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Graduate English Courses and Classes Overview

Master's degree and Ph.D. programs in English offer graduate courses in a wide variety of areas. Students typically concentrate in literature or writing, although foundation courses are similar for both areas. Read on to take a closer look at the topics and concepts covered in graduate English classes.

Essential Information

English courses vary as widely as the professors who teach them, but there are some courses that are common to all schools. These include basic courses in expository writing and research and literature courses focusing on specific cultures and eras, such as 19th-century British literature or world literature. Graduate students might have the option of building their own programs, taking electives in areas that will ultimately enhance their thesis or dissertation. Many graduate programs also include student teaching.

Here are a few common concepts taught in graduate English courses:

  • Literature of specific time periods
  • Literary theory
  • Plays
  • Poetry
  • Influential writers/authors
  • Styles and genres

List of Common Courses

Literary Research Course

This class, which is often required, emphasizes performing original research using original sources. Coursework focuses on techniques used for identifying primary texts and evaluating their context and authority.

British Literature of the 19th Century Course

This class explores the ideas and themes present in major works of British literature during the 1800s. The rise, evolution and decline of literary movements are discussed, as well as selected works, authors and critical ideas. Assigned readings may include novels, prose and poetry or dramatic works.

British Literature of the 20th Century Course

Students in this class study individual works of literature and dominant themes and styles prevalent in 20th-century British literature. Classroom discussions are usually based on assigned readings from books, plays, poetry and prose. Students also discuss well-known writers and the intellectual, economic, social and political factors that influenced them.

American Literature Until 1865 Course

This required class offers students a broad overview of major pre-Civil War literary movements. Social, political and cultural influences on literature are discussed, as are important writers and their works. Students also read assigned books and texts and explore the critical ideas expressed in American literature of this era.

American Literature Since the Civil War Course

Major post-Civil War literary trends, themes, styles and genres are the focus of this required English course. Coursework generally balances an overview of literary criticism of the time period with in-depth studies of specific writers, individually or as a group, and representative works.

English Rhetoric and Composition Course

Students develop their skill at expository writing in this class. They study examples of classical and modern rhetoric en route to developing their own personal voice and style. This is typically a core class.

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