• Complete and up-to-date admission requirements can be found on our Admissions page.
  • To complete and submit an online application, please visit the Graduate School website. Please do not send application materials to the English Department.

Students must complete 30 credit hours of coursework (10 courses). At least 21 hours must be taken at CU Boulder. All courses must be 5000 level or above. Subject to approval by the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies, up to 6 hours of coursework may be taken in departments other than English. Students may earn the MA-Literature degree through coursework alone. A thesis is optional (see Thesis Option below).

All graduate students must follow the Graduate School requirements for Graduation.

Required Courses (6 credits)

  • Survey of Contemporary Literary and Cultural Theory (ENGL 5019)
    Introduces students to current theoretical issues and practices. Students are required to take this course during the Fall semester of their first year.

During the Spring semester of their first year, students must enroll in one of the following courses:

  • Introduction to the Profession (ENGL 5459)
    Introduces students to the current state of major fields in literary and cultural studies, and to graduate-level research methods, bibliography, and writing skills. Students who elect to take this course must register during the Spring semester of their first year. OR,
  • Studies in Special Topics 1: Teaching English (ENGL 5529)
    Introduces students to pedagogy theory, practice, and methods for English instruction. Students who elect to take this course must register during the Spring semester of their first year.

Distribution Requirement (24 credits)

  1. MA-Literature courses should be distributed as follows:
    I. Two courses before 1800 (courses should survey a broad range of literature from two different periods prior to 1800)
    II. Two courses after 1800 (courses should survey a broad range of literature from two different periods after 1800)
    III. One multicultural and/or postcolonial course (may overlap with requirement I or II)
    IV. One poetry intensive course (may overlap with requirement I or II)
  2. Two - Four Electives
    Thesis hours, if taken, may replace electives. Electives may include courses from other departments, especially if a student is pursuing a certificate program in another department or program. Any courses taken in other departments for credit towards degree, whether for a certificate program or not, must be approved by the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies.

A master’s thesis is 50-75 pages in length, and represents an original work of literary analysis that is supported by extensive research into primary and secondary sources. It includes an abstract of  250 - 350 words and a bibliography, exclusive of the page length for the body of the thesis.

A master’s thesis is optional for the MA-Literature. There are several benefits to writing a thesis:

  • You can continue to develop your skills as a writer and take pleasure in literature.
  • You have the opportunity to work directly with a faculty member of your choice, in an area of your own choosing.
  • If you plan to apply to doctoral programs in English, you can use part of your thesis as a writing sample. Since you complete a thesis at the end of your degree program, this capstone project may reflect your current strengths as a writer better than your earlier seminar papers. Students who apply to Ph.D. programs can also use a seminar paper or the paper revised in the professionalization seminar as their writing sample.

The decision to write a thesis must be made by the end of your first year of study. It takes two semesters (each with three credits) to research and write an MA thesis. See the Graduate Student Handbook for full information about the Thesis requirements and the MA-LIT Thesis Action Item Checklist which includes deadlines and a suggested schedule. 

Students earning the MA in Literature must complete a foreign language requirement demonstrating proficiency in one foreign language. There are four options for fulfilling this requirement:

  1. by taking a Language Proficiency Exam in the language of their choice.
  2. by taking two semesters of a 2000-level language course for credit and completing it with a grade of B or better.  In the second instance, courses would be in excess of the thirty hours required for the degree. Summer language intensive programs at other universities can be substituted for the 2000-level course with the approval of the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies.
  3. by taking two semesters of Old English (ENGL 5003, ENGL 5013, ENGL 5023).
  4. by transferring two language courses taken at another college or university. In order to qualify, the courses (i) must have been taken within the last three years, (ii) must be equivalent to a 2000-level language course at the University of Colorado Boulder, and (iii) must have been passed with a grade of B or better.

For additional information about satisfying the language requirement, see the English Department Graduate Program Handbook.

For additional information about the language exam, see the FAQ for the Language Proficiency Exam.


Students within the MA in Literature program are eligible to apply for a number of scholarships and awards offered by the English Department. These scholarships are offered on a competitive basis, and individual award amounts may range from $500 - $6,000. Matriculated students may apply for these awards during the Spring semester of each academic year. Visit the current scholarships and awards page for more information.

Teaching Assistant Positions

Additional funding is also available to MA program students in the form of teaching assistant (TA) positions. TAships provide a semester salary of several thousand dollars, tuition remission, and a contribution towards the Student Gold Health Insurance Plan premium. Typically between four to six TAships are available through the English Department each semester and the department strives to offer a TAships to MA students whenever possible, however the availability of these positions is not guaranteed.

Opportunities for teaching assistant, research assistant (RA), graduate assistant (GA) appointments may also be available through other academic departments.

On-Campus Employment

Opportunities for additional employment exist outside of the department and include hourly and work study positions. For more information, please visit the Office of Student Employment’s website.

Other Resources for Financial Support Include: