MA Portfolio and Poetry Analysis Exam

Graduate students in the MA in Literature program must pass a written Poetry Analysis Exam and submit an MA Portfolio.

Poetry Analysis Exam
Students will take a two-hour exam in which they will write an explication and analysis of a poem chosen from a field of four or five poems selected by a two-person committee. Although the emphasis is obviously on the ability to read, interpret, and write about formal and generic elements of literature, the students are not barred from taking into account historical, cultural, and biographical elements, where known and relevant, or from using various theoretical approaches where they seem enlightening.

From time to time the department has offered workshops in poetry explication as preparation for this exam, generally based on student requests. From these workshops have emerged Sara Lundquist’s helpful essay “How to Explicate a Poem” and several sample explications, which may prove useful to students preparing for the exam, as might Andrew Mattison’s “On Meter.”

This exam will be offered once a term, excluding summer, at 9 a.m. on the 10th Saturday after the start of classes in Fall and Spring terms. See the Department Calendar for upcoming exam dates.

Students are eligible to take the exam beginning in their second semester. It is recommended that students take this exam in the term prior to turning in the MA Portfolio. Students taking the exam must have removed all “Incomplete” and “Progress” grades from their transcript.

Students must notify the Director of Graduate Studies in writing of their intention to take the exam, and must do so no later than three weeks before the exam date. An e-mail is sufficient for this purpose.

Assessment: The two faculty members who select the poems will also assess the exam. The exam committee will determine whether students pass or fail. Failed exams may require a complete re-examination or may require an oral follow-up, depending on the nature of the failure and the judgment of the examining committee. Students who fail will automatically have the opportunity to retake the exam once, if a retake is required. Students must petition the Graduate Committee for a third opportunity.

MA Portfolio
The portfolio will include:

  • A brief cover letter with a one-paragraph abstract of each of the following items.
  • A Critical History Essay on a text or body of texts from English, American, or Anglophone literatures, selected in consultation with the instructor of ENGL 5790 (with an emphasis on those texts with substantial critical histories). The first version of this paper will be begun in English 5790 and subsequently expanded and revised by the student for the Portfolio. Students are encouraged to seek the advice of the Graduate Advisor and any faculty members with pertinent expertise while expanding and revising this work. (20 pages)
  • An original, Analytic Essay modeled on a journal article and written with the ideal goal of developing it for publication. This essay is to be developed from something written previously for a class, under the supervision of the faculty member for which it was written. (20-30 pages)
    • The supervising faculty member will determine whether this essay passes the requirement, and will provide the student with formal written notification that it has, as well as comments about the essay’s strengths and weaknesses and suggestions for further revision and development with an eye toward the journal article as a model. The Essay supervisor’s comments are to be submitted with the essay itself as part of the Portfolio.
  • [Note: The Critical History Essay and Analytic Essay may NOT be on the same author or the same text.]
  • A 1-2 page letter documenting the student’s attendance at three events either hosted or supported by the English Department.

Submission: The Portfolio as a whole will be submitted in the student’s final year, most likely in their final semester, on the 10th Friday after the start of classes in Fall or Spring semester, or the 3rd Friday after the start of Summer Session II for summer graduation, and assessed as a whole by the Graduate Committee by the last week of classes. See the Department Calendar for upcoming portfolio deadlines.

NOTE: The deadlines are FIRM. Therefore students must be responsible for ensuring that they give the final version of the Analytic Essay to their supervisor at least a month before the deadline, and for seeing to it that the faculty member gives formal written comments before the deadline.

Submit completed portfolios to Sue Cousino in the Department office.

Students whose portfolios are insufficient in some way may be asked to meet with the Graduate Committee for an oral defense, or may be asked to do further work and resubmit in the next term.

Event Attendance Requirement
Intellectual inquiry thrives in the presence of collaboration and community, and an important aspect of graduate study is participating in and contributing to that community. English graduate students at the University of Toledo are expected to get involved in the intellectual life of the department.

English graduate students should attend or participate in no fewer than three events relevant to the their intellectual or professional development by the time they submit their MA portfolio. (To reiterate, that’s three events total, not per semester.) These events must be either hosted or supported by the English Department. Such events might include:

  • Lectures or Readings by English department faculty
  • Professional development workshops
  • Presenting a conference paper at the Midwest Graduate Research Symposium, hosted annually by UT

Students must produce a 1-2 page letter in which they explain how attending these events contributed to their intellectual or professional growth; this letter must be included in the student’s MA Portfolio. Include the full title and the date for each event attended.

The Graduate Studies committee recommends that at the beginning of their graduate career, students look at the English department calendar and mark possible events to attend. Be alert to announcements for:

  • Summers Lecture
  • Humanities Institute
  • Brown bag lectures
  • Various workshops (CV, cover letters, applying for PhD programs, etc.)

The committee also suggests that students start a file where they keep track of the various readings, lectures, presentations, and workshops attended. After each event, students should write a few thoughts about what they learned; these notes will be invaluable as they prepare their letters for their portfolios.

Occasionally, there may be other events occurring on campus or in the region that could serve as legitimate substitutes for UT English activities, but students must consult with the Graduate Studies Director before attending the event to determine if it can be used to meet the requirement.

Please note that the English department supports other forms of professional development for graduate students, such as attending conferences, in various ways, including Shapiro funding. But students fulfill this requirement by participating in the life of our university and department—for helping to make it a vibrant and dynamic community.

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