Reading List

The MFA Comprehensive Exam requires students to write three essays: two in the primary and one in the secondary genre. For the exam you should be prepared to cite approximately 8 works in the primary (approximately 4 per essay) and 4 works in the secondary. In order to be prepared for a variety of essay prompts, students should read widely in both genres--certainly more than the 12 works from the reading lists you will cite on your exam, perhaps 35-50 works or authors. In consultation with their thesis directors, students will devise a personalized list consisting of selections from the lists below as well as additional works of comparable literary quality that they find pertinent to their writing and/or scholarship.

 

You will confer with your adviser several times during the semester prior to taking the exam to develop your final version of your reading list. Only works on this personalized, advisor-approved list may be cited on the exam.

 

Suggested Fiction Reading List

    • Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. Americanah.
    • Anderson, Sherwood. Winesburg, Ohio.
    • Atwood, Margaret, The Handmaid’s Tale.
    • Babel, Isaac. Red Cavalry.
    • Baldwin, James. Giovanni’s Room; “Sonny’s Blues.”
    • Bambara, Toni Cade. Gorilla, My Love.
    • Barth, John. Lost in the Funhouse.

    • Barthelme, Donald. 60 Stories.
    • Beatty, Paul, The Sellout.
    • Bellow, Saul. Herzog; Seize the Day.
    • Borges, Jorge Luis. Labyrinths.
    • Bronte, Charlotte, Jane Eyre.
    • Butler, Octavia, Kindred.
    • Calvino, Italo. Cosmicomics.
    • Carter, Angela. The Bloody Chamber; Wise Children.
    • Carver, Raymond. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.
    • Cheever, John. Stories of John Cheever.
    • Chekhov, Anton. Anton Chekhov’s Short Stories.
    • Coetzee, J.M. Waiting for The Barbarians.
    • Coover, Robert. Pricksongs and Descants.
    • Danticat, Edwidge. The Farming of the Bones.
    • DeLillo, Don. White Noise.
    • Diaz, Junot. Drown.
    • Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations.
    • Doctorow, E.L. Ragtime.
    • Ducornet, Rikki. The Jade Cabinet.
    • Egan, Jennifer. A Visit from the Goon Squad.
    • Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man.
    • Erdrich, Louise. Love Medicine; LaRose.
    • Faulkner, William. Absalom, Absalom; As I Lay Dying.
    • Flaubert, Gustave. Madame Bovary.
    • Garcia Marquez, Gabriel. One Hundred Years of Solitude.
    • Gaitskill, Mary. Bad Behavior.
    • Gibson, William. Neuromancer.
    • Gordimer, Nadine. July’s People.
    • Hamson, Knut. Hunger.
    • Hemingway, Ernest. The Collected Stories.
    • Hurston, Zora Neale, Their Eyes Were Watching God.
    • Ishiguro, Kazuo. Never Let Me Go.
    • James, Henry. The Portrait of a Lady.
    • James, Marlon. The Book of Night Women.
    • Johnson, Denis. Jesus’ Son.
    • Jones, Edward P. All Aunt Hagar’s Children; The Known World.
    • Joyce, James, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Ulysses.
    • Kafka, Franz. In the Penal Colony; The Metamorphosis.
    • Lahiri, Jhumpa. Interpreter of Maladies.
    • Lalami, Laila. The Moor’s Account.
    • Lee, Chang-Rae. Native Speaker.
    • LeGuin, Ursula. The Left Hand of Darkness; The Wind’s Twelve Quarters
    • Li, Yiyun. A Thousand Years of Good Prayers.
    • Lispector, Clarice. The Hour of the Star.
    • Malamud, Bernard. The Magic Barrel.
    • Marcom, Micheline Aharonian. Three apples fell from heaven.
    • McBride, James. The Good Lord Bird.
    • McCarthy, Cormac. Blood Meridian; The Road.
    • McCullers, Carson. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
    • McPherson, James Alan. Hue and Cry.
    • Mitchell, David. Cloud Atlas.
    • Moore, Lorrie. Birds of America.
    • Morrison, Toni. Beloved; Song of Solomon.
    • Mosley, Walter. Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned.
    • Mueenuddin, Daniyal. In Other Rooms, Other Wonders.
    • Munro, Alice. Selected Stories.
    • Murakami, Haruki. The Elephant Vanishes; The Wind-up Bird Chronicles.
    • Nabokov, Vladimir. Lolita.
    • Naylor, Gloria. The Women of Brewster Place.
    • Nguyen, Viet Thanh. The Sympathizer.
    • O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried.
    • O’Connor, Flannery. Complete Stories.
    • Ondaatje, Michael. The English Patient.
    • Paley, Grace. Collected Stories.
    • Papadiamantis, Alexandros. The Murderess.
    • Phillips, Jayne Anne. Black Tickets.
    • Poe, Edgar Allan. Selected Short Stories.
    • Pynchon, Thomas. The Crying of Lot 49.
    • Robinson, Marilynne. Housekeeping.
    • Roth, Philip. Portnoy’s Complaint.
    • Rushdie, Salman. Midnight’s Children.
    • Russell, Karen. St Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves.
    • Saramago, José. Blindness.
    • Saunders, George. Civilwarland in Bad Decline.
    • Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein.
    • Silko, Leslie Marmon. Ceremony.
    • Singer, Isaac Bashevis. The Collected Stories.
    • Smith, Zadie. On Beauty.
    • Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath.
    • Stoker, Bram. Dracula.
    • Strout, Elizabeth. Olive Kitteridge.
    • Tartt, Donna. The Secret History.
    • Thuy, Le Thi Diem. The Gangster We Are All Looking For.
    • Toole, John Kennedy. A Confederacy of Dunces.
    • Ward, Jesmyn. Salvage the Bones.
    • Wells, H.G. Time Machine; The War of the Worlds.
    • Welty, Eudora, Collected Stories.
    • West, Nathanael. Miss Lonelyhearts.
    • Wharton, Edith. Age of Innocence.
    • Whitehead, Colson. The Intuitionist.
    • Wideman, John Edgar. Sent For You Yesterday.
    • Williams, Joy. The Quick and the Dead.
    • Woolf, Virginia, Mrs. Dalloway.
    • Wright, Richard. Native Son.

Creative Nonfiction

    • Abbey, Edward. Desert Solitaire.
    • Ackerman, Diane, A Natural History of the Senses.
    • Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
    • Saint Augustine. Confessions.
    • Baldwin, James. Notes of a Native Son.
    • Beah, Ishmael. A Long Way Gone.
    • Berry, Wendel. Recollected Essays.
    • Bryson, Bill. A Walk in the Woods.
    • Capote, Truman, In Cold Blood.
    • Carson, Rachel, Silent Spring.
    • Cofe, Judith Ortiz, Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood,
    • Conroy, Frank. Stop-Time.
    • Conway, Jill Ker. The Road from Coorain.
    • Didion, Joan, Slouching toward Bethlehem, The White Album, The Year of Magical Thinking.
    • Dillard, Annie, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, An American Childhood.
    • Eggers, Dave. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.
    • Ehrenreich, Barbara. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America
    • Ehrlich, Gretel. The Solace of Open Spaces.
    • Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches you and You Fall Down, At Large and At Small.
    • Grann, David. Killers of the Flower Moon.
    • Haley, Alex, and Malcolm X. The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
    • Hemingway, Ernest. A Moveable Feast.
    • Hersey, John. Hiroshima.
    • Hillenbrand, Laura, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.
    • Hubbell, Sue. A Country Year: Living the Questions.
    • Karr, Mary, Liar's Club: A Memoir.
    • Kincaid, Jamaica. My Brother, A Small Place.
    • Kingsolver, Barbara, High Tide in Tucson.
    • Kingston, Maxine Hong. The Woman Warrior.
    • Krakauer, Jon. Into Thin Air.
    • Least Heat Moon, William. Blue Highways.
    • Lewis, C.S. Surprised by Joy.
    • Leopold, Aldo. A Sand County Almanac.
    • Lopez, Barry, Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape.
    • Macdonald, Helen. H is for Hawk.
    • Markham, Beryl. West with the Night.
    • Matthiessen, Peter. The Snow Leopard.
    • McBride, James. The Color of Water.
    • McCourt, Frank, Angela's Ashes.
    • McFee, John. Coming into the Country.
    • Mailer, Norman, The Armies of the Night.
    • Muir, John. Mountains of California.
    • Nabokov, Vladimir. Speak, Memory.
    • Noah, Trevor. Born a Crime.
    • Norris, Kathleen. Dakota: A Spiritual Geography.
    • Orwell, George. A Collection of Essays.
    • Pirzig,Robert. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  
    • Rodriguez, Richard. Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez.
    • Sarton, May. Journal of a Solitude.
    • Sedaris, David. We Talk Pretty One Day.
    • Smith, Patti. Just Kids.
    • Sontag, Susan. Against Interpretation and Other Essays.    
    • Stegner, Wallace, Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs.
    • Stein, Gertrude, Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.
    • Steinbeck, John. Travels with Charley, The Log from the Sea of Cortez.
    • Styron, William, Darkness Visible.
    • Terkel, Studs. Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression.
    • Thomas, Lewis. The Lives of a Cell
    • Thompson, Hunter S. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream
    • Wallace, David Foster, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments
    • Welty, Eudora. One Writer’s Beginnings.
    • White, E.B. Essays of E. B. White.
    • Wilkerson, Isabel. The Warmth of Other Suns.
    • Williams, Terry Tempest. Refuge: An Unnatural History of Time and Place.
    • Wolfe, Tom, Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The Right Stuff.
    • Wolff, Tobias, This Boy's Life.
    • Wolff, Virginia, A Room of One's Own.
    • Wright, Richard. Black Boy

Poetry

  • Ai. Vice: New and Selected Poems.
  • Ali, Agha Shahid Rae. Partly: New and Selected Poems 2001 - 2015.
  • Aamons, A. R. Selected Poems.
  • Armantrout, Rae. Partly: New and Selected Poems 2001 - 2015.
  • Ashbery, John. Selected Poetry.
  • Auden, W.H. Selected Poems.
  • Balakian, Peter. Ozone Journal.
  • Berryman, John. Selected Poems.
  • Bidart, Frank. Half Light: Collected Poems 1965 - 2016.
  • 10. Bishop, Elizabeth. The Complete Poems, 1927-1979.
  • Bukowski, Charles. Essential Bukowski Poetry.
  • Chin, Marilyn. Portrait of Self as Nation: New and Selected Poems.
  • Clifton, Lucille. Collected Poems.
  • Collins, Billy. Sailing Alone Around the Room, New and Selected Poems.
  • Crane, Hart. Ed. Marc Simon. The Complete Poems.
  • Creeley, Robert. Selected Poems.
  • Cullen, Countee. Collected Poems.
  • Dickinson, Emily. Selected Poems.
  • Doty, Mark. Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems.
  • Dove, Rita. Selected Poems.
  • Dunn, Stephen, New and Selected Poems.
  • Edson, Russell. The Tunnel: Selected Poems of Russell Edson.
  • Eliot, T. S. Selected Poems.
  • Frost, Robert. Selected Poems.
  • Gilbert, Jack. Collected Poems.
  • Ginsberg, Allen. Selected Poetry: 1947-1995.
  • Gioia, Dana. 99 Poems: New and Selected.
  • Hacker, Marilyn. Selected Poems: 1965 - 1990.
  • Harjo, Joy. How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems 1975 - 2002.
  • Hass, Robert. The Apple Trees at Olema: New and Selected Poems.
  • Hayes, Terrance. American Sonnets for My Once and Future Assassin.
  • Herrera, Juan Felipe. Half the World in Light: New and Selected Poems.
  • Hughes, Langston. Selected Poems.
  • Hugo, Richard. Making Certain It Goes On: Collected Poems.
  • Jackson, Major. Roll Deep: Poems.
  • Jeffers, Robinson. The Wild God of the World:An Anthology of Robinson Jeffers.
  • Justice, Donald. Collected Poems.
  • Kinnell, Galway. New Selected Poems.
  • Kizer, Carolyn. Cool, Calm, and Collected.
  • Koch, Kenneth. Selected Poems.
  • Komunyakaa, Yusef. Pleasure Dome: New and Collected Poems.
  • Kyger, Joanne. As Ever: Selected Poems.
  • Lee, Li-Young, Behind My Eyes.
  • Levertov, Denise. Collected Poems.
  • Levine, Philip. New Selected Poems.Lowell, Robert. Selected Poems.
  • Long Soldier, Layli. Whereas: Poems.
  • Major, Clarence. From Now On:New and Selected Poems.
  • Merrill, James. Selected Poems: 1946-1985.
  • Merwin, W. S. Migration: New and Selected Poems.
  • Milosz, Czeslaw. The Collected Poems, 1931-1987.
  • Moore, Marianne. Complete Poems.
  • O'Hara, Frank. The Selected Poems of Frank O'Hara.
  • Philips, Carl. Quiver of Arrows: Selected Poems 1986 - 2006.
  • Plath, Sylvia. Collected Poems.
  • Pound, Ezra. New Selected Poems and Translations.
  • Rankine, Claudia. Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric.
  • Rexroth, Kenneth. Complete Poems.
  • Rich, Adrienne. Adrienne Rich's Poetry and Prose, Norton Critical Edition.
  • Roethke, Theodore. The Collected Poems.
  • Rukeyser, Muriel. Selected Poems.
  • Simic, Charles. New and Selected Poems.
  • Smith, Tracy K. Life On Mars: Poems.
  • Snyder, Gary. No Nature: New and Selected Poems.
  • Soto, Gary. New and Selected Poems.
  • Stafford, William. The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems.
  • Stern, Gerald. This Time: New and Selected Poems.
  • Stevens, Wallace. The Palm at the End of the Mind: Selected Poems.
  • Tate, James. Selected Poems.
  • Trethewey, Natasha. Monument: Poems New and Selected.
  • Whalen, Philip. Selected Poems.
  • Whitman, Walt. Selected Poems.
  • Williams, William Carlos. Selected Poems.
  • Wright, James. Above the River: Complete Poems.
  • Vuong, Ocean. Night Sky With Exit Wounds.
  • Yeats, William Butler. Collected Poems.
  • Young, Kevin. Blue Laws: Collected and Uncollected Poems 1995 - 2015.

Playwriting/Screenwriting

PLAYS
  • Albee, Edward. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.
  • Beckett, Waiting for Godot.
  • Brecht, Bertolt. The Good Woman of Setzuan.
  • Chekhov, Anton. The Cherry Orchard.
  • Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun.
  • Ibsen, Henrik. Ghosts.
  • Ionesco, Eugene. The Bald Soprano.
  • Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman.
  • Molière. Tartuffe.
  • O'Neill, Eugene. Long Day's Journey into Night.
  • Pinter, Harold. The Birthday Party.
  • Reza, Yasmina. Art.
  • Sartre, Jean Paul. No Exit.
  • Shaw, George Bernard. Candida.
  • Sheridan, Richard Brinsley. The School for Scandal.
  • Shakespeare, William. Hamlet.
  • Sophocles. Oedipus Rex.
  • Stoppard, Tom. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.  
  • Valdez, Luis. Zoot Suit.
  • Wilde, Oscar. The Importance of Being Earnest.
  • Williams, Tennessee. A Streetcar Named Desire.Valdez, Luis. Zoot Suit.
  • Williams, Tennessee. The Glass Menagerie.
  • Wilson, August. Joe Turner's Come and Gone.
FILMS (still under construction)
  • All About Eve.
  • The Bicycle Thief  
  • Casablanca.
  • Chinatown
  • Citizen Kane.
  • The Grapes of Wrath.
  • North by Northwest.Rear Window.
  • Rules of the Game.
  • Seven Samurai.
  • Singin' in the Rain.
  • Stagecoach.
  • Wild Strawberries.