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Literature | Master's Program

Literature seminar.

Video: Look Inside the MA Program

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MA in Literature

The MA program in literature is a vital and exciting program that brings together dedicated scholar-teachers and a varied group of students. This program appeals to:

  • recent college graduates and returning students planning to pursue doctoral studies in English or comparative literature
  • recent college graduates or returning students interested in pursuing careers as professors, teachers, editors, and writers
  • career professionals exploring the possibility of a career change
  • current teachers seeking to update their credentials and develop their skills
  • individuals seeking a broad background in literature for professional enhancement

Program Overview

The literature master's degree program at American University offers students challenging courses in a wide variety of areas. Faculty are outstanding scholars who are deeply engaged in their fields of intellectual inquiry. In graduate seminars and other courses with unique—often interdisciplinary—topics, students develop intellectual confidence and strengthen their skills in critical reading and analytical writing. Courses, supplemented by our Graduate Speaker Series, focus not only on traditional periods and national literatures but on African, African American, and Asian American literatures; Latin American and other literatures in translation; literary theory; feminist theory; and cinema. Because our department also offers an MFA in creative writing, students in the master’s degree program have the opportunity to study with distinguished creative writers as well.

See application, degree, and course requirements—and recent publications.

MA Students Find Their Niche

Professor Anita Sherman teaching class.

From pursuing PhDs to teaching high school to becoming writers and editors, graduate students get personal attention at AU.

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MA Program Video

Keith Leonard

Learn more about the MA program and our community of scholars.

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Recent publications by literature faculty

Special Features

The size of our program—under thirty students—promotes a close community of faculty and students, with frequent opportunities for students to work closely with individual professors both inside and outside the classroom. The program offers students the unique opportunity to customize their program of study through selection of one of four specialty concentrations: pre-doctoral, teaching, interdisciplinary, or generalist. These concentrations provide flexible frameworks within which to organize your course of study in the MA. Two scholarly research opportunities—a mentored scholarly essay and a master’s thesis—enable students to work one-on-one with a professor in their chosen area of concentration while developing experience in scholarly research or sustained argument and interpretation. 

Students may arrange internships with a variety of organizations that focus on the arts, journalism, and other areas that complement the study of literature. A required comprehensive exam provides intellectual focus and the expectation that students achieve both depth and breadth in their study of literature.



American University’s 84-acre campus, located in a quiet residential neighborhood of Washington, DC, offers a sequestered pedestrian campus—a designated national arboretum—with easy access by university shuttle and public transportation to the full resources of the DC metropolitan area.

Through their course of study and related opportunities, students leave the master of arts program in literature prepared for a wide range of professional paths, including doctoral study and careers in education.