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Master of Arts Program

english department

We have designed the master's program with the goals and needs of a variety of students in mind. For those who are interested in eventually applying to Ph.D. programs, but would first like a stronger background in either the traditional or the newer fields, we can provide a solid and up-to-date grounding in the received canon of literature in English, and in the newer canons in the making, in rigorous scholarly methods and in cutting edge theoretical approaches. For well-grounded students who seek a greater sense of direction and specialization before undertaking Ph.D. work, we provide a range of seminars, emphasizing the development of theoretical and methodological sophistication. In addition, for students whose immediate goals include secondary education, publishing or related fields, we offer advanced courses in the theory, practice and teaching of composition, special "reading and teaching" and "writing and teaching" courses devoted to integrating interpretive, writing and teaching skills, and the same honing of research skills.

Master of Arts in Irish Literature and Culture

The MA 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 MA 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 MA students (ordinarily at least 12 per semester) and limit most courses to 20 students or fewer. 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 Examinations

The Comprehensive Exam requires students to demonstrate knowledge about literary periodization and to use close-reading skills.  It is three hours in length, and can be taken in the second year of study.  Although the exam will be offered at the end of both the fall and spring terms, we highly recommend it be taken in the Fall. 

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 examinations, 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 MA 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

Masters 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 three parts of 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. Students are encouraged to take at least one Comp exam and/or their Language Exam by the end of their first year. Students are not allowed to take more than two Comp Exams in one semester.

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 same 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 MA Program

Normally, students are accepted for the fall semester only. The application deadline for the regular MA program, the MA in Irish Literature and Culture, and for the MAT Program is February 1. For the regular MA program, both the general and subject Graduate Record Examinations are required. 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 MA programs, we can offer financial aid to qualified applicants. Up to four MA students are given a full tuition scholarship, which covers all 30 credits required for the degree.  Up to sixteen MA 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, MA 02467

For more information please contact Min Song, Director of the MA Program.

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

You may also email or write to the following address:

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