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Brooklyn College English Department
MA English and MA English Teacher Programs
Comprehensive Exam
 

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GENERAL INFORMATION

  • Students in the MA English Teacher program are required to pass a comprehensive examination. This three hour test is given twice a year, in the fall and spring semesters.
  • Students must apply to take the Comprehensive Exam through the Brooklyn College WebCentral Portal. Click eServices and Student Transactions.
  • The exam is usually taken at the end of the final semester of coursework or in the semester following. To be eligible for the exam, MA English Teacher students must have completed, or be in the process of completing, 5 English courses. They must also have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher and have resolved all incompletes in their courses.
  • All students are encouraged to purchase the current edition of M.H. Abrams' A Glossary of Literary Terms and to use it in all their literature courses. The identification questions in Part I of the examination will be selected from this book.
  • The exam tests students' knowledge in the following areas:
    knowledge of literary terms and historical concepts; understanding of major modern literary critical issues; ability to write a coherent essay in clear and lively style, free of grammatical errors.


LIST OF LITERARY TERMS FOR STUDY

Allegory
Alliteration
Augustan age
Blank verse
Canon of literature
Comedy
Courtly love
Chivalric romance
Cultural studies
Deconstruction
Dialogic criticism
Dramatic irony
Dream vision
Elegy
Enlightenment
Epic simile
Feminist Criticism
Formalism
Frame story
Free verse
Gothic novel
Great chain of being
Harlem Renaissance
Humanism
Irony
Marxism
Metaphor
Metaphysical poets
Meter
Modernism
Naturalism
Neoclassic
New Criticism
New Historicism
Old English period
Postcolonial studies
Postmodernism
Poststructuralism
Problem play
Prosody
Psychoanalytic criticism
Psychological criticism
Reader-response criticism
Realism
Reception theory
Renaissance
Restoration
Romantic
Satire
Semiotics
Seven deadly sins
Sonnet
Stream of consciousness
Structuralist criticism
Textual criticism
Tragedy
Transcendentalism in America


MA MODEL EXAMINATION

Read through the entire examination before beginning to write, and allocate your time carefully.

PART ONE

This section tests your knowledge of literary terms, critical and theoretical approaches, and historical concepts. Choose five of the following fifteen terms, and write a single, well-developed paragraph on each one.  NOTE: The list of terms will be chosen from the current edition of A Glossary of Literary Terms by M. H. Abrams (Harcourt, Brace College Publishers).

Allegory Poststructuralism Cultural Studies
Prosody Transcendentalism Restoration
Sonnet Tragedy Feminist Criticism
Neoclassic Modernism Psychoanalytic Criticism
Irony New Historicism Romantic

PART TWO 

Write an essay in which you analyze one of the passages linked here.  In your essay, provide a close reading of the words on the page, then connect your observations to relevant contexts, such as the text’s period, genre, or literary movement.

a.  Julian of Norwich, Shewings (c.1423)
b.  John Milton, Areopagitica (1644)
c.  Andrew Marvell, “To His Coy Mistress” (c.1650)
d.  Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (1850)
e.  Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie (1900)
f.  Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse (1927)
g.  James Baldwin, “Sonny’s Blues” (1957)
h.  Shani Mootoo, Out on Main Street & Other Stories (1993)

PART THREE

You have encountered several modern critical approaches during your study for the Master of Arts degree (such as feminist, psychological, Marxist, and historical). We are interested in knowing how you move from an understanding of the theory to its practical application in the classroom. Discuss how you could integrate one or two modern critical approaches into the teaching of two texts drawn from two different historical periods.

CRITERIA FOR GRADING THE MA COMPREHENSIVE EXAM ESSAYS

  1. Does the writer understand the critical issues raised by the question?
  2. Is the writer familiar with other theoretical or critical texts than the one cited in the question?
  3. Has the writer demonstrated breadth of knowledge of texts without becoming superficial?
  4. Has the writer selected examples from more than one historical time period?
  5. Is the essay coherent and organized?
  6. Does the writer indicate the ability to pay close attention to details when analyzing texts?
  7. Have all parts of the question been considered?
  8. Are there a minimum of grammar and style problems?


TIPS FOR STUDENTS

  • Take time to read the question carefully and understand what is being asked.
  • Take time to plan your response, including the formulation of a proposition and at least a rough outline of the essay's principal parts and the chief examples you will use.
  • Answer all parts of the question.
  • It is not necessary to repeat the question, but be sure to address the issues raised and to place them in a theoretical context.
  • Tie your examples to critical issues.
  • Demonstrate understanding of key critical terms used in the question.
  • One way to demonstrate breadth of knowledge of texts is to construct a paragraph that presents a series of examples.
  • Be sure to discuss at least two texts (from two different historical periods) in some detail.
  • Avoid vague language and broad, unsupported generalizations.
  • Avoid retelling stories, plots, or narratives.
  • And don't forget to purchase the current edition of M.H. Abrams' A Glossary of Literary Terms. As stated above, the identification questions in Part I of the examination will be selected from this book.