Program Description

Students who seek a learning environment that supports them even as it challenges them to enhance their knowledge, explore new ideas, and gain experience in literary analysis, research, writing, and teaching will find themselves at home with us. Our critical strength is our diversity of approaches and the kinds of experiences we offer. MA candidates can expect to grow in different and sometimes unexpected directions as they explore many different facets of English studies. While deepening and widening their knowledge of literature, our MA candidates find themselves preparing technical documentation, editing a short story, writing an innovative assignment sequence or grant application, and/or taking up the challenges of poetics, empirical field-research on writing, and literary and rhetorical theory. 

Class Projects

Distribution Requirements

The Master of Arts in English is normally a 31-credit degree (ten seminars including a one-credit orientation to graduate studies in English). The degree may include six credits of thesis work and involves a course of study that leads to these program outcomes.  Students whose undergraduate major was not in English may be asked to complete 39 credits. Students wishing to transfer a graduate course from another institution, to take a graduate course from another department, or (under certain circumstances), to arrange for a graduate-level seminar experience at the 400 level, may do so with prior approval from the graduate coordinator (or their thesis director) and department chair.

Other requirements include:

  • At least 12 credits (4 seminars) distributed across three time-periods (pre-19th Century, Long 19th Century, and 20th/21st Century). Each term, the department will offer a catalogue of ENG seminars that includes several with reading lists and assignment sequences that extensively engage texts on or about these time periods. Graduate faculty will indicate whether they wish their seminar to satisfy the relevant period-distribution requirement that semester. Certain graduate courses outside ENG may be applied to distribution requirements with the approval of the grad coordinator and faculty members whose expertise lies in that period.
  • If student chooses an optional concentration, requirements must be met, as detailed below.
  • Thesis students (Creative Writing concentrations and optional for others) must successfully defend their thesis in a one-hour oral defense.
  • All teaching assistants must complete ENG 693: Teaching College Composition, normally in the first semester of their appointment.
  • A majority review committee vote of “Satisfactory” or above on a final Degree Portfolio showcasing the breadth and depth of the candidate’s abilities.
  • All work for the degree must be completed within six years of matriculation.

The department offers four optional concentration areas:

Writing Studies

9-12 credits in courses exploring current theories about writing, the teaching of writing, and the contexts of writing – including linguistics, critical theory, and discourse analysis.

The concentration in Writing Studies allows students to develop an interest in the theory and practice of teaching composition and empirical research in writing studies. The student may choose from among available courses in composition theory, pedagogy, linguistics, literacy, and rhetoric.

Candidates for this degree also may take related courses from faculty in Communication (Nathan Stormer) and Education.


Writing Studies faculty in English are:

Concentration in Creative Writing – Fiction 

(for students interested in Poetry, see Poetry & Poetics, below)

9-12 credits in workshops and thesis credits in fiction.

The concentration in Fiction Writing allows the student to focus on the writing of fiction, an on preparing a creative thesis, in addition to receiving graduate-level training in literature and literary criticism. Graduate fiction writing courses combine workshop situations with one-on-one instruction and enable students to work closely with practicing professionals.

The New Writing Series offers a lively schedule of readings throughout the year. Students in this concentration give public readings on campus as part of their thesis preparation.


  • Six credit hours in fiction (ENG 507: Fiction Workshop)
  • Six credit hours of ENG 699: Graduate Thesis
  • All fiction writing students produce and defend a thesis consisting of a substantial body of work (e.g. a novel, a collection of short stories), prefaced by a discussion of the creative process that gave rise to the work in the context of literary traditions and movements.

Graduate creative writing courses in fiction are taught by:

Concentration in Gender & Literature

9-12 credits in courses exploring the interrelationships of gender, language and literature.

The concentration in Gender & Literature allows students to pursue focused study of the workings of gender in language and literature. Coursework may include studies of women writers, of feminist criticism, gender criticism, or queer theory, of femininities and/or masculinities in particular literary periods or schools, as well as of theoretical questions such as the gendered nature of language.

N.B. English M.A. students may also opt for the Interdisciplinary Graduate Specialization in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies offered by the University’s WGS program.


Faculty with interest in gender and literature include:

Concentration in Poetry & Poetics

9-12 credits emphasizing theoretical and creative approaches to poetry and poetics. This concentration allows students to combine interests in literary analysis and poetry writing.

Poetry and poetics students benefit from the presence in the department of the New Writing Series as well as events sponsored by the Center for Poetry and Poetics, and may have the opportunity to contribute editorial assistance to the Center’s publications.


Plus one of the following options:


  • Six credit hours of ENG 699: Thesis (Poetry and Poetics concentrators have the option of doing editorial or archival work, writing a scholarly thesis, a manuscript of original poetry, a translation, or a hybrid of these approaches).

Poetry faculty include:

Applicants Seeking Degrees Off-Campus

Students with limited access to the Orono campus can make progress toward a degree by combining summer classes, transfer credits and thesis credits.

For more information on University admissions requirements, please refer to the Graduate School web page

Write to:

The Graduate School
University of Maine
5755 Stodder Hall, Room 42
Orono, ME 04469-5755

Telephone: 207.581.3219
FAX: 207.581.3232

For more information about the Masters program in English contact our Graduate Secretary, Nola Prevost

Phone: 207.581.3822
Write to:

Graduate Program Information
304 Neville Hall
English Department
University of Maine
Orono ME 04469-5725