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MA in Irish Literature & Culture

The Master's Degree in Irish Literature and Culture offers English Department candidates the opportunity to design an interdisciplinary course of study drawing from a wide range of fields, including literature, Irish language, history, women's studies, American studies, fine arts, music and cultural studies. Candidates seeking the degree must fulfill the course requirements of 30 credits within two years. At least 12 of these must be in Irish literature courses in the English Department, an additional 3 in an Irish Studies course offered by another University department, and at least 6 in Irish Language.

Remaining credits are taken as electives. To complete the degree candidates must pass an oral examination focusing on a specific period, genre or theme they have chosen in consultation with members of the Irish Studies faculty. Students interested in pursuing the concentration in Irish Literature and Cuture should register with Marjorie Howes at the beginning of their second year.

Course Requirements:

This degree is offered through the English Department. Students take 30 credit hours (10 Courses) as follows:

12 credit hours (4 courses) in Irish Studies courses within the English Department. Courses are listed each semester on the Irish Studies Web site.

3 credit hours (1 course) in Irish Studies outside of the English Department. Courses are listed each semester on the Irish Studies Web site.

6 credit hours (2 courses) in Irish Language.

9 credit hours (3 courses) in other electives. When choosing additional electives, students are strongly encouraged to consider interdisciplinary, theory, and cultural studies courses.

Oral Examination:

The final component of the MA is the Oral Examination. The exam usually lasts between 1 and 1 1/2 hours. Students may fail, pass, or pass with distinction.

In preparation for the exam, students should follow this schedule:

Early in the third semester, students develop ideas for their exams and contact potential committee members. Each committee must contain two Irish Studies faculty, but students are free to add extra committee members.

By the end of the third semester students submit a brief (1-2 pages) project description and preliminary bibliography. A typical list includes 15-20 primary sources and additional secondary materials.

Students are expected to meet with their committee members periodically as they prepare for their exams. Exams take place at the end of the fourth semester before the conclusion of the University Examination period. Students should set up their exam schedules by March 15 with the English Department secretary.

Irish Language:

The Irish language is a central component in the study of Irish literature and culture. Students are required to take at least one year (6 credits) of Irish at Boston College. In addition, students are encouraged to study Irish in Ireland during the summer, and limited funding may be available. Contact the Irish Studies Program for details.

All students are urged to seek Prof. Phil O'Leary's advice on the extent to which the Irish language will be important for their area of interest.


The English Department assigns a faculty advisor to each MA student. Irish Studies MA students are encouraged to seek additional advice from Irish Studies faculty.


MA students are strongly encouraged to participate in professional meetings and conferences. Irish studies faculty offer editorial advice and practice sessions for students presenting conference papers. This process helps students with preparation, delivery, timing and responding to questions.


Once or twice a semester faculty, students, or visitors present work in progress to their colleagues. This forum is important to the life of the Irish Studies community. All graduate students are required to attend these meetings, and are encouraged to present their own work.

The Burns Scholar:

Each academic year, the Burns Library welcomes a distinguished scholar, writer, or artist who has made a significant contribution to Irish cultural and intellectual life. MA students are encouraged to enroll in one of the courses offered by the Burns Scholar and to take advantage of his/her presence on campus.

Calendar of Events:

Every semester the Irish Studies Program sponsors a wide range of public events. These events expose students to currents issues and debates, and offer opportunities to meet scholars working in the field.

Financial Aid:

Irish Studies MA students are eligible for all English Department scholarships and teaching fellowships.