English, Master of Arts

33 Credits
St. John's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Queens Campus


The Department of English at St. John's University features a distinguished faculty and a diverse array of courses.

The department hosts thriving undergraduate and graduate programs, including the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), the Bachelor of Arts / Master of Arts (B.A./M.A.), Master of Arts (M.A.) and Doctor of Arts (D.A.).

Please follow the The SJU English Department Blog for the most current descriptions of our courses and upcoming events, as well as faculty bios, office hours, departmental publications, departmental forms, and advertisements for jobs and internships.

Each semester, the Queens campus offers approximately twenty-five upper-level courses for the undergraduate major, and eight courses for the graduate programs. The department also offers approximately sixty core literature and honors classes each semester on the Queens campus. The Staten Island campus offers approximately ten upper-level B.A. courses per semester, and about twenty courses in expository writing and core English literature.

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.

For descriptions of recent student and faculty achievements, see also the English Department Newsletter.

The English department’s graduate students founded a literary journal in 2003: The St. John's Humanities Review. The journal features book reviews, essays, and interviews by contributors on campus and from around the world. 

The department also supports a literary journal of student poetry and fiction, Sequoya.

Directed by the English Department's Derek Owens, St. John’s Institute for Writing Studies also provides rich resources for English students. Associate Professor Harry Denny directs the University Writing Center, which hires qualified graduate and undergraduate students as writing tutors.

For students interested in using their B.A. toward graduate education, the department has recently placed its students in top graduate English programs such as Brown, Columbia, SUNY Buffalo, and the CUNY Grad Center. Students who major in English develop very strong skills in reading comprehension and writing and acquire powerful habits of analytic thought, which is why most law students prepare for their future careers as English majors. Because almost every field of employment is in need of people who can read and write with skill, an English major or minor is a valuable asset.

Dr. Steven Mentz
Director of Graduate Studies
English Department

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Full-time students can complete the degree in three or four semesters.  Part-time students may take several years to complete the degree, depending on the amount of time they can commit to their coursework.

We accept applications without a degree in English, but students must have taken a minimum of 24 credits in English to be considered for admission.

The GRE general test is required for admission. The application deadline for students who are seeking a Graduate Assistantship is March 1.  There is not an application deadline otherwise. 

The application deadline for students who are seeking a Graduate Assistantship is March 1.  There is not an application deadline otherwise. 

Are assistantships available and how should I apply?
Graduate assistantships are available on a competitive basis through the English Department and the Institute for Writing Studies.  These assistantships provide a stipend and provide 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 March 1.   

Is financial aid available?
Yes, financial aid is available. For more information please visit the Office of Financial Aid.

What are the admission requirements?

  1. Applicants must have completed their bachelor’s degree with a minimum of 24 credits in English. 
  2. Applicants must have at least a 3.0 cumulative G.P.A. and a 3.5 in English courses.
  3. Applicants must submit acceptable GRE scores in the General Test.  The English subject test is not required.
  4. Applicants must submit three letters of recommendation with their application, two of which should be academic letters attesting to the applicant's work as a student.

Who do I contact to set up a personal interview?
Dr. Steven Mentz
Director of Graduate Studies
English Department
St. John Hall B40

Graduate Admission Information
Robert Medrano, Director

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Career Outcomes

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 U.S.  These programs include Columbia, Brown, 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 tenure-track middle school and high school teaching positions. 

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Additional Information

M.A. Thesis

Students who wish to write a thesis should consult the current forms and guidelines provided by the Dean's office. The Dean's office recommends that the working copy of the thesis be prepared three months before graduation, so students need to get started on their work toward the end of the fall semester before they intend to graduate in the spring.

During the fall, students first submit a short prospectus, or research proposal, about 5-10 pages long. The prospectus sketches the topic, a preliminary thesis or research question, and contains a working bibliography. Masters' prospecti are often based on a course paper that a student wishes to expand into a longer project (between 30-60 pages, depending on the purpose).

Unlike a course paper, however, the prospectus must summarize the thrust of the course paper, and provide a discussion of how the original paper will be amplified or developed. Accompanied by the prospectus, Form 1M is signed by the students' advisor, one other faculty reader chosen by the student, and the department chair.

After writing the thesis, the student submits the document to the advisor and reader with forms 2M and 4M, approximately three months before graduation. When the Graduate Dean has been notified that the thesis is satisfactory, the student submits a copy to the Dean, following the formatting and procedures described in the Dean's Guidelines.

M.A. Portfolio / Comprehensive Exam Guidelines

The Portfolio is the comprehensive exam for English M.A. and B.A./M.A students.

What is in 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 (with the professor's comments);
  2. two additional seminar papers or final writing projects; and
  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.

Passing the Exam
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 Exam
Portfolios will fail as a result of plagiarism and/or failure to meet professional writing standards, lack of familiarity with the critical discourse pertinent to a given topic, or failure to discuss your writing samples in the critical preface.

Select Papers That Mean Something to You
Prior to submitting the portfolio, students should meet with their professors to choose which papers or final projects 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 these 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.  This revision stage is where you show off 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?
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