Jul 24, 2024  
2021-2022 Graduate Catalog 
2021-2022 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Department of English

Location: 215 Keezell Hall, MSC 1801
Phone: (540) 568-6797
Website: https://www.jmu.edu/english/graduate/index.shtml

Interim Academic Unit Head
Dr. Annette Federico

Graduate Program Director
Dr. Brooks Hefner

R. Aguirre, K. Castellano, E. Cavanagh, A. Federico, J. Gabbin, B. Hefner, L. Kutchins, D. Mookerjea-Leonard, B. Muhonja, M. Parker, M. Rankin, M. Rebhorn, M. Thompson, S. White

Associate Professors
D. Babcock, S. Cote, A. Fagan, R. Gaughran, M. Godfrey, D. Goode, S. Samatar, G. Wrenn

Assistant Professors
A. Gerber, D. Lo, H. Pennington, D. Price

Admission Criteria

Applicants are responsible for assuring that all materials have been received by the February 1 deadline. If any documents are likely to arrive after this deadline, please contact the Director of Graduate Studies as accommodation is possible in such cases.

To Apply

It is crucial that applicants read and follow instructions on both the Department of English and Graduate School websites carefully. Prospective applicants should visit The Graduate School website for information about the application process. Specific questions should be directed to the Director of Graduate Studies in English.

Applicants must apply online at http://www.applyweb.com/apply/jmug.

Follow the instructions on that site for submitting all application materials (transcripts, letters of recommendation, personal statement, writing sample, resume, etc.). Questions about the online application process should be directed to The Graduate School.

An online recommendation form is provided, however, the English department prefers and strongly encourages applicants to ask references for a detailed letter addressing the applicant’s preparation for graduate study; motivation; maturity; reading, writing, and analytical skills; and particular areas of strength and weakness. Letters of recommendation should be uploaded to the online application site.

Prospective applicants are welcome to communicate directly with the Department of English’s director of graduate studies, and prospective students are encouraged to visit campus and attend a seminar with advance notice. An interview with the graduate director is also recommended but not required.

Required Materials

  • Transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate programs.
  • At least two letters of recommendation from faculty familiar with the applicant’s academic performance and potential for graduate work. Additional letters may be sent if relevant to a candidate’s application.
  • If an applicant has been out of school for some time, he or she should contact the graduate director for advice about appropriate recommenders.
  • A substantial academic writing sample of 10-20 pages, showing the applicant’s strongest work and potential for literary research.
  • A statement of approximately 500 words articulating the applicant’s specific research interests, academic training, goals for graduate study and career aspirations, as well as the applicant’s reasons for applying to the JMU Department of English graduate program.
  • A resume is strongly recommended (this might include academic information, employment history, publication(s), research interests and skills not provided in other application materials).
  • Any additional materials that offer the committee information about an applicant’s suitability and preparation for graduate study.
  • Graduate Record Examination General Test (GRE) scores are optional and not required for admission.

Evaluation Measures

The graduate committee considers the overall strength of an application rather than focusing on fixed requirements. The committee reads and evaluates all completed applications. They consider all available material to help us judge whether a student is prepared for and capable of successful work on the graduate level, stressing the importance of a solid personal statement that is specific and focused as well as a writing sample that demonstrates strong intellectual and interpretive capabilities, facility with literary research, and excellent writing skills.

In addition to satisfying all admission requirements of the JMU graduate school, applicants must meet the requirements of the English department, which include the following:

  • A minimum overall GPA of 3.0 and a minimum GPA of 3.5 in English courses is recommended.
  • At least 15 credit hours in upper-division English courses showing some breadth of study are recommended. The committee may favorably acknowledge more diverse backgrounds (such as a concentration in creative writing, an English minor or another major in the humanities), but may specify provisions for admittance (such as additional prerequisite undergraduate courses), to assure that the student is adequately prepared for graduate seminars.
  • A writing sample that demonstrates strong intellectual and interpretive capabilities, facility with literary research and excellent writing skills.
  • A personal statement that details the applicant’s specific research interests, academic training, goals for graduate study and career aspirations, as well as the applicant’s reasons for applying to the JMU Department of English graduate program. We recommend that applicants seek guidance on how to write effective personal statements from faculty at their home institutions.

Application Deadlines

Admission is offered for fall semester only; however, a student may discuss with the graduate director the possibility of taking seminars as a non-degree candidate prior to application to the program. Students may transfer up to 9 credit hours into the graduate program if they receive a grade of “B” or better in the seminars and are admitted to the program. Complete applications must be received by February 1 for full consideration. If any documents are likely to arrive after this deadline, please contact the Director of Graduate Studies as some accommodation is possible in such cases. For non-degree applicants only, this deadline is flexible. Please consult with the graduate director for more information.


All applicants are automatically considered for funding; no additional application is required. See the Financial Support tab on the English department website (https://www.jmu.edu/english/graduate/funding.shtml) for more information about allocation of assistantships.

Application Review Procedure and Timetable

The graduate committee begins review of all complete applications after February 1. The number of applications and committee members’ workload affects the time necessary to review applications, to rank applicants and to make offers, however, faculty members try to complete the review in a month’s time. Candidates are welcome to contact the graduate director for information about the application’s progression after three weeks or at any time if the candidate has received other offers and needs to make an earlier decision.

Note: Students must achieve unconditional status before applying for admission to candidacy.


The English department emphasizes preparation for Ph.D. work and advanced training both for secondary education teachers and those for whom an M.A. in English would enhance career options. We welcome students who, for whatever reasons, are eager to read literature on an advanced level, who enjoy research and writing, and who appreciate the responsibilities and pleasures of pursuing one’s intellectual goals within an academic community.


  • To excite and maintain in students a permanent desire for an expanded knowledge and understanding of the world through the study of diverse authors and genres.
  • To help students to discover and appreciate the English language, and to learn how richly language clothes our responses to the world.
  • To actively promote, through formal study, both the self-examination and the imaginative understanding that are among the central values of advanced study in the humanities.
  • To encourage in post-baccalaureate students a broader, more formal inquiry into specific authors and movements in both western and non-western literatures, and to teach them by example the professional practices of reading and interpretation.
  • To cultivate the practical talents gained by the study of literature: the ability to recognize the functions of analysis and synthesis in one’s professional life; to construct an argument; to think critically; to write efficiently, clearly, and gracefully; to develop confidence in the validity of one’s judgments about many kinds of writing; and to learn to see the interstices as well as the architectural whole in widely different encounters with the written word.
  • To stimulate the kind of intellectual self-scrutiny and the passion for reading that will lead to successful work on the doctoral level, and to help students gain admittance into excellent Ph.D. programs throughout the country.
  • To provide an opportunity for qualified students who are considering teaching as a career to work with faculty in undergraduate courses or to teach their own first-year composition class through the awarding of graduate and teaching assistantships.
  • To foster in those who are interested in pursuing careers in writing and editing, politics, business, nonprofit work or other less obviously English-related fields the kinds of attention and analysis that are concomitant with the formal study of vastly different kinds of writing – fiction, poetry and drama, argumentation and analysis, opinion, review essays and creative nonfiction.
  • To both broaden and deepen the needed practical knowledge of the fields of writing, literature and literary history for future English teachers in high schools, business schools and community colleges.
  • To offer career teachers of English a place to improve their knowledge of these fields and rejuvenate their commitment to the study and teaching of literature.
  • To enhance the professional opportunities of career teachers of English through advanced study.

The JMU graduate faculty in English is committed to the belief that encountering and interacting with literature, thinking critically about texts, learning the skills of scholarly research, and writing about one’s ideas effectively provide the kind of education from which the world continues to benefit.

To fulfill these beliefs, we offer students a superior faculty who are recognized for their scholarship, their excellence in teaching and their supportive relationships with graduate students. All classes are in small seminar format with a maximum enrollment of 15 students.

The Department of English offers the Master of Arts degree.