman
  18. Marie de France, Lais
  19. Chretien de Troyes, Yvain
  20. The Travels of Sir John Mandeville
  21. Gerald of Wales, Topographia hibernica
  22. Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, Le Roman de la Rose
  23. Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy
  24. Thomas of Aquinas, Summa Theologiae (selections)
  25. Augustine, Confessions
  26. Dante, Divine Comedy, Purgatorio
  27. Boccaccio, Decameron
  28. Christine de Pizan, Book of the City of Ladies
  29. Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People (selections)
  30. Thomas Walsingham’s “St. Albans” Chronicle (selections)


  1. James Simpson, Reform and Cultural Revolution 
  2. Lee Patterson, Chaucer and the Subject of History
  3. Eamon Duffy, Stripping of the Altars
  4. Carolyn Dinshaw, Chaucer’s Sexual Poetics
  5. Gail McMurray Gibson, Theatre of Devotion: East Anglian Drama and Society in the Late Middle Ages
  6. Richard Firth Green, A Crisis of Truth: Literature and Law in Medieval England
  7. Nicholas Perkins and Alison Wiggins, The Romance of the Middle Ages
  8. J. Patrick Hornbeck II, What is a Lollard? Dissent and Belief in Late Medieval England
  9. J Griffiths & Derek Pearsall, eds., Book Production and Publishing in Britain 1375-1475
  10. Mary Baine Campbell, Witness and the Other World



Early Modern

  1. More, Utopia
  2. Shakespeare, Hamlet or King Lear or Othello or Macbeth
  3. Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
  4. Shakespeare Henry IV Part I
  5. Shakespeare, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Merchant of Venice, or Twelfth Night
  6. Shakespeare, Tempest
  7. Wyatt, Surrey, and/or Shakespeare, selected Sonnets (approximately 10 poems)
  8. Marlowe, Doctor Faustus or The Jew of Malta
  9. Spenser, Faerie Queene, Book 1 or Book 3
  10. Bacon, New Atlantis
  11. Sidney, Astrophil and Stella or Defense of Poesie
  12. Bale, Examinations of Anne Askew
  13. Heywood, The Fair Maid of the West Part 1
  14. Webster, Duchess of Malfi
  15. Jonson, Volpone, Bartholomew Fair, or selected poetry (approximately 10 poems)
  16. Massinger, The Renegado or Fletcher, The Island Princess
  17. Milton, Paradise Lost
  18. Milton, Areopagitica
  19. Milton, Lycidas or Comus or Sonnets (approximately 10 poems)
  20. Wroth, Pamphilia to Amphilantus (approximately 10 poems)
  21. Donne, selected poems (approximately 10 poems)
  22. Donne, from Devotions “Meditation 17”
  23. Herbert, The Temple (approximately 10 poems)
  24. Travel Knowledge, ed. Ivo Kamps and Jyotsna Singh
  25. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (including the illustrations)
  26. Lanyer, “Description of Cookeham”
  27. Camden’s Britannia (1610 English edition) or Speed, Theater of the Empire of Great Britain
  28. Harriot’s Brief and True Report of Virginia (including John White watercolors & de Bry engravings)


  1. Stephen Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning
  2. Richard Helgerson, Forms of Nationhood
  3. Jonathan Gil Harris, Sick Economies
  4. Kim F. Hall, Things of Darkness
  5. Ania Loomba and Martin Okrin, Post-Colonial Shakespeares
  6. David Scott Kastan, Shakespeare After Theory
  7. Valerie Traub, Desire and Anxiety
  8. Daniel Vitkus, Turning Turk
  9. Madhavi Menon, Shakesqueer
  10. Robert Appelbaum, Aguecheek’s Beef, Belch’s Hiccup
  11. Gordon & Klein, eds., Literature, Mapping, & the Politics of Space in Early Modern Britain
  12. Baron, Lindquist, Shevlin, eds., Agents of Change: Print Culture Studies after Elizabeth


Colonial-18thc. American

  1. Cabeza de Vaca Narrative of the Discovery
  2. Hariot Briefe & True Report (including White’s watercolors & De Bry’s engravings)
  3. Bradford, Of Plimouth Plantation
  4. John Winthrop A Modell of Christian Charity
  5. John Smith The Generall Historie of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles
  6. Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana
  7. Anne Bradstreet, selected poems tbd
  8. Eliot and Shepard [Eliot Tracts]: New England’s First Fruits and Day-Breaking
  9. Williams, Key into the Language of America
  10. Shepard, Autobiography
  11. Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”
  12. Edward Taylor, poems tbd
  13. Sewall, The Selling of Joseph
  14. Franklin, The Autobiography
  15. Equiano, The Interesting Narrative
  16. Mary White Rowlandson, Captivity/God’s Sovereignty
  17. Crevecouer, Letters from an American Farmer
  18. Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia
  19. Paine, Common Sense
  20. Wollstonecraft, Vindication of the Rights of Woman
  21. Freneau, selected poems tbd
  22. Phillis Wheatley, selected poems tbd
  23. Hannah Foster, The Coquette
  24. Charles Brockden Brown, Wieland OR
  25. Brown, Edgar Huntley
  26. Tecumseh
  27. Rowson, Charlotte Temple
  28. Washington, “Farewell Address”
  29. The Declaration of Independence
  30. The Federalist Papers


  1. Kathleen Donegan Seasons of Misery
  2. Sacvan Bercovitch Puritan Origins of the American Self 
  3. Michael Warner Republic of Letters
  4. Gwendolyn M. Hall Africans in Colonial Louisiana: the Development of Afro-Creole Culture
  5. Daniel Boorstin The Lost World of Thomas Jefferson
  6. Jay Fliegelman Prodigals and Pilgrims
  7. Boyer and Nissenbaum Salem Possessed
  8. Linebaugh and Rediker The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic
  9. Brown, The Pilgrim and the Bee
  10. Lepore, The Name of War
  11. Chaplin, Subject Matter: The Body and Science
  12. O’Brien, Dispossession by Degrees
  13. Armitage and Braddick, eds. The British Atlantic World 1500-1800
  14. Emory Elliot, Revolutionary Writers
  15. Barnes, States of Sympathy: Seduction and Democracy in the American Novel
  16. Susan Parrish, American Curiosity: Cultures of Natural History in the Colonial    British Atlantic World
  17. Allewaert, Ariel’s Ecology: Plantations, Personhood and Colonialism in the American     Tropics
  18. Perry Miller, The New England Mind



18th-c. British

Aphra Behn (1640?-1689)                                

  • Oroonoko (1688)
  • The Rover (1677) 
  • “To the Fair Clarinda…” (1684)
  • “The Disappointment”  (1684)

John Wilmot, Rochester (1647-1680)                

  • “Satyr against Reason and Mankind” (1679)
  • “The Imperfect Enjoyment” (1680)
  • “Satyr on Charles II” (1697)

John Dryden (1631-1700)                                 

  • An Essay on Dramatic Poesy (1688)
  • Absalom and Achitophel  (1681)

William Congreve (1670-1729)                         

  • The Way of the World (1700)

Anne Finch (1661-1720)                                   

  • “The Introduction” (1713)
  • “The Spleen” (1701)
  • “The Unequal Fetters” (1720)
  • “A Nocturnal Reverie” (1713)

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)                              

  • Gulliver’s Travels (1726)
  • “A Modest Proposal” (1729)
  • “The Lady’s Dressing Room” (1732)
  • “A Beautiful Young Nymph…” (1734)
  • “Description of a Morning” (1709)
  • “Description of a City Shower” (1710)
  • “Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift” (1739)

Joseph Addison (1672-1719), et al                    

  • The Spectator:  Nos. 1, 2, 10, 11, 15, 62, 112, 122, 123, 160, 254, 287, 365, 411, 446 (1711-12)

Alexander Pope (1688-1744)                            

  • The Rape of the Lock (1717)
  • Essay on Man (1733)
  • Essay on Criticism (1711)
  • Windsor-Forest (1713)
  • “Epistle II:  To a Lady.  Of the Characters of Women” (1735)
  • “Epistle IV:  To Burlington.  Of the Use of Riches” (1735)
  • “Epistle to Arbuthnot” (1735)

Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762)                 

  • “The Lover:  A Ballad” (1747)
  • “Saturday; or, the Smallpox” (1716)
  • “Epistle from Mrs. [Yonge]…” (1977)
  • Selections from Embassy Letters (1763)

Eliza Haywood (c. 1693-1756)                          

  • Love in Excess (1719)
  • Fantomina (1725)

Daniel Defoe (1660?-1731)                              

  • Robinson Crusoe (1719)
  • Flanders (1722)
  • Roxana (1724)

[Choose one of the above]

James Thomson (1700-1748)                            

  • “Spring” from The Seasons (1728)
  • “Rule, Brittania” (1740)

John Gay (1685-1732)                                      

  • The Beggar’s Opera (1728)

Stephen Duck (1705?-1756) and                       

  • “The Thresher’s Labour” (1730)

Mary Collier (1688-1762)                                 

  • The Woman’s Labour (1739)

Samuel Richardson (1689-1761)                       

  • Pamela (1740)

Henry Fielding (1707-1754)                             

  • Joseph Andrews (1742)

William Collins (1721-1759)                            

  • “Ode to Evening” (1747)
  • “Ode on the Poetical Character” (1747)

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)                            

  • The Rambler, Nos. 4, 60 (1750)
  • “The Vanity of Human Wishes” (1749)
  • Plan and Preface to The Dictionary (1747; 1755)

Thomas Gray (1716-1771)                                

  • “Sonnet on the Death of Mr. Richard West” (1775)
  • “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” (1751)
  • “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College” (1747)
  • “Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat” (1748)

Mary Leapor (1722-1746)                                 

  • “Crumble-Hall” (1751)
  • “Essay on Woman” (1751)
  • “Man the Monarch”  (1751)
  • “Epistle to Artemisia: On Fame” (1751)

Charlotte Lennox (c. 1730-1804)                       

  • The Female Quixote (1752)
  • Sophia (1762)

[Choose one of the above]

Edmund Burke (1729-1797)                             

  • A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful, Part 2, Sections 1-5, 13-16 (1757)

Horace Walpole (1717-1797)                            

  • The Castle of Otranto (1764)

Laurence Sterne (1713-1768)                            

  • A Sentimental Journey (1768)

Oliver Goldsmith (1730-1774)                          

  • The Deserted Village (1770)
  •  Stoops to Conquer (1773)

Phillis Wheatley (c. 1753-1784)                        

  • “On Being Brought from Africa to America” (1773)
  • “To the right honourable William, earl of Dartmouth” (1773)
  • “ A Hymn to the Morning” (1773)
  • “A Hymn to the Evening” (1773)

Frances Burney (1752-1840)                             

  • Evelina (1778)

Robert Burns (1759-1796)                                

  • “To a Mouse” (1786)
  • “Cotter’s Saturday Night” (1786)
  • “To a Louse” (1786)
  • “Epistle to J. L*****k…” (1786)

William Cowper (1731-1800)                       

  • “Yardley-Oak” (1804)
  • “The Castaway” (1803)
  • “The Negro’s Complaint” (1788)
  • “On a Goldfinch Starved to Death…” (?)

Ann Yearsley (1753-1806)                               

  • “To Mr. ****, on Genius Unimproved” (1787)
  • “Clifton Hill” (1787)
  • A Poem on the Inhumanity of the Slave Trade (1788)

Olaudah Equiano (c. 1745-1797)                       

  • The Interesting Narrative… (1789)

William Blake (1757-1827)                              

  • Songs of Innocence and Experience (1794)
  • All Religions are One (1788)
  • There is no Natural Religion (a) and (b) (1788)
  • The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1793)
  • Visions of the Daughters of Albion (1793)

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)                     

  • A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)

Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823)                               

  • The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794)

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)                    

  • Lyrical Ballads (first edition 1798; subsequent editions with additional poems, 1800, 1802)
  • “Ode: Intimations of Immortality” (1805)
  • The Prelude (1805 or 1850)
  • Preface to Lyrical Ballads (1800, 1802)

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)               

  • “Frost at Midnight” (1798)
  • “The Eolian Harp” (1798)
  • “Dejection: An Ode” (1802)
  • “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (1816)
  • “Christabel” (1816)
  • “Kubla Khan” (1816)
  • Biographia Literaria (sections on imagination and Wordsworth’s poetry)

Jane Austen (177501817)                                 

  • Northanger Abbey (1817)
  • Sense and Sensibility (1811)

[Choose one of the above]


  1. J. Paul Hunter, Before Novels: The Cultural Contexts of Eighteenth-Century English Fiction  (Norton, 1992)
  2. William Warner, Licensing Entertainment: The Elevation of Novel Reading in Britain, 1684-1750 (University of California Press, 1998)
  3. Lennard Davis, Factual Fictions: The Origins of the English Novel (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1983; 1997)
  4. John Sitter, Literary Loneliness in Mid-Century England (Cornell UP, 1982)
  5. David Fairer, English Poetry of the Eighteenth Century, 1700-1789 (Longmans, 2003)
  6. Nancy Armstrong, Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the Novel (Oxford, UP1987)
  7. J. Douglas Canfield and Deborah C. Payne, eds., Cultural Readings of Restoration and Eighteenth-Century English Theatre (University of Georgia Press, 1995; 2010)
  8. Ian Watt, The Rise of the Novel (University of California Press, 1957)
  9. Terry Castle, Masquerade and Civilization: The Carnivalesque in Eighteenth-Century English Culture and Fiction (Stanford UP, 1987)
  10. Paula R. Backscheider, Eighteenth-Century Women Poets and Their Poetry: Inventing Agency, Inventing Genre (Johns Hopkins UP, 2005)
  11. Michael McKeon, The Secret History of Domesticity: Public, Private, and the Division of Knowledge (Johns Hopkins UP, 2006)
  12. David Marshall, The Frame of Art: Fictions of Aesthetic Experience, 1750-1815 (Johns Hopkins UP, 2005)
  13. Felicity Nussbaum, The Limits of the Human: Fictions of Anomaly, Race and Gender in the Long Eighteenth Century (Cambridge UP, 2003)
  14. John Mullan, Sentiment and Sociability:  The Language of Feeling in the Eighteenth Century (Oxford UP, 1990)
  15. James Engell, Forming the Critical Mind: From Dryden to Coleridge (Harvard UP, 1989)
  16. George Haggerty, Gothic Fiction/Gothic Form (Penn State UP, 2004)

Cambridge Companion Series Options:

  1. John Sitter, ed., Cambridge Companion to Eighteenth-Century Poetry (2001)
  2. Thomas Keymer and Jon Mee, eds., Cambridge Companion to English Literature, 1740-1830 (2004)
  3. John Richetti, ed., Cambridge Companion to the Eighteenth-Century Novel (1996)


19th-c. American

  1. Brown, Wieland (1798)
  2. Cooper, Last of the Mohicans (1826)
  3. William Appess, Son of the Forest or “An Indian’s Looking Glass…” (1829)
  4. Fuller, Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1843)
  5. Douglass, Narrative of the Life (1845)
  6. Poe, “Usher” and other stories, tbd; Poe, “Philo. of Composition” 
  7. Thoreau, Walden (1854) ; Thoreau, “Resistance to Civil Government”
  8. Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861)
  9. Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (edition tbd)
  10. James, Portrait of a Lady (1881)
  11. Twain, Huck Finn (1884)
  12. Chopin, The Awakening (1899)
  13. Jewett, Country of the Pointed Firs (1896)
  14. Dickinson, selections tbd by examiner
  15. Emerson, Nature, “American Scholar”
  16. Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (1850) or The Blithedale Romance and selected stories, tbd by examiner
  17. Melville, Moby-Dick (1850) and selected stories tbd by examiner
  18. Rebecca Harding Davis, Life in the Iron Mills (1859)
  19. Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1851)
  20. Norris, McTeague (1899)
  21. Chesnutt, The Conjure Woman (1899) or The Marrow of Tradition
  22. Dreiser, Sister Carrie
  23. DuBois, Souls of Black Folk (1901)
  24. “Fireside/Schoolroom” Poets: Whittier, Longfellow, Bryant
  25. Wharton, The House of Mirth (1905)
  26. Howells, The Rise of Silas Lapham
  27. Lincoln, selected speeches, tbd by examiner
  28. Cheryl Walker, ed. American Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century
  29. Elaine Showalter, ed. Scribbling Women: Short Stories by Nineteenth-Century American Women (includes Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Mary Wilkins Freeman, “White Heron”)
  30. Crane, Maggie, a Girl of the Streets (1899)


  1. Sundquist, To Wake the Nations
  2. Buell, The Environmental Imagination
  3. Trachtenberg, The Incorporation of America
  4. Douglas, The Feminization of American Culture
  5. Brodhead, Cultures of Letters
  6. Matthiessen, American Renaissance
  7. Tompkins, Sensational Designs
  8. Kaplan, Cultures of US Imperialism
  9. Lott, Love and Theft
  10. Lora P. Romero, Home Fronts



19th-c British

  1. William Blake, Songs of Innocence and Experience (1789); The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-93)
  2. Anna Letitia Barbauld, “Washing-Day” (1797), Eighteen Hundred and Eleven: A Poem (1812), [also, selections from Lessons for Children (1778)?]
  3. Mary Wollstonecraft: Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792)
  4. Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794)
  5. William Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads (with Coleridge; including Prefaces); "Ode: Intimations of Immortality"; "The World is Too Much with Us" (1798); “Tintern Abbey” (1798); “London 1802” (1807); also: “Intimations of Immortality”; “The Solitary Reaper”; The Prelude (1850)
  6. Dorothy Wordsworth, The Grasmere Journals
  7. Robinson, Mary, Lyrical Tales (1800); “To the Poet Coleridge” (1801)
  8. Maria Edgeworth, Castle Rackrent, An Hibernian Tale (1800)
  9. Sir Walter Scott, Waverley (1814) and selections from The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802-3)
  10. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Kubla Khan”; “Christabel” (1816); Biographia Literaria, sections on Imagination and Wordsworth’s Poetry (1817)
  11. Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Mutability” (1816); “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty” (1817); “Ozymandias” (1818); “To a Skylark” (1820); “Ode to the West Wind” (1820); Prometheus Unbound (1820); “England in 1819” (1839); “A Defense of Poetry” (1840)
  12. George Gordon, Lord Byron, “She Walks in Beauty” (1814); Manfred (1817); Don Juan, cantos 1 and 2 (1818-24); “When a Man Hath No Freedom to Fight for at Home” (1820)
  13. John Keats, “On First Looking into Chapman's Homer” (1817); “Ode on a Grecian Urn” (1820); “Ode on Melancholy” (1820); “To Autumn” (1820); “Ode to a Nightengale” (1819); “The Eve of St. Agnes” (1820); “Lamia” (1820); Letter on Negative Capability
  14. Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey ([1803], 1818) and Pride and Prejudice (1813)
  15. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818)
  16. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “The Lady of Shalott” (1832 and 1842 versions); “Ulysses” (1842); In Memorium (1850), “Crossing the Bar” (1889)
  17. Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Restarus (1836)
  18. Robert Browning, “Porphyria's Lover” (1836); “My Last Duchess” (1842); “Meeting at Night” (1845; separated into “Meeting at Night” and “Parting at Morning” in 1849); “Childe Roland” (1855); “Caliban upon Setebos” (1864); The Ring and the Book, 5 and 6 (1868-69)
  19. Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (1843) and Bleak House (1852-3) or Great Expectations (1860)
  20. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Poems (1844, 2 vols); “Hiram Powers’ Greek Slave” (1848); “The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point” (1848); Sonnet 43 (“How Do I Love Thee?”) from Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850); Aurora Leigh (1856)
  21. Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre (1847)
  22. Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights (1847)
  23. John Clare, “I Am” (1848); “The Mores”; “The Yellowhammer’s Nest”; “Cock o’ Clay”
  24. John Ruskin, “The Nature of Gothic” from The Stones of Venice (1851-53)
  25. Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South (1854-55; 1855)
  26. Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species (1859)
  27. John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859) or “On the Subjection of Women” (1869)
  28. Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley’s Secret (1861-62)
  29. Christina Rossetti, “Goblin Market” (1862); “In an Artist’s Studio” (1856); also, “Winter: My Secret”; “An Apple-Gathering”; “When I am Dead”; “In the Bleak Midwinter”
  30. Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy (1867-68); “Dover Beach” (1867); also, “The Buried Life” and ‘The Scholar-Gypsy”
  31. Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White (1859-60) or The Moonstone (1868)
  32. Walter Pater, “Winckelmann“; ”Michelangelo”; “Conclusion” from Studies in the History of the Renaissance (1873)
  33. George Eliot, Middlemarch (1874)
  34. Gerard Manley Hopkins, "Spring and Fall' (1880, pub. 1918); "Carrion Comfort" (1885-87, pub. 1918); also: “The Wreck of the Deutschland” (including preface), “Pied Beauty,” “The Grandeur of God,” “The Windhover,” “As Kingfishers Catch Fire,” “Harry Ploughman,” and The Terrible Sonnets
  35. Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886)
  36. Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet (1887); “A Scandal in Bohemia” (1891)
  37. Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890); The Critic as Artist (1891); The Importance of Being Earnest (1895)
  38. Thomas Hardy, Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891) or Jude the Obscure (1895); poems TBA
  39. Michael Field, Sight and Song (1892
  40. Bram Stoker, Dracula (1897)


  1. Karl Marx et al, The Communist Manifesto (1848)
  2. Paul de Man, “The Rhetoric of Temporality” from Blindness and Insight (1971) and The Rhetoric of Romanticism (1983)
  3. M. H. Abrams, Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature (1973)
  4. Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic (1979)
  5. Gillian Beer, Darwin’s Plots (1983
  6. George Levine, The Realistic Imagination: English Fiction from Frankenstein to Lady Chatterly (1983
  7. Catherine Gallagher, The Industrial Reformation of English Fiction, 1832-1867 (1985)
  8. Nancy Armstrong, Desire and Domestic Fiction (1987
  9. Isobel Armstrong, Victorian Poetry: Poetry, Politics, and Poetics (1993)
  10. J. Hillis Miller, The Disappearance of God (2000)


19th-C Transatlantic

In choosing your 20 primary texts, please choose 10 selections from the British list and 10 from the American list below.

Please note: this list has been put together to reflect a transatlantic frame: so, for instance, you’ll find here Blake’s America (instead of his Songs); Brown’s Clotel, which was published in London, instead of Douglass’s Narrative (likewise, Crafts’s Bondwoman’s Narrative instead of Jacob’s Incidents, since Crafts signifies so strongly on Bleak House and Jane Eyre. Alcott’s “Behind a Mask” also signifies on Jane Eyre). We strongly encourage you to consult with your examiner in making your selections so as to strengthen transatlantic connections.


  1. Wollstonecraft, Mary. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792).
  2. Blake, William, America: A Prophesy (1793) and Songs of Innocence and Experience (1798)
  3. Wordsworth, William, Lyrical Ballads (with Coleridge); "Ode: Intimations of Immortality"; "The World is Too Much with Us" (1798); “Tintern Abbey” (1798); “London 1802” (1807); The Prelude (1850)
  4. Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, “Kubla Khan”; “Christabel” (1816);
  5. Shelley, Mary Godwin. Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818).
  6. Shelley, Percy Bysshe, “Mutability” (1816); “Ozymandias” (1818); “To a Skylark” (1820)
  7. Austen, Jane, Pride and Prejudice (1813) or Northanger Abbey ([1803], 1818).
  8. Byron, George Gordon, “She Walks in Beauty” (1814); Don Juan (1818-24); “When a Man Hath No Freedom to Fight for at Home” (1820)
  9. Keats, John, “On First Looking into Chapman's Homer” (1817); “Ode on a Grecian Urn” (1820); “Ode on Melancholy” (1820)
  10. Tennyson, Alfred, “The Lady of Shalott” (1832 and 1842 versions), “Ulysses” (1842); “Crossing the Bar” (1889)
  11. Browning, Robert, “Porphyria's Lover” (1836); “My Last Duchess” (1842); “Childe Roland” (1855); “Caliban upon Setebos” (1864)
  12. Dickens, Charles. A Christmas Carol (1843), and Bleak House (1852-53) or Martin Chuzzlewit (1844).
  13. Browning, Elizabeth Barrett, Poems (1844); “Hiram Powers’ Greek Slave” (1848); “The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point” (1848)
  14. Bronte, Charlotte, Jane Eyre (1847)
  15. Ruskin, John, The stones of Venice (1851-53)
  16. Boucicault, Dion, The Octoroon (1859) or The Colleen Bawn (1860)
  17. Rossetti, Christina, “Goblin Market” (1862); “In an Artist’s Studio” (1856); also, “Winter: My Secret”; “An Apple-Gathering”; “When I am Dead”; “In the Bleak Midwinter”
  18. Arnold, Matthew, Culture and Anarchy (1867-68); “Dover Beach” (1867)
  19. Mill, John Stuart, On Liberty (1859) or “On the Subjection of Women” (1869)
  20. Collins, Wilkie, The Moonstone (1868)
  21. Pater, Walter, “Winckelmann“; ”Michelangelo”; “Conclusion”; Studies in the History of the Renaissance (1873)
  22. Eliot, George, Middlemarch (1874) or Daniel Deronda (1876)
  23. Hopkins, Gerard Manley, "Spring and Fall' (1880, pub. 1918); "Carrion Comfort" (1885-87, pub. 1918);  also: “The Wreck of the Deutschland” (including preface), “Pied Beauty,” “The Grandeur of God,” “The Windhover,” “As Kingfishers Catch Fire,” “Harry Ploughman,” and The Terrible Sonnets
  24. Stevenson, Robert Louis, Treasure Island (1883); Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886); “The Bottle Imp” (1891)
  25. Wilde, Oscar, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890); The Critic as Artist (1891); The Importance of Being Earnest (1895)
  26. Stoker, Bram, Dracula (1897)


  1. Tenney, Tabitha, Female Quixotism (1801)
  2. Irving, Washington, “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” from The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. (1819-20)
  3. Cooper, James Fenimore, The Last of the Mohicans (1826)
  4. Hawthorne, Nathaniel, "The Minister's Black Veil" (1836); "The Birth-Mark" (1843); "Wakefield" (1835); “Rappacini's Daughter" (1844), and The Scarlet Letter (1850) or The Marble Faun (1860)
  5. Fuller, Margaret, “The Great Lawsuit” (1843)
  6. Emerson, Ralph Waldo, "Self-Reliance" (1841); "The Over-Soul" (1841); "Nature" (1836)
  7. Poe, Edgar Allan, “The Philosophy of Composition” (1846); “William Wilson” (1839); “The Cask of Amontillado” (1846); “The Purloined Letter” (1844); “The Man of the Crowd” (1840)
  8. Stowe, Harriet Beecher, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852)
  9. Brown, William Wells, Clotel: or, The President’s Daughter (1853)
  10. Thoreau, Henry David, Walden Pond (1854)
  11. Melville, Herman, “Bartleby the Scrivener” (1853); Billy Budd (c.1888, pub. 1924); and “Benito Cereno” (1855)
  12. Whitman, Walt, Leaves of Grass (1855)
  13. Southworth, E.D.E.N. The Hidden Hand, or, Capitola the Madcap (1859)
  14. Crafts, Hannah, The Bondwoman’s Narrative (c. 1860)
  15. Davis, Rebecca Harding, “Life in the Iron Mills” (1861)
  16. Dickinson, Emily, “I heard a fly buzz when I died”; “Nature”; “I Started Early, Took my Dog”; “Fame is a Bee”; “Much Madness is divinest sense”; “There is no frigate like a book”; “The shut me up in prose”
  17. Alcott, Louisa May: “Behind a Mask; or, A Woman’s Power” (1866); “My Contraband” (1869); and Little Women (1868-69)
  18. Clemens, Samuel (Mark Twain), A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889)
  19. James, Henry, The American (1877), or "The Lesson of the Master" (1888); "The Real Thing" (1892); "The Turn of the Screw" (1898); "The Jolly Corner" (1908)
  20. Chopin, Kate, “Desiree's Baby” (1893); “The Story of an Hour” (1894); The Awakening (1899)
  21. Perkins, Charlotte Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper” (1892), and Women and Economics (1898)
  22. Jewett, Sarah Orne, Country of the Pointed Firs (1896)
  23. Du Bois, W. E. B., The Souls of Black Folk (1903)
  24. Wharton, Edith, The House of Mirth (1905)


  1. Karl Marx et al, The Communist Manifesto (1848)
  2. Paul de Man: “The Rhetoric of Temporality” from Blindness and Insight (1971) and The Rhetoric of Romanticism (1983)
  3. Brooks, Peter. The Melodramatic Imagination: Balzac, Henry James, Melodrama, and the Mode of Excess (1976)
  4. Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar: The Madwoman in the Attic (1979)
  5. Reynolds, David. Beneath the American Renaissance (1988)
  6. Pratt, Mary Louise, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (1992)
  7. Gilroy, Paul. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double-Consciousness (1993)
  8. Isobel Armstrong: Victorian Poetry: Poetry, Politics, and Poetics (1993)
  9. Roach, Joseph. Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance (1996)
  10. Brody, Jennifer DeVere. Impossible Purities: Blackness, Femininity, and Victorian Culture (1998)
  11. Claybaugh, Amanda. The Novel of Purpose: Literature and Social Reform in the Anglo-American World (2007)
  12. Flint, Kate. The Transatlantic Indian, 1776-1930 (2008)


20th-21st-c. American

  1. James Baldwin, essays from The Price of the Ticket OR Go Tell It On the Mountain
  2. Djuna Barnes, Nightwood
  3. Saul Bellow, Herzog OR Humboldt’s Gift OR Henderson the Rain King OR The Adventures of Augie March
  4. Gwendolyn Brooks, Blacks OR A Street in Bronzeville
  5. Raymond Carver, selected stories
  6. Don DeLillo, White Noise 
  7. W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk
  8. Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie
  9. T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land
  10. Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
  11. F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby 
  12. William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying OR The Sound and the Fury 
  13. Robert Frost, selected poems
  14. Allen Ginsberg, Howl
  15. Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun 
  16. Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon
  17. Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises 
  18. Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
  19. Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior
  20. Tony Kushner, Angels in America 
  21. Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness 
  22. David Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross
  23. Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman
  24. Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon 
  25. Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire
  26. Sylvia Plath, Ariel
  27. Flannery O'Connor, A Good Man Is Hard to Find 
  28. Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night OR A Moon for the Misbegotten OR The Hairy Ape
  29. Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 
  30. Adrienne Rich, The Fact of A Doorframe OR Diving into the Wreck
  31. Muriel Rukeyser, “The Book of the Dead” and other selected poems
  32. Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons 
  33. John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
  34. Wallace Stevens, selected poems from The Palm at the End of the Mind 
  35. Jean Toomer, Cane
  36. Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five
  37. Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire 
  38. William Carlos Williams, Spring and All
  39. Richard Wright, Native Son


  1. Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence
  2. Cleanth Brooks, The Well Wrought Urn
  3. Judith Butler, Gender Trouble
  4. T.S. Eliot, Tradition and the Individual Talent
  5. Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic
  6. Hugh Kenner, The Pound Era
  7. Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark
  8. Lionel Trilling, The Liberal Imagination
  9. Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation
  10. Edmond Wilson, To the Finland Station OR Axel’s Castle


20th-21st-c. Global

  1. Joseph Conrad: Heart of Darkness (1899)
  2. James Joyce: Dubliners (1914)
  3. E. M. Forster: A Passage to India (1924)
  4. Claude McKay: Banjo (1929)
  5. Alan Paton: Cry, the Beloved Country (1948)
  6. Amos Tutuola: The Palm-Wine Drinkard (1952)
  7. Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart (1958)
  8. Derek Walcott: “The Schooner Flight” (1979) or Omeros (1990)
  9. Samuel Beckett: Krapp’s Last Tape (1958)
  10. Jean Rhys: Wide Sargasso Sea (1966)
  11. V.S. Naipaul: The Mimic Men (1967)
  12. Ngugi wa Thiong'o': A Grain of Wheat  (1967)
  13. Bessie Head: When Rain Clouds Gather (1968)
  14. Wole Soyinka: Death and the King’s Horsemen (1975)
  15. Maxine Hong Kingston: The Woman Warrior (1975)
  16. Dambudzo Marechera: "Black Skin, What Mask" (1978)
  17. Buchi Emecheta: The Joys of Motherhood (1979)
  18. Brian Friel: Translations (1980)
  19. Salman Rushdie: Midnight’s Children (1981) or Shame (1983) or Satanic Verses (1988) or The Moor’s Last Sigh (1995)
  20. Seamus Heaney: selected poems
  21. Nadine Gordimer: July’s People (1981)
  22. Joy Kogawa: Obasan (1981)
  23. Athol Fugard: Master Harold and the Boys (1982)
  24. J.M. Coetzee: The Life and Times of Michael K (1983)
  25. Michelle Cliff: Abeng (1984)
  26. Bloke Modisane: Blame Me On History (1986)
  27. Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale (1985)
  28. Tsitsi Dangaremba: Nervous Conditions (1988)
  29. Jamaica Kincaid: A Small Place (1988)
  30. Caryl Phillips: Crossing the River (1993)
  31. Shyam Selvadurai: Funny Boy (1994)
  32. Edwidge Danticat: “Children of the Sea” (1995)
  33. Chang Rae Lee: Native Speaker (1995)
  34. Jhumpa Lahiri: Interpreter of Maladies (1999) or The Namesake (2003)
  35. Kamau Braithwaite: “Limbo” (2005)
  36. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Half of a Yellow Sun (2006)
  37. Mohsin Hamid: Moth Smoke (2000) or The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007)
  38. Junot Diaz: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007)


  1. Edward Said: Orientalism (1978) or Culture and Imperialism (1993)
  2. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak: “Can the subaltern speak?” (1988)
  3. Ngugi wa Thiong’o: Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature (1986)
  4. Chinua Achebe: “An Image of Africa” (1977)
  5. Homi Bhabha: The Location of Culture (1991)
  6. Chandra Talpade Mohanty: “Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses ” (1984)
  7. Frederic Jameson: “Third-World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism” (1986)
  8. Aijaz Ahmad: “Jameson’s Rhetoric of Otherness and the ‘National Allegory’” (1987)
  9. Paul Gilroy: The Black Atlantic (1995)
  10. Trin T. Minh-ha: Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism (1989)
  11. Jasbir K. Puar, Queer Tourism: Geographies of Globalization (2002)


Can I apply to the M.A. in English Literature if I didn’t major in English?

We admit a handful of applicants who did not major in English each year. If admitted, such applicants typically are given conditionally classified status with a subject deficiency (CC/SD) and required to take courses in English Literature before beginning their coursework for the M.A. Applicants who have little or no upper-division coursework in English Literature may wish to take courses through Open University before applying. (Please note that taking literature courses through Open University does not guarantee eventual admission to our program.)

What teaching opportunities are available through the M.A. program in Literature?

  • Our ENG 803: Teaching Assistant Practicum offers students the opportunity to learn about pedagogical issues in the teaching of literature by assisting professors in running a large lecture course. In addition to working closely with a professor as a TA, students participate in a series of workshops designed to introduce them to a variety of pedagogical issues and give them hands-on teaching experience.
  • Tutoring opportunities are available through the Learning Assistance Center (LAC) and Campus Academic Resource Program (CARP).
  • Students who are pursuing a composition certificate concurrently with the M.A. in Literature may apply to work as a graduate teaching assistant (GTA).

Can I use an M.A. in English Literature to teach at a 2-year college?

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 Reading or Composition Certificate in conjunction with the M.A. program.   

Can I transfer units from another institution?

A student may transfer—with the approval of an advisor—a maximum of 6 units from another institution. See “Graduate Academic Policies and Procedures” in the University Bulletin for a list of the University’s requirements for doing so. (Students taking courses through the UC Berkeley Cross Registration Program are not subject to this limit. If you have correctly followed the procedures to participate in this program, courses taken through it should appear as SF State credits on your transcript.)

Can I count SF State courses taken outside of the English Department towards the M.A. in Literature?

With the approval of his or her advisor, a student may apply a maximum of 6 units taken outside of the English department to the M.A. Such courses must be relevant to the students’ program of study in English Literature.

What scholarships and fellowships are available?

The department and college offer a limited number of scholarships and fellowships to current graduate students. Scholarships are announced by the department and college annually. For other opportunities, see the SF State Fellowships Office

How many courses should I take each semester?

Full-time M.A. students generally take 3 courses (9 units) per semester. Here is an example of a two-year plan timeline:

First Semester:
741—Theory of literature (3 units)
Undergrad or grad seminar (3 units)
Pre-1800 (3 units)

Second Semester:
Undergrad or grad seminar (3 units)
Literary History (3 units)
Literary Theories and Methods (3 units)
[Apply to be a Teaching Assistant]

Third Semester:
803—TA practicum or grad seminar (3 units)
2 additional grad seminars (6 units)
Submit ATC & CE form; take prospectus exam if choosing CE thesis option 
[Take GRE; apply to PhD programs]

Fourth Semester:
896-—CE Exam OR 898—CE Thesis (3 units)
[If you need to be a full-time student for Financial Aid, take 5 more units)

How do I arrange an independent study?

Students who wish to pursue subjects that are not included the university’s curriculum as described in the bulletin or course schedule and who have demonstrated ability to do independent work may apply to register for Special Study (English 899). Before registering, the student must have a special study petition approved and signed by the department chair, advisor, and the instructor who has agreed to supervise the student. Once the petition is filled out and signed by the instructor and advisor, the student needs to bring it, along with a signed Add Form and a copy of an Unofficial Transcript, to the English Department main office. The petition forms are available through the Registrar's website.

Can I count undergraduate classes towards my literary theory, literary history, or pre-1800 requirement?

No. You must use graduate-level courses to fulfill these requirements.

How many undergraduate classes can I take?

You can count up to two upper-division (500-600 level) English literature courses towards the M.A. as “electives.” (However, if you started the program before Fall 2016, you may count up to three.)


Graduate Literature Association

The Graduate Literature Association (GLA) is the student organization for the M.A. in Literature. The GLA organizes social activities, academic and career workshops, and scholarly conferences and publishes Interpretations, a student-edited academic journal.

The Teaching Assistant Practicum

ENG 803: Teaching Assistant Practicum, offers students the opportunity to learn about pedagogical issues in the teaching of literature by assisting professors in running a large lecture course. In addition to working closely with a professor as a TA, students participate in a series of workshops designed to introduce them to a variety of pedagogical issues and give them hands-on teaching experience. 

Volunteer and Paid Tutoring

SF State offers graduate students a variety of paid and volunteer tutoring opportunities, including at the English Tutoring Center (ETC), Learning Assistance Center (LAC), and Campus Academic Resource Program (CARP). Visit the SF State Tutoring website for more information.

Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTAs)

For students who are pursuing a composition or reading certificate in addition to the M.A. in Literature, the English Department offers Graduate Teaching Assistantships.

Scholarships and Fellowships

The department and college a limited number of scholarships and fellowships to current graduate students. Scholarships are announced by the department and college annually. For other opportunities, see the SF State Fellowships Office

Completing the M.A.

Obtaining Classified Status

Submit Report of Completion of Specified Graduate Program Requirements

Students who were given Conditionally Classified status upon admission must petition for Classified status once they have satisfied the requirements outlined in their admission letter. Request the Report of Completion form in the department office; enter your information and check the first box under "Graduate Program Requirements"; obtain your advisor's signature and return the form to the department office.

Semester Before Taking English 898

Submit your Advancement to Candidacy (ATC) -- formerly Graduate Approved Program (GAP)

  • The usual deadline for submission of this form to the department is in early October or early March, depending on the semester.
  • Use this form to describe how you will fulfill the requirements of your degree.
  • Prepare the ATC (formerly GAP) online before printing. If necessary, print out a blank copy and type in the information. If the form is handwritten, it will be rejected by Graduate Division.
  • Bring your completed ATC (formerly GAP) form and a printout of your current unofficial transcript to an advisor for review and signature.

Submit your Proposal for Culminating Experience

  • The usual deadline for submission of this form to the department is in early October or early March, depending on the semester.
  • Use this form to present the title of your thesis and a brief abstract, and to list the members of your thesis committee, all of whom must sign the form. Your “committee chair” is your first reader.
  • Prepare your Proposal form online before printing. If necessary, print out a blank copy and type in the information. If your Proposal is handwritten, it will be rejected by Graduate Division.
  • Do you have questions about the ATC (formerly GAP) or the Proposal for Culminating Experience? Ask in your department office, consult with your advisor, or visit the Graduate Division website. Note that we prefer that you submit your ATC (formerly GAP) and your Proposal forms to the department office at the same time.

Semester of Graduation

Enroll in ENG 898

  • Submit the SF State ADD Form to the department office as soon as possible after the start of the semester.
  • Enter your name, phone number, SF State ID# on the ADD form. Also, enter “ENG 898” in the designated field, and then obtain the signature of your first reader.
  • The permit number will be sent to your email address.

Apply for graduation

  • The deadline to apply for graduation is the 4th Friday of the semester.
  • The graduation application is available on the Division of Graduate Studies website.

Check your transcript

  • Complete any necessary paperwork to change Incomplete grades.

Submit your thesis to Graduate Division

  • The usual deadline is the last day of classes.
  • Check the requirements for thesis formatting and submission in advance.

When Graduation is Delayed

Re-apply for graduation

  • If you do not graduate during the semester in which you initially enroll in 898, you must re-apply for graduation in the semester in which you will complete your requirements.

Maintain enrollment status

Students admitted before Fall 2008

  • If you do not submit your thesis by the deadline, your instructor will assign you a grade of ‘RP’ (report in progress).
  • You do not need to re-register for 898 in subsequent semesters.
  • You do not need to pay fees for subsequent semesters.

Students admitted beginning Fall 2008

  • Graduate students who earn RP in ENG 898 have an additional “grace semester” after the posting of the RP grade to continue writing the thesis. To maintain current status during this grace semester, students do not have to pay fees or register for courses.
  • If students do not graduate at the end of the grace semester, they must enroll in a 0-unit Culminating Experience course via the College of Extended Learning for each subsequent semester.
  • See the Graduate Division website for further information on the policy and an instructional slideshow.

Check your transcript

  • When you submit your thesis to your readers, you must also provide your 898 instructor (your first reader) with a Petition for Grade Change.
  • Fill in your name, SF State ID#, and the semester of enrollment in ENG 898; your professor will note that the RP grade should be changed to CR and will submit the petition to the department.

Note your seven-year deadline

If you do not graduate during the semester of your initial enrollment in your culminating experience course, we recommend that you remain mindful of your seven-year deadline. Your degree must be awarded within 7 years from the start of the term of the earliest course listed on your ATC (formerly GAP). EXAMPLE: if the earliest course listed on your ATC (formerly GAP) was taken in the Spring 2008 semester, you must graduate no later than the January, 2015. Students whose deadline has expired must petition for an extension of the seven-year limit; such an extension may be granted only once.

Two-Year Plan Timeline

First Semester:

741—Theory of literature (3 units)
Undergrad or grad seminar (3 units)
Pre-1800 (3 units)

Second Semester:

Undergrad or grad seminar (3 units)
Literary History (3 units)
Literary Theories and Methods (3 units)
[Apply to be a Teaching Assistant]

Third Semester:

803—TA practicum or grad seminar (3 units)
2 additional grad seminars (6 units)
Submit ATC & CE form; take prospectus exam if choosing CE thesis option 
[Take GRE; apply to PhD programs]

Fourth Semester:

896-—CE Exam OR 898—CE Thesis (3 units)
[If you need to be a full-time student for Financial Aid, take 5 more units)

The ATC must be submitted no later than the semester prior to enrollment for the final 6 units of graduate work. Use the questions below to ensure that you have filled out the ATC correctly.

You should bring the following materials with you to your advising appointment:

  • Letter of Admission to the M.A. Literature Program (available in the ENG Dept Office)
  • SF State transcript
  • Completed ATC
  • A copy of your “Report of Completion of Specified Graduate Program Requirements” form, if you were admitted with Conditionally Classified status

1. Check admission letter for any prerequisites

If you were admitted Conditionally Classified with a Subject Deficiency CC/SD, how did you fulfill your CC/SD requirements?

Check to make sure that you have correctly fulfilled these requirements as specified in your letter. These courses should also appear on your submitted Report of Completion of Specified Graduate Program Requirements form. Courses used to fulfill a CC/SD requirement should NOT appear on your ATC form.

2. Make sure that all courses you’ve listed on the ATC can apply to the English Literature M.A.

Are all the courses on the ATC taken within the 7-year limit for completing the M.A. degree?

No courses over 7-years old may be included on the ATC. Consult the Graduate Studies website under “ Procedures” for a 7-year-time-limit chart.

Does ENG 803 (Teaching Practicum) appear no more than once on the ATC?

You may take ENG 803 twice, but you can list it only once on the ATC.

Does ENG 899 appear no more than twice on the ATC?

List this course simply as "Special Study."

Have you repeated/double counted any other courses?

Although most literature courses cannot be repeated for credit, you can list a variable subject course more than once. Consult the Bulletin or Department Office (415-338-2264) if you are unsure about a course’s status.

Have you counted any courses taken for the Composition or Reading Certificate--such as English 700, 701, 704, 709, 710 and 715--to your Literature M.A.?

Such courses do NOT count towards the M.A. in Literature.

Have you listed any courses NOT taken in the English Department at SF State?

According to University policy, at least 18 of the 30 units of course work on the ATC must be taken within the department offering the degree program. These rules also apply:

  • With the approval of his or her advisor, a student following the “General Emphasis” may apply a maximum of 6 units taken outside of the English department.

  • A student following the “Special Studies” track may apply 12 units taken outside of the English department with the approval of an advisor.

  • A student may transfer—with the approval of an advisor—a maximum of 6 units from another institution. See “Graduate Academic Policies and Procedures” in the University Bulletin for a list of the University’s requirements for doing so. (Students taking courses through the UC Berkeley Cross Registration Program are not subject to this limit. If you have correctly followed the procedures to participate in this program, courses taken through it should appear as SF State credits on your transcript.)

Have you listed any courses taken before you obtained “classified” status in our program?

  • If you were admitted as a conditionally classified student with a subject deficiency (CC/SD), you may NOT apply units required to fulfill the subject deficiency to the M.A. (Those requirements would have been specified in the admission letter.) 
  • Students admitted with a GPA deficiency (CC/P) usually may apply the units obtained during the period of their conditional admission to their M.A., unless otherwise stated in their admission letter. CC/P students can apply up to 12 units of credit to their M.A. degree before obtaining "Classified" status.
  • With the approval of an advisor, you may apply up to 9 units of credit to the M.A. in Literature for classes taken at SF State as a non-matriculated student (this rule applies even if you were enrolled in another M.A. program when you took the courses).
  • With the approval on an advisor, you may count 6 units of credit taken as part of Open University.

3. Check the ATC and SF State transcripts for the following grading standards

  • A 3.0 GPA is required for course work listed on the ATC (formerly GAP) and must be maintained in all post-baccalaureate work taken at SF State.
  • For the Literature M.A., the ATC may include only courses with grades of B or better (i.e. grades of B- and lower may not be included). If a student repeats a ATC-required course to improve the grade, the higher grade will be included on the ATC, and only those units will be counted toward the degree. However, the grades will be averaged for the SF State and overall GPA.
  • Students cannot graduate if the ATC and overall SF State GPA's are below a 3.0.

4. Check core requirements

Have you listed 10 courses (30 units)?

You must list:

  • ENG 741 Seminar: Theory of Literature (3 units)
  • 3 courses in the following ranges: ENG 742-ENG 790, ENG 820 Graduate Seminars (9 units)
  • 2 courses in the following ranges: ENG 711, ENG 712, ENG 742-790, ENG 820 (6 units)
  • 3 electives to be taken with approval of an advisor. (9 units)
    Electives may include upper-division English literature courses, graduate courses within the ranges outlined above, ENG 899, ENG 803 or any combination of the above with an advisor's approval.
  • ENG 898 Master's Thesis or ENG 896 Master's Oral Examination Culminating Experience (3 units)

5. Check for special studies/general studies requirements

Is your emphasis "Special Studies"?

If you have chosen a “Special Studies” emphasis, make sure that you have met the conditions outlined in your proposal. (This proposal must have been submitted and approved before a student has completed 12 units of the M.A. program.)

If you pursued the General Studies emphasis (this will apply to most M.A. Literature students), have you taken at least one “Literary History” course (3 units)?

The following courses count as literary history:

ENG 711, 712, 750–789

If you pursued the General Studies emphasis, have you also taken at least one "Literary Theories and Methods"  course in addition to English 741?

The following courses count as a literary theories and methods course:

ENG 742; 744; 745; 746; 747; 748; 790; 800

If you pursued the General Studies emphasis, have you also taken at least one graduate-level course (3 units) in literature before 1800?

The “early period” course may also fulfill another requirement, i.e. it might also count as the “Literary History” requirement or as an elective.


You can find the following forms on the Division of Graduate Studies website.

  • Proposal for Culminating Experience (CE) Thesis 898
  • Proposal for Culminating Experience (CE) 896EXM
  • Advancement to Candidacy (ATC)

Here are some additional forms offered by the English Department.


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.