M.F.A. Comprehensive Exam


I. When the Exam Will Be Administered:

A. The exam will be administered in the semester prior to that in which a student expects to turn in his/her thesis: i.e. usually the semester before the expected graduation date.

II. Reading List Described:

A. The exam will be based on a core reading list in fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, and critical writing, augmented by student selections from a supplemental reading list in the student's primary genre. Students can also add a limited number of additional works and/or authors to the supplemental list, with their advisor's approval.

B. The core reading list will consist of 15 works from each of the genres in Creative Writing-poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. In addition there will be list of 15 works of writers-on-writing.

C. The supplemental reading lists will consist of 20 works in each genre, chosen by the English Department. Students will select the list that corresponds to their major genre-poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, or scriptwriting. From this supplemental reading list, the student will select 12 works. Students can request to substitute up to 4 works in their supplemental genre list not on the Department's list, with the approval of their advisor. Thus, a MFA candidate's reading list will ultimately consist of at least 72 works, 27 works of which will be from the student's major genre.

III. The Questions and Exam Procedure

A. Three essay questions will be assigned to students, who will receive the exam questions on Friday, 9:00 AM, and must turn in their examinations no later than Monday, Noon. The students will not know in advance what specific works and/or authors will be covered in the exam. The exam questions will include the following tasks:

  1. Close reading of texts.
  2. Application of literary theory and/or poetics.
  3. Demonstration of knowledge of literary craft within the primary and secondary genres.
  4. Demonstration of knowledge of the Modern and Post-modern cannon(s) within the primary and secondary genres.
  5. Demonstration of the student's understanding of his/her own literary production in relation to the works of other writers.


B. Generic Description of Questions:

  1. The first question will concern historical, theoretical, critical, and/or canonical issues concerning the full core reading list within the field of Creative Writing.
  2. The second question will concern craft, historical, theoretical, and/or critical issues in the student's minor genre. Students will base their answer on readings from the core reading list and may also include material from the supplemental reading list in the appropriate genre.
  3. The third question will concern craft, historical, theoretical, and/or critical issues relating to the student's own creative writing and the student's major genre.

IV. Reading Lists