MA in English Literature – Prospective Students

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Why MA in English Lit?

Beyond gaining familiarity with major works of literature, with literary and critical trends and approaches, students in the MA in English Literature program hone their analytical skills, their critical competence, and their ability to work with new and unfamiliar materials.

Employers value our graduates’ ability to creatively and critically engage with the challenges of working with complex texts. Unlike vocational training, which qualifies students for work in one particular field, graduate training in liberal education (within which English is the largest and most versatile discipline) develops skills and competences that prepare students to adapt to new situations and challenges in a wide variety of fields that require thoughtful engagement with people and with documents.

Our flexible curriculum and constantly changing course offerings allow students to choose their own path to the degree, whether they want a historically distributed survey of the various periods of English and Anglophone literatures, or to focus on modern and contemporary writing and global literary phenomena. The MA thesis written under the individual supervision of a faculty member trains students to perform challenging research tasks and also prepares them for doctoral training.

Members of our graduate faculty hold PhDs from the top research institutions in their fields, and publish their work in major journals and with leading presses. Our cooperation with European universities offers our students the opportunity to spend a semester at our partner institutions in Germany, Italy, France, Austria, as well as at other locations.

Graduates of the program often go on to jobs in education, while others have chosen career paths in administration, healthcare, law, etc. The program is also an important stepping stone to further graduate study—each year, students who graduated from our program are admitted to leading PhD programs that offer a full financial package (tuition waiver plus a stipend sufficient to live on). Other students go into professions ranging from advocacy, publishing and reporting to marketing, consulting, web-design and technology.

What do we ask for and what do we look for in applicants?

Students with good reading and writing skills and wide-ranging cultural interests are especially encouraged to apply.

A previous degree in English is generally expected but not formally required. As an alternative, an undergraduate degree in another humanities major (a foreign language, art history, philosophy, or history, for example) is adequate. If you have no humanities degree, the personal statement in your application should put a special emphasis on demonstrating your interest in the sustained exploration of literary texts and your ability to critically engage with them in writing. If a longer period of time has passed between your graduation and your application, you might also want to explain how you spent those years and why you decided to return to higher education. In addition to speaking to your motivations and goals, your personal statement ought to convey the nature of your interest in the subject in concrete terms: a love of books is good, but finding Zadie Smith’s or Jane Austen’s novels fascinating for some specific reason is much better. We are interested in your interests.

Two letters of recommendation should come from your professors. If this is not possible, we would like to see letters from employers or colleagues that can testify not only to your moral integrity but also to your intellectual habits and academic investments.

We also ask for two writing samples that showcase your ability to discuss and analyze literary or cultural phenomena. These two essays should total at least 12 pages, but no longer than 20 pages each. The samples should be critical essays – not creative texts (so not stories or poems). If you are uncertain about your writing samples, please feel free to contact the program director to check whether they fulfill requirements:

The writing sample(s), personal statement, and letters of recommendation are all key elements of the application. Together with the transcripts, which are also required, they should demonstrate your preparation and interest in pursuing an MA in Literature. No one of these four elements is necessarily decisive: we are evaluating the application materials holistically.

For more information about the application process, go to .
In addition to this main page, also browse the menu items, including the FAQ.

International students should also consult and
for required language test scores.


About tuition, fees, and funding options, check here:  (Although the former is more straightforward and clear, you can also take a look here: )

The program does not offer assistantships or other forms of stipend. There is a small set of options you can look at here:

What to expect from our program

Part time / full time

Our MA program is designed to be very flexible in terms of enrollment. Officially, full-time enrollment is 9 credits (3 courses) per semester. While some students may need to maintain full-time enrollment because of the requirements of their visa or their student loans, the program itself does not require a particular number of courses to be taken per semester. Tuition is per credit: from our perspective, there is no distinction between part-time and full-time students. Our students take anywhere between 1 and 3, sometimes 4 courses per semester. Taking a semester off is also not complicated. Nevertheless, international students ought to maintain what the College and various authorities consider full-time enrollment in graduate courses (9 credits, or 3 courses) to maintain their immigration status. Student loans and scholarships may also require that you enroll full-time.


Academically, our program is also very flexible. Each semester, there is a different set of 4-7 literature courses offered, and students can pick and choose what piques their interest and fits their schedule. For current offerings and recent semesters, you can look here:

Classes are all offered in late afternoon and in the evening, making it possible to enroll while working full-time. Our program is fully in-person, with the occasional hybrid course option.

The program requires students to take 27 credits (9 courses) total. Of this, 21 credits (7 courses) must be Literature courses offered by our own MA program. The remaining 6 credits (2 courses) can also be courses in our Department’s MFA in Creative Writing Program, or Language and Literacy MA program, or graduate courses at other CCNY departments or other CUNY schools. Registration for our courses requires departmental permission, so enrollment for a semester’s classes is preceded by pre-registration, when students discuss with the program director the courses they want to take. Once we have agreed on your schedule for the semester, we enter permissions in the CUNYFirst enrollment management system, and then you are able to register for the courses you selected.


Fall Application Deadline: May 01
Spring Application Deadline: November 15

Application Requirements/Application Checklist:

  • Official Transcript(s)
  • Resume/CV
  • Two Letters of Recommendation
  • Personal Statement
  • Two Writing Samples, 12 pages total, no longer than 20 pages each (see details above)
  • $75 fee


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