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Getting the Master's in Literature

written by: Dr. Ranee Kaur Banerjee•edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch•updated: 9/22/2010

Why go for a Master's in Literature? What can you do with the degree? What makes you eligible? What do you have to do to get into a Master's in Literature program? Learn the answers for these questions and more.

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    I've always had a natural love for the written word and words have always had the power to pull me into their worlds. From the time I began reading, I've been a book-a-day kind of person: my day is incomplete without the magic woven by words. Stories, poems, plays, essays, biographies--no matter the genre--I am immersed into them in no time, lost to this world that others call real. For me, the worlds they take me to are real too, as are the characters and narrators who inhabit them and their visions, images, voices, relationships have enriched my life and my mind.

    If the above more or less describes you, you should consider a Master's in Literature.

    Graduate school programs in literature make it possible for you to learn critical theoretical approaches such as the Reader Response Theory or Deconstruction or Post-colonial Studies or Feminist Criticism and these inform your reading. The programs also help you develop and hone your research and analytical skills. You get to read texts of all kinds from all ages and can learn to identify the allusions and influences to other texts, places and ages. Your appreciation of the text can thus deepen; your interpretations become richer, more textured, more layered. Your thought process matures and you learn how to express your opinions in a cogent and persuasive manner. All this will stand you in extremely good stead in your career and relationships in the future.

    You have multiple choices of departments when it comes to a Master's program in Literature. You could choose to get your Master's in English, American, French, German, Spanish or any other national literature that has a substantial history and body of work. If you're interested in the ancient Greeks and Romans, you could get a Master's in the Classics. There are also Master's programs in Children's Literature and Mythology and Folklore or World Literature. Then, there's my favorite: Comparative Literature. You'll be spoiled for choice once you begin looking at Master's programs in Literature.

    Whatever your choice, in the US, a typical Master's in Literature would be a taught academic graduate degree program where you require 36 credit hours of coursework. Part of the coursework consists of required classes and the rest would depend of the electives you choose. Assessments are generally in the form of essays, examinations, term-papers, and oral or written quizzes. You would have to write a thesis in order to complete your academic requirements for the MA degree. This is normally an in-depth case study of about 12,000 to 15,000 words on a topic of your own choice that is approved by your Major Professor and the other 2 members of your thesis committee. Your committee then guides and supervises your research and writing. Generally, you can choose your own committee and Major Professor. In other countries, you would probably have a single "guide" or "tutor" who would supervise your research and its organization.

    After your Master's in Literature, there are many inviting and high-paying careers you could pursue in publishing, media, teaching, research, journalism, civil service, translation and advertising.

    Of course, if you're like me, your passion for texts would have been whetted even more and you will find yourself tending towards continuing your post-graduate studies to the logical conclusion of a PhD and a career in academia.