Exams format for Students Before Fall 2015

Students entering before fall 2015 may choose the old format of the exam until June 2016 when this format will no longer be an option. They must inform the GPD of their decision to take comprehensive exams, and designate which format, one semester before they plan to take them. As noted above,  current students already taking comprehensive exams (those who have taken one part already) may not move forward to the new format.                        

All exams are 3 hours in length.

Should a student fail either part of the examination, or both, he or she may retake the examination at the next scheduled date. The graduate faculty may stipulate additional coursework before a student is allowed to retake an exam. The comprehensive examination may be taken only 2 times, and if a student fails either part of both parts of the exam twice, he or she is dropped from the MA or MAEd in English program.                        

MA in English with a Concentration in Literature and MAEd

Two exams are required, one on Early Literature and one on Late Literature. Examinations include three parts:                        

    • 15 brief response topics, of which 10 must be identified and discussed briefly. Most of these terms will be literary terms of critical concepts, often associated with a particular period of literary study.                                 
    • Two essays are required.
    • An explication of a poem is required.

MA in English with a Concentration in Professional Writing

These exams are prepared by the teaching faculty in Professional Writing and test material covered in the Professional Writing courses as well as content material from the discipline itself. Students taking this exam should consult with the Director of the Professional Writing Program a semester before they plan to take the exam.                        

MA in English with a Concentration in Rhetoric and Composition

Two exams are required, one on rhetoric and one on composition. These exams are prepare by the teaching faculty in Rhetoric and Composition and test material covered in the Rhetoric and Composition courses as well as material on the Rhetoric and Composition Reading List below.                        

Reading lists and sample exams are included below.


Part I Early Literature



“Dream of the Rood,”

“The Wanderer,”

“Bede’s Account of Caedmon,” “Caedmon’s Hymn”

Middle English:


Canterbury Tales: “Prologue,”                              

“The Miller’s Tale,”

“The Wife of Bath’s Tale,”

“The Nun’s Priest’sTale,”

“The Pardoner’s Tale,”

Chaucer’s “Retraction”

Troilus and Criseyde


The Second Shepherd’s Play

“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”

Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XXI                              

The Book of Margery Kempe, Book I, Chapters 1-14; Book II

A Book of Showings to the Anchoress Julian of Norwich, Long Text (read Revelation 14 from this)                              

Early Modern

More , Utopia

Bacon: “Of Truth,” “Of Friendship,” “Of Studies,"

Marlowe, Dr. Faustus

Jonson, Volpone


Macbeth or Hamlet

Romeo and Juliet

The Tempest

Twelfth Night

Richard III or Richard II

Sonnets: Sidney's “Astrophel and Stella” # 1, 2, 5                              

Spenser's “Amoretti” # 1, 75

Shakespeare's # 12, 18, 29, 30

Ben Jonson, “On My First Daughter,” “On My First Son,” “To Penshurst”

Aemilia Lanyer, “The Description of Cooke-ham”

Katherine Philips, “On the Death of My First and Dearest Child, Hector Philips”

Andrew Marvell, “To His Coy Mistress,” “The Garden”

John Donne, “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning,” “The Flea,” “The Good Morrow,” Holy Sonnet 5, Holy Sonnet 10, Holy Sonnet 14                              

George Herbert, “The Pulley,” “The Collar,” “Easter Wings”

Anne Bradstreet, “Before the Birth of one of her Children,” “The Author to Her Book”

Edward Taylor, “The Preface” from God’s Determinations, “Huswifery,” Meditations 8, 16 (1st series)                              

Milton, Paradise Lost



Restoration & 18th Century

Congreve, The Way of the World

Dryden, “MacFlecknoe,” “Absalom and Achitophel”

Pope, An Essay on Man, Epistles 1 and 2 “The Rape of the Lock.”                              

Swift, “A Modest Proposal,” Gulliver's Travels, Book IV                              

Johnson, Rasselas

Franklin’s Autobiography, Parts 1 and 2; The Way to Wealth”                              

Dafoe, Moll Flanders

Goldsmith, The Deserted Village

Crabbe, The Village

Romantic (British and American)

Blake , Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experienc e

Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Shelley , Frankenstein

Wordsworth, “Preface” to Lyrical Ballads, “Tintern Abbey,” “Ode: Intimations of Immortality,” “My Heart Leaps Up,” “The World Is Too Much With Us,” “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” The Prelude, Books I, XII, XIII, XIV                              

Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, Chs. 13, 14, 17, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” “Kubla Khan,” “Dejection: An Ode,” “Frost at Midnight.”                              

Shelley, “Ode to the West Wind,” “To A Skylark,” “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty.”

Keats, “Ode to a Nightingale,” Ode on a Grecian Urn,” “To Autumn,” “Ode to Melancholy,” “On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer,” “La Belle Dame San Merci.”                              

Whitman, Song of Myself, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d”                              

Dickinson, Johnson numbers 49, 303, 324, 401, 1078, 1129, 1624, 1732.

Emerson, “The American Scholar,” “The Poet”

Thoreau, Walden

Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

Melville, Moby-Dick

Poe, “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Cask of Amontillado.”

Part II Later Literature


C. Rossetti, “Goblin Market”

Arnold, “Dover Beach,” “The Scholar Gypsy”

Browning, “Andrea del Sarto,” “Fra Lippo Lippi,” “The Bishop Orders His Tomb,” “My Last Duchess”                              

Tennyson, In Memoriam, “The Lady of Shalott,” “Ulysses”                              

Dickens, Hard Times

Eliot, The Mill on the Floss

C. Bronte, Jane Eyre

Carlyle, “The Everlasting No,” “Centre of Indifference,” “The Everlasting Yea,” and “Natural Supernaturalism” from Sartor Resartus

Arnold, Culture and Anarchy, Chapters 1 and 2                              

Mill, On Liberty, Chapter 3                              

American Realism

Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Chopin, The Awakening

Twain, Huckleberry Finn

Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Chapters I, VII, X, XIV, XXI, XLI                              

Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life

James, The Turn of the Screw

Crane, “The Open Boat”

Modern (British and American)

Yeats, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” “Sailing to Byzantium,” “An Irish Airman Foresees  His Death,” “The Second Coming,” “Easter 1916”                              

Eliot, The Waste Land, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”                              

Stevens, “Sunday Morning,” “The Idea of Order at Key West,” “The Snow Man”

Frost, “After Apple-Picking,” “Mending Wall,” “Design,” “Birches”

Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as A Young Man, “The Dead”                              

Lawrence, “Odor of Chrysanthemums,” “The Horse-Dealer’s Daughter 

Woolf, A Room of One's Own

Langston Hughes, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” “The Weary Blues”

Gwendolyn Brooks, “kitchenette building,” “the mother,” “We Real Cool”

Faulkner, As I Lay Dying, “Barn Burning”                              

Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises; “Hills Like White Elephants 

H.D., “The Walls Do Not Fall” from Trilogy

O'Connor, “Good Country People,” “A Good Man Is Hard To Find”

Warren, All the King’s Men

Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

Miller, The Crucible

Wright , Native Son

Morrison, Beloved

Alice Walker, The Color Purple

Silko, Ceremony

Louise Erdrich, Love Medicine

Postmodern, World, and Postcolonial Literature

Dickey, Deliverance

Swift, Waterland

Stoppard , Arcadia

Ginsburg, Howl, “A Supermarket in California”                              

Bishop, “The Fish,” “In the Waiting Room”

Lowell, “Skunk Hour,” “For the Union Dead,” “Quaker Graveyard”

Rich, “Living in Sin,” “Diving Into the Wreck”

Plath, “Lady Lazarus,” “Daddy”

Achebe, Things Fall Apart; “An Image of Africa”                              

Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians

Bessie Head, “Life”

Nadine Gordimer, “Town and Country Lovers”

Kincaid, “Girl”

Rushdie, Midnight’s Children

Markandaya, Nectar in a Sieve

Jhumpa Lahiri, “A Temporary Matter”

Kingston, Woman Warrior

Borges, “The Garden of Forking Paths”

Marquez, “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”

Atwood, Surfacing

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