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Online Graduate Programs in English Literature

Master's-level graduate programs in English literature are available online and include courses covering a range of literary traditions. Read on for specific courses and admissions requirements common to these programs.

Students seeking advanced education in English literature can find online programs offering Master of Arts degrees in the field. In addition to those offering a degree specifically in English literature, programs are available with concentrations in literary studies or with the flexibility to design a course of study based on students' literary interests. These degrees prepare students for careers in teaching or professional writing or to pursue doctoral study.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • American Literature
  • British Literature

English Literature Online Graduate Program Information

These master's-level programs can often be completed in between 1½ and 3 years, and some programs have a time limit in which students must complete the degree requirements. In addition to courses like those listed below covering major works, literary theory, and literary criticism, programs may require a thesis and/or comprehensive examinations.

Literary Criticism

Criticism classes examine theories and perspectives on literary criticism as a method of research in the field. Students learn approaches to conducting close readings and interpretations of texts. These classes may examine how the practice of literary criticism has evolved over time and the work of notable literary critics.

British Literature

With a focus on literature from different eras and regions, these programs often include classes on British literature. Courses in this area investigate themes and literary devices used by British writers and the impact their work had on society. They may focus on the works of well-known British writers like Shakespeare or Chaucer. These classes often include significant research papers.

American Literature

Graduate programs in literature also focus on the works of American writers. These classes may examine specific themes found in American literature like the quest for personal and national identity. Alternatively, they may focus on particular time periods and the resulting literary works, like colonial times or the nineteenth century. These classes often incorporate multiple narrative forms and both fiction and nonfiction.

Modern Literature

Just as these programs focus on literature from different regions, they also include classes centered around literature produced during particular time periods, including the modern era. Courses in this area cover literature from the twentieth century, and they may address forms including novels, short stories, and poetry. These classes typically investigate notions related to this time period like fragmentation and the departure from the ideals of prior eras. Students perform careful readings of works from this era and, in addition to discussing them, students usually compose research papers and presentations on particular authors or literary pieces.

Rhetoric and Composition

In addition to classes on literature, these graduate programs usually instruct students in the art of rhetoric and composition. Classes in this area cover rhetorical theories and their impact on writing and on teaching composition. Rhetorical theories covered usually span a range of time, from the classical era to more modern years. These classes may focus on a particular aspect of rhetorical studies such as visual rhetoric.

English Literature Online Graduate Program Admissions

Applicants to online graduate programs in English literature should hold a bachelor's degree. Programs often do not require an undergraduate major in English, but may give preference to candidates with academic experience in the humanities. They might also have a minimum undergraduate GPA requirement. Prospective students may need to prepare a statement of purpose detailing their academic and professional interests and their motivation for applying to a particular program. Additional requirements often include letters of recommendation and an academic writing sample.

Online graduate programs in English literature offer advanced education in literature from various cultures and time periods. Applicants with a humanities background can also expect to study methods of literary criticism and rhetorical theory.


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