English, Master of Arts Program


The Master of Arts in English at St. John’s University offers students a broad and intensive engagement with literary, cultural, and writing studies.  Distinguished faculty members teach courses in traditional and emerging fields of literature, cultural studies, critical theory, writing, and composition studies.

The 33-credit program features the option to write a three-credit master’s thesis in place of one course.  The only required course is English 100, Modern Critical Theories, which is usually offered in the spring semester. In the final semester of course work, each student submits a master’s portfolio, including one extensively revised paper and a 10- page critical overview of his or her growth as a reader, scholar, and writer.

The program is designed for both full-time graduate students and professional educators, administrators, and writers who want to pursue a master’s degree part-time. As a full-time student, you can complete the degree in three or four semesters.  If you are a part-time student, you may proceed more gradually toward completing the requirements.

For additional information about the M.A. program and the Department of English, please follow our department’s blog, which features course descriptions, faculty profiles, upcoming events, departmental publications, departmental forms, and listings for available jobs and internships.

Department Contact
Amy King, Ph.D.
AssociateProfessor and Director of Graduate Studies
Department of English
St. John Hall, Room B-40

Course Information


The requirements for admission to the M.A. program in English at St. John’s are the following:

  1. A bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with at least 24 credits completed in English.
  2. An undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 and a 3.5 in English courses.
  3. Acceptable GRE scores in the General Test. We do not require the English subject test.
  4. Three letters of recommendation, two of which should be academic letters attesting to your work as a student.

Admissions Contact
Director of Graduate Admissions


Tuition and Financial Aid

Graduate assistantships are available on a competitive basis through the Department of English and the Institute for Writing Studies.  These assistantships provide tuition remission and a stipend, along with the experience of tutoring St. John’s students in the Writing Center.  New students who are interested in an assistantship should indicate their interest on the application form.  The deadline for assistantship applications is February 15.   Some administrative graduate assistantships are also available throughout the University.  These positions also offer tuition remission and a stipend, and require you to perform administrative support on campus.  Available positions are listed on the Graduate Assistantships and Fellowships page.  For more information about tuition and other sources of financial aid, please visit Tuition and Financial Aid.

Career Outcomes

The ability to think critically, write effectively, and engage with intellectual discourse will serve you well as both an academic and professional in a wide range of fields.

A number of recent graduates of the M.A. program have received fellowships for doctoral study at some of the best graduate programs in the United States, including Columbia University, Brown University, The City University of New York (CUNY), the University of Maryland, and the University of California, San Diego.  Other graduates have been accepted at prestigious law schools, established careers in publishing and editing, and obtained middle school and high school teaching positions.

You can find assistance with landing a job or internship through University Career Services, which hosts several workshops and career events throughout the year in addition to one-on-one career counseling.

Additional Information

The English department sponsors an active intellectual life.  There are several colloquia a year, in addition to lectures by department faculty.  Details about upcoming events can be found on the blog.  We also encourage you to participate in our annual English graduate student conference, which is held within the department.

Complementing the graduate courses in the M.A. program are opportunities for practical experience in tutoring, editing, and research.  You may contribute to our graduate program’s literary journal: The St. John’s Humanities Review, which features book reviews, essays, and interviews by contributors on campus and from around the world.  We also publish a literary journal of student poetry and fiction, Sequoya.

With the 2006 opening of the Institute for Writing Studies, we offer an exceptional new environment for professional training and development in writing instruction.  Directed by the English Department’s Dr. Anne Ellen Geller, the University Writing Center hires qualified graduate and undergraduate students as writing tutors.

The English M.A. Capstone Projects: Master’s Portfolio or Thesis

The 33-credit (11 course) M.A. program in English allows the student to choose their own course of study in consultation with the DGS and their adviser. There is one required class: ENG 100 Modern Critical Theories.

In addition, the M.A. at St. John’ features two different tracks for the capstone project:

  1. the option to write a three-credit master’s thesis
  2. the option to do the master’s portfolio.

Students elect to do either the MA thesis or the MA portfolio.

The master’s thesis will take the place of one course; students who elect to do the portfolio track will take 33-credits worth of coursework and write the master’s portfolio.

M.A. Thesis

The M.A. thesis is a capstone project of the M.A. student’s devising. It is an independent project written in consultation with a faculty mentor and at least one other faculty reader. The student registers for ENG 900/Master’s Research; when s/he does this, it means that you’ve found a faculty mentor who has agreed to advise the project. Typically the M.A. thesis student registers for the course in the fall of their final year of the M.A., having approached a possible adviser for the M.A. thesis in the spring of their first year. It’s a good idea to begin planning for it over the summer.

Typically the student will not complete the thesis in one semester. The professor will give an Incomplete and the student will continue to work on it over the winter break and spring semester; the final draft of the thesis is due before the “incomplete” has to be resolved, which usually is in mid-March. Deadlines for final submission of the M.A. thesis to the Dean’s office follow the deadlines established by the Graduate Office each year.

Students will be mentored by one thesis adviser, and will have second readers who will also follow the progress of the writing, offer advice, and evaluate the thesis for quality.

The M.A. thesis at St. John’s is typically 40-60 pages plus a bibliography.

Students who take ENG 900: Master’s Research in the fall should register for ENG 105T Master’s Thesis defense in the spring. Note, there is no formal M.A. defense at St. John’s, but you should register for placeholder designation.

M.A. Portfolio

What is the portfolio? The portfolio is composed of four representative samples of graduate student writing:

  1. one revised and expanded seminar paper or final project, plus the earlier draft of this paper;
  2. two additional seminar papers or final writing projects (unrevised);
  3. one ten-page critical preface that discusses your intellectual development as an English graduate student.

Portfolios do not need to be bound; a manila envelope or folder will suffice as a container.

Students who elect the portfolio track register for ENG 105: Comprehensive Portfolio in their final semester of coursework. This is a zero-credit course that is in addition to your 33 credits of coursework.

Portfolios are read on a Pass/Fail basis, based on the whole package. Portfolios should show:

  1. graduate level research and writing skills, including professional use of authorities (MLA format) and grammatical English;
  2. thoughtful response to outside comments on the revised essay or final project; and
  3. critical awareness of the writing samples’ value in contexts beyond the class and/or professor for which it was originally written.

Failing the Portfolio

Portfolios will fail as a result of the failure to meet professional writing standards, plagiarism, lack of familiarity with the critical discourse pertinent to a given topic, or failure to discuss your writing samples in the critical preface. Students who also do not adequately revise the one paper will be asked to redo the work in order to pass the exam.

Select Papers that mean something to you

Prior to submitting the portfolio, students should meet with their professors to choose which papers or final papers they will submit. Most importantly, they should decide which paper or project they will revise. Choice of papers should not be based simply on which papers received the highest grade. Rather, you should select papers that demonstrate your most meaningful work, as you will discuss in your critical preface.

Revising Papers

After choosing which paper or final project to revise, students should substantially revise and expand it for the portfolio. Revision strategies should begin by considering final comments on the paper from the professor for which you wrote it, but you are not limited to those suggestions. The purpose of the revision is to expand the context of the seminar to consider a broader professional audience and purpose for your writing. The revision stage is where you show all your growing professional skills, which means that your revision should be more substantial than simply copyediting or adding scholarly references to your earlier draft.

Writing the Critical Preface

The critical preface to your portfolio should discuss your intellectual development as an English graduate student, with reference to the writing samples as evidence of this development. While there are not prescribed rules for this essay, it should demonstrate how you understand yourself as a scholar in English studies. The essay should be as compelling and distinctive as possible in discussing your development, rather than just a summary of the written work that you are submitting for your portfolio. Consider the following questions as you begin to think about your critical preface:

  • What intellectual advances have you made?
  • What critics or critical schools do you tend to use and why?
  • How has your relationship to interpretation or reading changed?
  • How has your teaching changed?
  • How have your writing practices changed?
  • How has your sense of audience changed?

Capstone Courses

ENG. 900: Master’s Research (3 credits)
M.A. thesis; capstone project of the M.A. student’s devising, written in consultation with a mentor and several faculty readers.

ENG 105T: Master’s Thesis Defense (0 credit)
Placeholder designation for students who have written the M.A. thesis in the previous semester and who are in their last semester of coursework. Register for this class if you have already registered for ENG 900 in the previous semester and have completed or are intending to complete the thesis as your capstone project for the MA.

ENG. 105: Comprehensive Portfolio/Masters (0 credit)
Course designation for MA students in their last semester of coursework if they choose the Portfolio option rather than the M.A. thesis.