Comprehensive Exam: Creative Writing Emphasis

English Master of Arts Program


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The comprehensive examination for the M.A. in English with Emphasis on Creative Writing is administered by the candidate's examining committee. Traditionally, the examining committee consists of three members from the Department of English, Linguistics, and Writing Studies and one related field/minor examiner from outside the departments. (Candidates offering linguistics as an internal related field or a designated minor should familiarize themselves with the description of Linguistics as an Internal Related Field or Designated Minor.")

The comprehensive examination consists of a six-hour written portion and a one-hour oral component.

Written Portion

The written exam is a three-part test taken over two days. All parts of the written examination will test the candidate's writing ability. Texts and notes are not allowed for the second and third parts of the examination unless an individual's committee decrees otherwise.

Part One: Primary Text with Selected Secondary Works (Two Hours)

One part, lasting two hours, will be a close analysis of an approved text from a work of literature (in English or another language), non-fiction prose, criticism, theory, or linguistics, with 5-8 secondary or critical works related to the primary text, selected and approved at least four weeks before the examination. Complete bibliographical information should be included for these works for approval.

A copy of the primary text and notes on the secondary texts may be used during this part of the examination. All other portions of the exam are closed-book.

Part Two: Three Reading Lists (Three Hours)

1. Contemporary Literature (1 hour):
a reading list focusing on a variety of modernist, postmodernist, and other post-1900 literature in more than one genre and national tradition.

2. History of Authorship and/or Readership (1 hour):
a reading list of either literary or critical works focusing on pre-1900 developments in the cultural construction of authors and/or readers.

3. Historical and Material Contexts of Creative Writing (1 hour):
a reading list of either literary or critical works focusing on contextual topics such as media, genre, markets, technology, or other social, economic, or material conditions affecting creative writing (1 hour)

Part Three: Comparative Analysis (One Hour)

The third part, lasting an hour, is comparative analysis of works drawn from the diverse reading lists above.

Questions in this section will be based on 8-12 works selected from the "Primary Text" or "Literature, Language, Culture" reading lists. The candidate will select this list in consultation with the Exam Committee Chair or other designated member of the exam committee. The Comparative-Analysis Reading List must be included in the Master Reading List Document and distributed to the entire committee at least four weeks before the written exam at the latest, though ideally at the beginning of the semester when the exam is to take place.

Oral Portion

On the fourth working day after successful completion of the written exam portion, the candidate will meet with the examining committee for the one-hour oral component (see "Principles and Procedures For Conducting the Oral Component of the Comprehensive Exam").