MFA Comprehensive Exam

1. 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.

2. Reading List Described:

  1. The MFA Comprehensive Exam requires students to write three essays: two in the primary and one in the secondary genre. For the exam you will be required to cite approximately 8 works in the primary and 4 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 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.

  2. 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. You may substitute up to four works on your list of works in your primary genre; two works in your secondary genre.

3. The Questions and Exam Procedure

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

4. Reading Lists