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Program Description

The English department emphasizes preparation for the Ph.D.; for other advanced degrees (such as the M.LS. or J.D.); for careers which would benefit from the advanced study of research, critical analysis, and writing; and for careers in secondary education.

Degree Requirements

The minimum requirement for the M.A. in English is 33 hours of graduate credit in English. All students must take Eng 600: Research Methods in their first semester, and one course that is dedicated to literature pre-1800. At least 24 hours of a student’s graduate credit must be earned in courses at the 600 level or above, exclusive of Eng 501: Professional Seminar in College Composition. Nine hours constitute a full-time graduate course load.

The 33-hour requirement is the minimum for the degree. Students may, whenever possible, take courses in addition to the 33-hour minimum. The Graduate Studies Committee of the English Department reviews applications for admission and makes recommendations to the Graduate School under three classifications: unconditional, conditional, and provisional admission. (Admission to non-degree status is not a matter for departmental review.) The English M.A. Program requirements are summarized on this checklist.

A Excellent 4.0
A- 3.7
B+ Very Good 3.3
B Good 3.0
B- 2.7
C Poor 2.0
F Failure 0.0
S/U Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory [Thesis and selected courses]

Additionally, the following bear upon grading policy:

  • Plus and minus grading is optional for faculty. Grading policies are stated on seminar syllabi.

  • Graduate students may register for graduate courses using the “audit” option for elective courses only. These courses will not count as part of the student’s program of study. Under no circumstances may the credit option be changed from “audit” to “credit” or “credit” to “audit”. Students are required to pay for audited courses. Audited courses cannot be paid for using any university source of funding.

  • A grade of “S” (Satisfactory) or “U” (Unsatisfactory) will be given to a student for each semester he or she is registered for thesis work before the thesis is completed. A grade of “I” (Incomplete) will be given if, for some reason, the student was unable to achieve the degree of progress anticipated.

  • A grade of “NC” (no credit) will be given for comprehensive continuance and thesis continuance.

  • Courses in which a student receives an “I” (incomplete) must be completed before the end of the next regular semester, or the grade is reported permanently as an “F”.

  • Please see the Graduate Catalog for additional details.
Honor Code

All graduate students are required to watch a web-video containing information about the JMU Honor Code and then take a web-based test on the material. This must be completed by the end of the student’s first semester at JMU, or a hold will be placed on the student’s registration. The Honor Code test is administered by the Honor Council.

Satisfactory Progress

A graduate student will receive notice of academic warning upon receiving a grade of “C” in any two graduate courses or if the student’s grade point average falls below 3.0. This academic warning will be noted on the student’s transcript. A student will be dismissed from the degree program, or provisional status will be revoked, if the student receives an “F” or “U” in any graduate course or a total of three “C” grades in his or her graduate program. A student cannot graduate with a GPA below 3.0.

Changes in the Catalog

A graduate student may elect to follow the catalog in effect at the time of first registration through to graduation or may request to change to any new catalog issued prior to the completion of studies. However, it is The Graduate School policy that published descriptions of degrees establish only minimum requirements and that it is the prerogative of each school or department to make changes in programs at any time. A student is expected to satisfy any additional departmental regulations approved by the University’s Commission on Graduate Studies (if required) and put in effect prior to graduation, regardless of current or previous catalog content.


The Director of Graduate Studies acts as advisor for all M.A. students on all academic and administrative matters. Students are required to meet with the Director toward the middle of their first semester in the program for discussion of the student’s progress and performance. Students are also strongly encouraged to meet with the Director each semester to plan their coursework for the following semester. Those contemplating further study at the doctoral level should seek the advice and support of the Director and of those members of the graduate faculty whose fields align with the student’s own interests well in advance of application deadlines. Students who choose the thesis option will select a thesis director and two readers from among the graduate faculty. Students should consult the thesis director for advice about committee selection and about the thesis generally. 

Continuous Graduate Enrollment

All students enrolled in graduate degree programs must enroll each regular semester for a minimum of one graduate credit hour. This registration must continue with no breaks from enrollment in the first graduate program course to graduation. This policy does not include summer sessions. Students should enroll in courses relevant to their graduate program to facilitate timely completion. If it is not possible to do so, however, The Graduate School has established a one-credit Continuous Enrollment course, GRAD 597. The tuition for this course is $50.00. No grade will be assigned for this course. For more information, please refer to the Graduate Catalog and the Director of Graduate Studies.

Foreign Language Requirement

Completion of the second year of a college foreign language course or passing an examination demonstrating intermediate competency in a foreign language is required for all students of the Master of Arts degree.

Course Descriptions and Offerings


ENG 512. Special Topics Seminar. 3 credits.

Cross-listed with 400-level courses, for graduate credit. Additional academic work required of graduate students. Registration requires a proposal and permission of the Director of Graduate Studies and the faculty member teaching the course. May be repeated twice for credit when content varies.

ENG 595. Graduate Internship in English. 1 credit.

English graduate student internships. Graduate students identify a prospective employer and work as an intern during the summer, fall or spring semester. Prerequisite: Graduate student status. Credit may not be applied to program requirements.

ENG 600. Research Methods. 3 credits.

Introduction to research and writing in the discipline for beginning graduate students. Advanced training in research methods and citation, in critical analysis and scholarly writing, and in disciplinary history and the workings of the academy. Required for all Master of Arts students in their first semester.

ENG 601. History of Literary Criticism. 3 credits.

Advanced readings in the nature, function and development of literary criticism, from the classics to modernism (from Plato, Aristotle, and Plotinus to Marx and Freud).

ENG 602. Contemporary Critical Theory. 3 credits.

Advanced study of the major debates in current critical discourse, covering such topics as formalism, structuralism, deconstruction, Marxism, new historicism, cultural studies, feminist and queer studies, postcolonial and race studies, and post-humanism.

ENG 603. Studies in the History of the English Language. 3 credits.

Social, cultural, political, and grammatical history of the English language, with attention to changing forms of spoken and written language in terms of phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics.

ENG 604. Contemporary Linguistics. 3 credits.

Survey of linguistics, with some emphasis on the English language, and of contemporary issues in the application of linguistic theory.

ENG 605.
Professional Seminar in Literature Pedagogy. 3 credits.

Practical examination of the content and methodology of teaching college-level English courses for the training of beginning teaching assistants. Required for all beginning teaching assistants.

ENG 608. Textuality. 3 credits

A study of material textuality and literary production. Topics may include manuscript and print culture, the History of the Book, bibliography, the history of commercial publishing, periodical studies, graphic novels, historical lexicography, and post-print textual practices. Topics may be determined by period or geography, culture or politics, theme or genre. May be repeated when content varies.

ENG 610. Studies in Gender and Sexuality. 3 credits.

An examination of literature through the lens of contemporary theories of gender and sexuality. May be repeated when content varies.

ENG 612. Topics in Theory and Cultural Studies. 3 credits.

Advanced readings in contemporary critical or linguistic theory or in cultural studies that are focused by topic, period, culture, or theme. May be repeated when content varies.

ENG 615. Studies in Medieval Literature. 3 credits.

Medieval literatures in the original or in translation produced between ca. 500-1475 in England, Ireland, Iceland, Scandinavia, the European Continent, and the Middle East. Topics may be determined by period or geography, culture or politics, theme or genre. May be repeated when content varies.

ENG 620. Studies in Renaissance and Early Modern Literature. 3 credits.

British literature of the Renaissance and Early Modern Periods (1476-1660). Topics may be determined by period or geography, culture or politics, theme or genre. May be repeated when content varies.

ENG 630. Studies in Restoration and 18th-Century British Literature. 3 credits.

British literature from ca. 1660 to 1800. Topics may be determined by period or geography, culture or politics, theme or genre. May be repeated when content varies.

ENG 640. Studies in 19th-Century British Literature. 3 credits.

British literature of the 19th century. Topics may be determined by period or geography, culture or politics, theme or genre. May be repeated when content varies.

ENG 645. Studies in 20th- and 21st-Century British Literature. 3 credits

British literature of the 20th and 21st centuries. Topics may be determined by period or geography, culture or politics, theme or genre. May be repeated when content varies.

ENG 650. Studies in Early American Literature. 3 credits.

American literatures of the colonial and early national periods (16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, through ca. 1820). Topics may be determined by period or geography, culture or politics, theme or genre. May be repeated when content varies.

ENG 651. Studies in 19th-Century American Literature. 3 credits.

American literature of the 19th century. Topics may be determined by period or geography, culture or politics, theme or genre. May be repeated when content varies.

ENG 656. Studies in Latin American Literature. 3 credits.

Works by Latin American writers in translation. Topics may be determined by period or geography, culture or politics, theme or genre. Although the majority of these writers will be Spanish-speakers, there may also be some coverage of Brazilian literature. May be repeated when content varies.

ENG 662. Studies in 20th- and 21st-Century Literature of the United States. 3 credits.

American literature of the 20th and 21st centuries. Topics may be determined by period or geography, culture or politics, theme or genre. May be repeated when content varies.

ENG 664. Studies in Drama. 3 credits.

Dramatic literature and performance, broadly construed. Topics may be determined by period or geography, culture or politics, theme or genre. May be repeated when content varies.

ENG 666. Studies in Film and Media. 3 credits.

Advanced study of mass media, such as film, broadcast television and radio, and digital media. Topics may be determined by period or geography, culture or politics, theme or genre. May be repeated when content varies.

ENG 668. Studies in African Literature. 3 credits.

Literatures of Africa in translation. Topics may be determined by period or geography, culture or politics, theme or genre. May be repeated when content varies.

ENG 671. Studies in South Asian Literature. 3 credits.

Non-U.S., non-British literature in English or in translation. Topics may be determined by period or geography, culture or politics, theme or genre. May be repeated when content varies.

ENG 672. Studies in African-American Literature. 3 credits.

African-American literature of the 20th and 21st century in the context of the cultural and intellectual currents of the period. Topics may be determined by period or geography, culture or politics, theme or genre. May be repeated when content varies.

ENG 673. Studies in Caribbean Literature. 3 credits.

Advanced study of the literary achievement of novelists, poets and dramatists of the Caribbean, with emphasis on diverse theoretical and historical approaches. Topics may be determined by period or geography, culture or politics, theme or genre. May be repeated when content varies.

ENG 675. Reading and Research. 3 credits.

Supervised reading and research in a particular topic or field. Admission by permission of the Director of Graduate Studies. May not be repeated.


ENG 698. Comprehensive Continuance. 1 credit.

Continued preparation for the comprehensive examinations. May be repeated as needed.

ENG 699. Thesis Continuance. 2 credits.

Continued study, research and writing for the thesis. May be repeated as needed.

ENG 700. Thesis Research. 6 credits.

Six credits taken over two consecutive semesters. Graded on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory (S/U) basis.
Conference Funding

The Department of English offers limited travel funding to graduate students who have had a paper accepted for presentation at an academic conference. Availability of funding and amount, however, depend upon the budget in any given year. Interested students should first see the Director of Graduate Studies. If funds are available, a travel authorization must be completed prior to travel. See the Administrative Assistant for the Department of English for assistance with travel authorizations. 

Faculty Specialization

Bankert, Dabney
Medieval Literature (from the late classical period to ca. 1500) -- Literatures:  Anglo-Saxon (Old English); Old Norse/Icelandic (Viking romances, sagas, Eddic poetry); Old Irish; Arthurian & Middle English romance; Late Medieval literature (Chaucer, Langland, the Pearl-Poet, etc.); Theological and Biblical:  Hagiography; Apocryphal Biblical narrative and patristic commentary; Medieval conversion narratives and theories of religious conversion; Bibliographical and Textual Criticism:  Manuscript studies, especially the editing of manuscripts; History of the Book; editorial theory, practice and method; History of British publishing houses
Current Research:  Anglo-Saxon lexicography and the recovery of the Anglo-Saxon language and literature in 19th century England.

Castellano, Katey 
British Romantic Literature with an emphasis on poetry and political philosophy.  Secondary Fields include Environmental and Animal Studies, Gothic Literature, Critical Theory, and Ethics and Moral Philosophy.

Cote, Sharon A. 
Linguistics and Speculative Fiction 
Current Research: Discourse Modeling; Interrelationships between Sentential Syntax/Semantics and Discourse; Differences Between Written and Spoken Language; Use of cue words in discourse of normal and aphasic speakers; Pragmatics; Functions of Syntax

Facknitz, Mark A.R. 
Twentieth-century British and American, Creative non-fiction, Fiction, Mixed media creative work, History of the novel (English, American, or comp lit.), American short story, Modernism, Literary Theory, Aesthetics, Interdisciplinary work, Literature and war, esp. WWI and Vietnam, Trauma studies, Commemoration; Major Authors: British: William Blake, William Butler Yates, Shelley, Carlyle, Joseph Conrad, Ford, Rebecca West; WWI poets, novelists, and memoirists; W.H. Auden, Anthony Powell, Henry Green, Zadie Smith; Americans: Henry Adams, John Dos Passos, Wallace Stevens, Willa Cather, Eugene O’Neill, Arthur Miller, Ray Carver, and Annie Dillard

Fagan, Allison
20th Century U.S.-Mexico Border Literature, Latina/o Literature, Contemporary American Literature, Book History and Textuality Studies

Favila, Marina 
Shakespeare, Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama, film, psychoanalytic theory, Modern Drama; Bibliography and Research Methods; Directing work: public readings at the Blackfriars Theatre, Staunton, VA.
Other: Currently serving as Second Vice President of the College English Association and on the Education and Research Committee at the American Shakespeare Center.

Federico, Annette 
Victorian literature; twentieth-century British literature; Scottish literature; the novel; women's literature; literature and death; feminist theory; gender studies.

Gabbin, Joanne V. 
African-American literature. 
Other: Director of Furious Flower Center

Goode, Dawn
Eighteenth-Century British Drama and Fiction, Women's Fiction, Queer Studies, Gender Studies, Gender and sexuality issues; violence by and against women; widow-figures and other female outliers in 18th-century British literature.

Hefner, Brooks 
American Fiction, 1865-1945; popular literary genres (esp. hard-boiled crime and detective fiction, dime novels, and westerns); American periodical culture; silent films and film history; popular film genres (western, detective/noir, horror, etc.); American language and slang; literature and the American Left; jazz and literature; early sound recording history and technology.

Henigman, Laura 
Colonial and nineteenth-century American literature, American Studies, American women writers. 
Research Areas: Coming Into Communion: Pastoral Dialogues in Colonial New England; recent articles on Harriet Beecher Stowe and historical fiction.

Johnson, Bruce A. 
17th-century British, English Reformation and Renaissance, and 20th-century German literatures

Kutchins, Laurie
Creative writing/poetry, poetic craft and creativity, literary nonfiction, contemporary poetry, literature and the environment (or the ecological imagination in literature).

Majors, Inman 
Creative writing, fiction

Mookerjea-Leonard, Debali 
South Asian Literature—Ancient, Medieval, and Modern; Colonial and Postcolonial Literatures; Postcolonial Theory; Literature and Nationalism; Women’s Writing; Feminist Theory; Third World Feminisms; Gender Studies

Parker, Mark 
British Romantic literature

Rankin, Mark 
English literature, 1475-1660, with emphasis on the English Renaissance and Reformation, Shakespeare, Tudor non-dramatic literature, and the History of the Book. Secondary Fields include late-Medieval literature, manuscript studies, and iconography. 

Rebhorn, Matthew E. 
American Literature (Beginnings to 1930) and American Drama; Melodrama; The Novel; Literary Theory and Criticism; Critical Race Theory; Gender Theory; The Frontier/Borderlands Studies; American Popular Culture; and Cultural History.

Thompson, Mary 
American Literature, Women's Literature, Feminist Theory, and Theories of The Body 
Areas of Research Interest: Abortion, Reproductive Rights, and Motherhood; Cultural Studies and the Body as applied to women's literature and to representations of women's bodies in popular culture, including cosmetic surgery and abortion; Feminist Theory, including activism, third wave feminism, masculinity studies, and studies of the intersections of race/ethnicity, nationality, class, gender and sexuality; Critical Race Studies, including constructions of whiteness and anti-racist action.

White, Sn
Modern British and Irish Literature, Modernism, Irish Studies, Women's Literature, Intimacy Studies; Major Authors: Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Elizabeth Bowen, Samuel Beckett, and Patrick Hamilton. Areas of Secondary Expertise include Gender Studies, Feminist Theory, Film Studies, Narrative Theory, The Novel, Literary Theory and Criticism.

Degree Completion Requirements
Application for Graduation

You must be in "good standing" and maintain a grade point average of at least 3.0 to graduate. During the term immediately prior to graduation, consult the degree requirements checklist and apply for graduation at The Graduate School's online forms page. Alternatively, you may pick up a Graduation Packet from The Graduate School.

You must submit your Application for a Graduate Degree form by the dates indicated in the packet. No credit for University work may be given for a diploma, teacher's license, or transfer until all debts to JMU have been paid (excluding student loans).

Students are responsible for notifying both the Director of Graduate Studies and The Graduate School when they plan to graduate. Students are also responsible for consulting their advisors or The Graduate School regarding deadlines for graduation. The Application for Graduate Degree form must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies and the Department Head. Students are responsible for obtaining all necessary signatures to complete the Application for Graduate Degree in a timely manner.

Note:  Students must complete all the conditions of the original admission in their degree program, e.g. conditional admission, at least one semester before they are scheduled to graduate, before they will be permitted to graduate. Only six hours of 501 workshop courses approved for inclusion in a graduate program may be applied toward a degree. If students plan to use transfer credits to fulfill degree requirements, these credits, along with official transcripts showing the credits and the transfer credit form, must appear on the Application for a Graduate Degree form and be forwarded to The Graduate School.


Students are expected to attend graduation exercises. If you are unable to attend, you must notify the Office of Registration and Records at least 21 days before commencement. 

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