To enter the graduate program in English a candidate must satisfy the requirements both of the Graduate School and the Department of English. A candidate should have a bachelor’s degree, with at least 18 hours in English above the freshmen level, 12 of which must be in literature. Normally, only students with a grade point average of 3.0 in undergraduate English courses and an overall undergraduate average of 2.75 will be considered. Though the English department welcomes scores from the Graduate Record Aptitude Exam and letters of recommendation, it does not require either of these. (Students applying for Teaching Assistantships, please see "Financial Aid and Teaching Assistantships.")

The Graduate Admissions Office can provide information about admission. Apply online for admission. Contact them at (314)516-5458 or

Applications to the MA in English are considered at all times. However, because spaces in graduate courses are limited, it is strongly advised that prospective students submit their applications well before the semester begins in order to gain admission into their appropriate classes (typically July 1 for the Fall Semester, December 1 for the Spring, and May 1 for the Summer).

Degree Requirements

In addition to the Graduate School requirements, students must complete at least 30 hours, 24 hours of which must be in 5000-level courses. Twelve hours may be taken in 4000-level courses approved by the department and Graduate School.

Required of both concentrations, literature and writing studies:

  • ENGL 5000: Introduction to Graduate Study in English. Focuses on bibliography, research methods, and literary criticism. Should be taken at the outset of the program, for graduate (not undergraduate) credit.

Students who choose a literature track must also take at least one course in each of the following six areas:

  • Area 1, British literature before 1660
    • Satisfied by English 5250, English 5300;  English 4200- and 4300-range courses; English 493;  English 4939.
  • Area 2, British literature between 1660 and 1900
    • Satisfied by English 5400, English 5500; some English 5920 and English 5950 sections; English 4400- and 4500-range courses; English 4932; English 4934.
  • Area 3, Twentieth-century literature (British, American, post-colonial, or in translation)
    • Satisfied by English 5700; some English 5920 and English 5950 sections; English 4650, 4740, 4750, 4770, 4937, 4938;  some 4950 sections.
  • Area 4, American literature
    • Satisfied by English 5600, English 5700; some English 5920 and English 5950 sections; English 4600-range courses; some 4937, 4938, 4950 sections.
  • Area 5, Theories of writing, criticism, language, and/or culture
    • Satisfied by English 5800-range courses; some 5950 sections; English 4800-range courses (except 4880/4885/4888/4890/4892, which may not be taken for MA credit); English 6880 (Summer Gateway Writing Institute).
  • Area 6, Literature in translation study of a particular literary genre, or a course in another relevant discipline
    • Satisfied by some English 5920 and English 5950 sections; some English 4950 sections; TchEd 6890 (Writing Certificate capstone); relevant courses outside the department.
Students who choose the writing studies track must take:
    ENGL 5000 constitutes three of these required literature credits)
  • 18 hours in writing studies courses (including ENGL 5840)

If students choose the thesis option (6 hours) they will take 15 hours in literature and 15 hours in writing studies.

In addition to English 5000 (which is counted as a literature course), students must also take English  5840, Theories of Writing. English graduate courses that may count toward this emphasis are:

  • 5800 Sociolinguistics
  • 5840 Theories of Writing (required)
  • 5850 Studies in Composition
  • 5860 Writing/Reading Theory
  • 5870 Composition Research
  • 5890 Teaching College Writing
  • 6880 Gateway Project Invitational Institute (Same as TchEd 6880)
  • 5950 Seminar in Special Topics (when topic is appropriate)

Students who choose the composition track must take:

  • 18 hours in literature courses
  • 18 hours in composition

If students choose the thesis option (6 hours) they will take 15 hours in literature and 15 hours in writing studies.

5000 Introduction to Graduate Study in English (3)
A course especially designed to prepare students to perform effectively in graduate classes in English. The course is concerned with basic bibliographical tools; terminology, both technical and historical; various approaches to the study of literature, such as intrinsic analysis of a literary work, the relationships of biography to literary study, and the relevance of other disciplines (psychology or philosophy, for example) to literature; the writing of interpretive and research essays. Throughout the semester a balance between criticism and research is maintained.

5030 Literary Criticism (3)
An examination of selected theories of literature.

5040 Feminist Critical Theory (3)
A consideration of feminist critical theory as a means of reassessing literary texts and our cultural heritage. In providing an interdisciplinary context the course will examine studies in psychology, anthropology, history, and philosophy/theology which have influenced and enriched feminist approaches to literature.

5250 Studies in Middle English Literature (3)
Special topics in English literature before 1500.

5300 Renaissance Literature (3)
Special topics in English literature from 1500 to 1660.

5400 Eighteenth-Century Literature (3)
Studies in Augustan poetry and prose, including drama and fiction, with emphasis on background and major figures.

5910 Studies in Poetry (3)
Study of a few selected British and American poets.

5920 Studies in Fiction (3)
Study of a few selected British and American novelists and short story writers.

5930 Studies in Drama (3)
Study of a few selected British and American dramatists.

5500 Nineteenth-Century Literature (3)
Special topics in English romanticism, in Victorian life and thought, and in the development of the novel and of poetry between 1797 and 1914.

5600 American Literature Before 1900 (3)
Selected American writers or topics from the Colonial period to 1900.

5700 Twentieth-Century American Literature (3)
Selected American writers or topics from 1900 to the present.

5750 Twentieth-Century British Literature (3)
Selected British and Commonwealth writers of the twentieth century.

5840 Theories of Writing (3) (Required)
An analysis of modern composition theory.

5860 Writing/Reading Theory (3)
The parallel evolution of reading and writing theory and pedagogy. Topics include the influence of psycholinguistics and reader-response theory and the link between reading and writing theory and instruction.

5870 Composition Research (3)
Students analyze and conduct research in composition. Course work teaches students to evaluate methodologies and implications, and to analyze data and to design research.

5890 Teaching College Writing (3)
Provides the opportunity for practical application of composition theory with emphasis on improving teaching skills. Strongly recommended for Teaching Assistants.

5880 Gateway Writing Project Invitational Institute (6)
(Same as Tch Ed 6880) An intensive course in the writing process and the writing curriculum, designed for experience teachers. Readings of current theory and research will be related to participants' experience as writers and as teachers. Topics may vary. May be repeated for credit. No more than six hours may be applied toward the M.Ed.

5850 Studies in Composition (3)
The study of special topics in composition. Topics may include History of Composition, Psychology of Writing, Reader Response Theory, etc.

5940 Seminar in Gender and Literature (3)
Gender studies in literature of different periods, types, and genres; satisfies area requirement appropriate to its period, national literature, and genre. Same as WGS 5940.

5950 Seminar in Special Topics (1-3)
Special topics which are not covered in other graduate-level English courses.

5970 Independent Readings (1-3)
Directed study in areas of English for which courses are not available.

6000 Master's Thesis (6)
Research and Writing on a selected topic in literary criticism, theory, or composition.

Transfer Credit

Subject to the approval of the Graduate Committee of the English Department and the Graduate Dean, a student may transfer a maximum of twelve hours of graduate course work from other universities. This may include credit earned prior to or subsequent to enrollment at UMSL. Petitions should be submitted to the Graduate Program Director, who will convey the Committee's recommendations to the Graduate Dean for final action. The University does not accept graduate credit for courses from institutes unless the institutes were conducted by UMSL. A candidate working toward an UMSL degree must confer with the Graduate Program Director before enrolling in any course offered by another institution for which graduate credit is anticipated.

Inter-University Graduate Exchange Program

Under the Inter-University Graduate Exchange Program offered by UMSL, Washington University, and Saint Louis University, a student working towards the Master of Arts in English degree at UMSL may take up to 6 hours of graduate credit at Washington University or at Saint Louis University. Credit hours and grade points obtained through the program are automatically counted toward the UMSL degree, and tuition fees are assessed at the UMSL rate. To register for a course offered through the Exchange Program, a student must secure the permission of the off-campus instructor and the Graduate Program Director, and submit the requisite form, which must be obtained in person from the Registrar.

Independent Reading

English 5970, Independent Reading, is primarily designed to allow a Master's candidate to do intensive work in an area of study that has not been or is not likely to become the subject of a regular course or seminar during the student's time in the program. A student who desires to undertake independent study must justify the project to the prospective supervising professor and to the Graduate Program Director. Normally permission to take English 5970 will be granted only once in a student's course of study, and only after the student has completed at least 15 hours of graduate work in English. Moreover, the course may not be used to satisfy program distribution requirements.

Any graduate student who desires to pursue a course of independent reading must confer with the faculty member with whom he or she wishes to work prior to the start of the term in which such a course of study is contemplated. Once the instructor's consent has been received and a schedule of work established, the student should obtain a copy of the Independent Reading Petition from the Graduate Program Director. This form requires a description of the project and the signature of the supervising Graduate Faculty member. It must then be submitted to the Program Director for endorsement; the Program Director will then issue a consent number for the appropriate section of English 5970.

Master's Thesis

Students may elect the thesis option, which requires a total of 6 hours of thesis credit. The thesis will engage the student in sustained and self-motivated study through the processes of research, conferring with advisors, drafting and revising text. The thesis must be approved and assigned a grade by a thesis committee. The student will select a major professor who, after consulting with the chair and the graduate coordinator, will select two other members of the committee.

Literature Emphasis: The thesis should demonstrate original thought and substantial research and may be a critical study of literary works or a theoretical exploration of issues related to literature.

Writing Studies Emphasis: The final document will demonstrate significant familiarity with scholarship in Writing Studies through the critical analysis and clear synthesis of published research, observational data (where appropriate) and the student’s thoughts/views/reflections/positions. The thesis may be a critical study, theoretical exploration or descriptive assessment of fieldwork drawing on writing, language, rhetorical, socio-cultural or reading theories; literacy; and the history of writing instruction; composition pedagogies; technologies.

Learn more about the master's thesis.


Before registering for the first semester of course work, students should contact the Graduate Program Director to plan a course of study. Thereafter, students will consult with the Director, who serves as adviser to all Master of Arts in English candidates, during each registration period and as the need for advising arises.

Course Load

The minimum course load for a full-time graduate student is nine hours for a regular semester and five hours for the summer term. Graduate students holding departmental assistantships may register for a maximum of nine hours each semester. To register for an overload, a student must have a GPA of at least 3.5 and obtain the written permission of the Graduate Program Director and the Graduate Dean. Forms for requesting permission to register for an overload may be obtained from the Program Director. Such permission will be given only in exceptional circumstances.

Delayed Grades

A graduate student is expected to complete all course assignments by the end of the term in which a course is taken. On occasion, a student may request a delayed grade, but it is left to the discretion of the instructor whether or not to grant the delay. The Graduate School stipulates that delayed grades must be removed within two regular semesters after the time recorded or they automatically become failing grades. However, the English Department encourages the expeditious removal of such grades. Multiple delayed grades may affect the number of courses a student is permitted to enroll for in subsequent semesters and may also lead to academic probation.

Grade Requirement

To receive the Master of Arts in English degree, a student must have a grade-point average of 3.0 or better at the completion of course work. If at any time a student's GPA should fall below 3.0, the student may be placed on probation by the Graduate School. (Any student with a GPA below 2.0 will be dismissed from the Graduate School.) At the end of each semester, the Graduate Committee will review the work of each student who is on probation or on restricted status. Students failing to make reasonable progress will be dismissed from the Master of Arts in English program. Reviews of the work of all students in the program will be made at least once a year.

Time Limitation

Graduate School rules state that students must complete all degree requirements within six years after initial enrollment. Students not registering for two consecutive semesters must reapply for admission to the program unless they have been granted an authorized leave of absence by the Graduate Dean.

The major source of financial aid for the Master of Arts in English candidates is departmental assistantships.

Teaching Assistants receive a stipend each semester, along with 100% remission of their tuition, and pay in-state fees. During their first term, Teaching Assistants tutor in the Writing Center, serve as apprentice teachers in English1100: First-Year Writing, and participate in other professional development activities; they typically teach two sections of English 1100 in the following terms. Assistants can expect to work approximately 20 hours per week.

Positions are renewable for up to six semesters, contingent on satisfactory performance. Some Summer teaching opportunities, which carry tuition remission and a per-course stipend, have traditionally been available.

Applications for admission to the MA program must be submitted prior to applications for Teaching Assistantships. Required materials for Assistantships include:

All materials, including materials from recommenders, should be sent to Dr. Chris Schott, Chair of the English Graduate Committee.

Assistantships are usually awarded in early April, and Assistants normally begin their appointments in the Fall term. The Graduate School requires that TAs enroll in at least six hours each term. Assistantships provide six semesters of funding, so students will want to plan their degree path and course loads appropriately to ensure finishing their degree in a timely fashion.

Teaching Assistants are required to take English 5890, Teaching College Writing, typically during their first semester in the program.

Each Spring, the Master of Arts in English Prize Essay will be selected by a departmental committee from among those papers submitted to it by Graduate Faculty during the preceding academic year. The author may revise the paper prior to submission. All papers must be received by the Department Chair by February 1; the award will be presented to the winner at a departmental colloquium in the Spring.