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Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences

Master of Arts Program

english department

The English M.A. program at Boston College provides students a challenging intellectual experience that maintains a core focus on exploring the richness of literary study. It also offers plentiful opportunities to acquire skills applicable to a wide range of academic and professional settings. Through their course of study, candidates should be able to:

  • read texts closely;
  • write more capably;
  • demonstrate familiarity with varied and current theoretical approaches;
  • gain more knowledge about advanced research practices;
  • attain a thorough understanding of historical periodization.

The English M.A. program is explicitly designed to be a two-year standalone degree program. In the second year, selected applicants have the opportunity to design and teach their own college writing course both semesters, for which they receive training, faculty mentoring, and ongoing support and instruction. Students also have the opportunity to work with accomplished faculty in literature courses, gaining hands-on experience teaching literature, administering complex assignments, and designing specific lessons.

Master of Arts in Irish Literature and Culture

The M.A. 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. Many graduates of the program continue their studies at the Ph.D. level. Others immediately pursue careers in public and higher education; some enter related fields such as publishing, journalism and public relations. Candidates seeking the degree must fulfill the course requirements of 30 credits within two years. At least 12 credit hours must be in Irish literature courses in the English Department and an additional three credit hours in an Irish Studies course offered by another University department. All candidates must complete at least six credit hours in the Irish language. Remaining credits are taken as electives. Graduate students may also participate in the Abbey Theater Summer Program or study Irish at a language immersion program in Ireland for credit. 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.

Course Requirements

Candidates pursuing the M.A. degree will be expected to complete courses granting at least 30 credits (that is, ten courses at three credits each). Three credits must be in a theory course (ordinarily thought of as a course primarily concerned with the study of texts in literary and/or cultural theory) from among the department's regular offerings; and three must be in the "Introduction to Advanced Research". We are able to offer a wide variety of courses to M.A. students (ordinarily at least 12 per semester) and limit most courses to 20 students or fewer. No more than six credits can be taken outside the English department. Students may devote up to six of the required 30 credits to independent work under the supervision of department faculty, resulting in one or more longer papers. Students wishing to pursue this option should consult with the program director early in their graduate careers.

Comprehensive Examination

The Comprehensive Exam requires students to demonstrate knowledge about literary periodization and to use close-reading skills. It is three hours in length, and must be taken no later than the fall semester of the second year of study.

The Comprehensive Exam asks students to complete three of five questions—each one addressing a different major literary period. Each question will tell students where the quotation comes from, and will ask them to define a relevant term. It will then ask students to discuss how the work fits such a term, and how the work can also challenge or make it more complex. Again, we want to emphasize the importance of employing a wide range of skills in answering each question.

Language Requirement

The language exam is offered at the same time as the comprehensive examination, and may be taken at any point in the student’s program. A wide range of languages will be accommodated for this requirement, and it may be waived if 1) the candidate supplies an undergraduate transcript showing two courses beyond beginning level in a foreign language with grades of B or above (taken within three years of entering the M.A. program), or 2) the candidate successfully completes a 12-week intensive language course administered by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Boston College, or its equivalent.

Academic Standing and Evaluation of Progress

Master's students are assigned an academic advisor with whom they are expected to meet with each semester in order to map out a course of study and a schedule for taking the Comp Exam and the Language Exam (if required). They must complete a course in Theory and an Introduction to Advanced Research colloquium as part of their required course load. Students selected to teach in their second year also must complete a course in Composition Theory and the Teaching of Writing. 

Masters in Irish Literature and Culture Students work with assigned academic advisors as outlined above. They must complete the course distribution requirements with respect to literature, language and interdisciplinary study. They are expected to follow the schedule of steps towards their final oral project examination as outlined on both the English Department and Irish Studies websites.

If a student fails the Comp Exam more than once, or fails the Irish literature and culture oral project examination, his/her place in the program will be subject to review by the Graduate Policy Committee. If a student receives a grade of C or below, or takes an Incomplete in one or more of his/her classes, then s/he also will come under review by the GPC.

All graduate students are also governed by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Policies and Procedures.

Admission to the M.A. Program

Students are accepted for the fall semester only. The application deadline for the regular M.A. program, the M.A. in Irish Literature and Culture, and for the M.A.T. program is February 1. For the regular M.A. program and the M.A. in Irish Literature and Culture, the general Graduate Record Examination is required. (M.A.T. applicants, please see the Lynch School of Education admissions webpage.) Application forms should be accompanied by a personal statement, a writing sample, transcripts and three letters of recommendation. Apply on-line.

Financial Aid

Unlike many M.A. programs, we can offer financial aid to qualified applicants. Up to four M.A. students are given a full tuition scholarship, which covers all 30 credits required for the degree. Up to 16 M.A. students are given an annual $10,000 tuition scholarship. This award is guaranteed for the first year of graduate school, and is renewable for a second year. We expect renewal of the scholarship to be automatic if a student is making adequate progress in the program. All second-year students are eligible to compete for 24 Teaching Fellowships. Our Teaching Fellow program is one of the best currently available, involving course work and hands-on workshop training before the teaching begins, in addition to ongoing staff workshops and support. For information about other kinds of funding opportunities, please contact:

Office of Student Services

Lyons Hall
Boston College
Chestnut Hill, Mass. 02467

For more information please contact Christina Klein, Director of the M.A. Program.

Applications to the graduate program, including our on-line application system.

You may also E-mail or write to the following address:

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Admissions Office
Gasson Hall 108
Boston College
Chestnut Hill, Mass. 02467