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MA in Literary Studies

Students in classroom.

The MA in Literary Studies introduces students to the professional study of literature. It is possible to apply directly to the PhD program without entering a Master's program here or elsewhere; however, many students feel the MA is an appropriate step toward the PhD. These students may have had an undergraduate major in a different field, or may feel that more preparation is advisable for other reasons; some may intend to complete their studies elsewhere. Students interested in a career in any area of book studies (professional writing, editing, webdesign, or publishing), may wish to take the MA as a terminal degree, as might teachers seeking to enhance their credentials or students pursuing intellectual growth unrelated to a specific career.

MA and PhD applicants compete in the same admissions process. Once admitted, MA and PhD students mix freely in graduate courses, share the same access to faculty, and meet the same standards of quality in their work. A Master’s thesis or Master’s portfolio is the culmination of work for the MA. 

Program Requirements

Required Courses

Each student must take 19 s.h. of the following courses at the 5000 level or above.

  • One course in criticism and theory
  • One course in Introduction to Graduate Studies
  • At least one graduate English course in British, American, or other Anglophone literatures in any four of the following five historical periods:
    —Literature and culture before 1500
    —Literature and culture 1500-1660
    —Literature and culture 1660-1800
    —Literature and culture British 1800-1900
    —Literature and culture from 1900 to the present
  • One course in M.A. Portfolio in Literary Studies or M.A. Thesis in Literary Studies

Elective Courses

Comprising of 12 s.h. of the total credit for the degree, these courses may be chosen from graduate offerings both inside and outside the English Department. Students intending to apply to the PhD program are encouraged to begin work toward the foreign language requirement for that degree. Others may wish to explore the many opportunities for interdisciplinary study, for experience in the theory and practice of writing, or for specialization in a field of literary scholarship.

Other Requirements

Completion of the MA requires either a thesis or a portfolio. Students submit a written description of their choice to the director of the program before the semester in which they plan to graduate.

The MA requires a total of 31 semester hours. Students may receive credit for up to 6 s.h. of transfer courses towards the degree, subject to the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies of English.  Students must maintain a g.p.a. of at least 3.0 at the University of Iowa.  Students wishing to transfer to the PhD program at Iowa must complete two semesters or 15 s.h. of coursework in literature (whichever comes first) before applying for admission to the doctoral program.