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    Dec 04, 2022  
2017-2018 Graduate Catalog 
2017-2018 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

English Major, MA

The MA in English has two concentrations: Literature, Criticism, and Textual Studies; and Rhetoric, Writing, and Linguistics.

Literature, Criticism, and Textual Studies concentration

A minimum of 24 credit hours in English beyond the BA to include 6 credit hours at the 600-level; 12 additional credit hours at the 500-600 level (only 3 credit hours of ENGL 593  may be applied toward the MA); and 6 credit hours for graduate credit at any level, including the 400-level. Students must take at least one course in each of the department’s three historical divisions: Medieval/Renaissance; 18th- and 19th-century British and American; and modern/contemporary. In this course work, students must maintain at least a 3.0 GPA.

Thesis Option

Written under the direction of a faculty member of the department and approved by a committee of two other faculty members. Six credit hours of credit will be given.

Non-Thesis Option

Six credit hours of additional courses at the 500-600 level, making a total of 30 credit hours of required course work.

Language Requirement

Evidence of proficiency in one foreign language to be fulfilled in one of the following ways.

  • Completion of the second year of a language at college level with a grade of C or better. 
  • Completion of FREN 302 or GERM 332 at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, with a grade of B or better. 
  • Passing of the regular PhD foreign language examination as currently administered at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Final Examination

A candidate presenting a thesis must pass a 1-hour oral examination; a candidate presenting a creative project must pass a ninety-minute oral examination. The examination consists of a short thesis defense, but chiefly of questions covering the general history of English and American literature, not merely the course work taken. A reading list of primary works designed to help the student prepare for these questions is available in the office of the Director of Graduate Studies in English.

A non-thesis student must pass a written examination, followed by a 1-hour oral examination, both consisting of the same sort of questions as the examination taken by the thesis student.

Residence Requirement

There is no residence requirement for the MA, but students should attempt to pursue a full-time program whenever possible.

Rhetoric, Writing, and Linguistics concentration

The MA’s concentration in rhetoric, writing, and linguistics offers specialized training for students who plan to do free-lance writing, to teach writing courses at the college level, to work as professional writers in business or industry, or to pursue the PhD in writing, rhetoric or composition. The program combines aspects of our regular MA degree training with specific writing courses and a thesis project that allows students to explore their topic in greater depth. Our graduates go on to excellent PhD programs in English as well as careers in editing, publishing, technical writing, and the non-profit and private sectors. Students who go on to complete the PhD may also find the MA with writing emphasis excellent training for programs in Rhetoric and Composition.

Course work

Writing students may substitute two 400-level writing courses for two 500-level courses. Students must take at least 9 credit hours in writing and 9 in literature, the remaining 6 to be selected from any English courses at the proper level. Of the courses in writing, at least 3 credit hours must be taken at the 500-level; additional 500-level courses are strongly recommended.

Writing Project


Students must complete a thesis that uses research to analyze some aspect of writing or rhetorical theory. The nature and length of the thesis project will be determined by the Director of Graduate Studies in English after consulting with the student and the thesis director. In addition to the thesis director, two other Department of English faculty members will supervise and approve the thesis; at least one should be from the literature faculty.

Final Examination

The reading list in Rhetoric, Writing, and Linguistics may be modified by the MA examining committee, meeting as a body with the student, to reflect the candidate’s particular writing emphasis. However, most of the oral examination should focus upon the literature outlined in the original reading list.

Writing concentration (refer to the Creative Writing major, MFA degree )