The Citadel

The Military College of South Carolina

College of Charleston and The Citadel Joint M.A. in English Comprehensive Exam 2016-17

For this exam, you will write two 750-word essays on each of the following prompts.  One text from the reading list, below, will be paired with a prompt, but you will not know which texts will go with which prompts until the time of the exam.  


I. Critical Conversation 

Identify and accurately describe a recent critical argument or tightly constructed conversation about Text X. Be sure to introduce and summarize at least 4 and no more than 6 relevant books or articles, paying special attention not only to the main points of each but also to its time period and context. Once you have sufficiently outlined the argument or conversation, clarify which contribution(s) you find the most convincing or effective, and why.

II. Application of Theoretical Approach

Choose one of any established literary theory that continues to generate critical accounts of literary and cultural artifacts (e.g., feminism, psychoanalysis, deconstruction, new historicism, queer theory, ecocriticism, etc.) Devise an argument about Text X that uses certain principles and/or strategies common to the body of theory that you have chosen.

Be sure to explain these principles / strategies (referring, if appropriate, to particular theorists or their works), state a thesis that reflects an understanding of them, and develop an interpretation of the work that integrates analysis of primary evidence from the perspective of the theory. You may not apply the same theory in both essays.

III. Close Reading

Analyze the passage from Text X below in deep detail.  First, establish its narrative (lyrical) context.  Next, you should provide a close reading of the text, interpreting it in light of the standard elements of prose (poetry) we expect to find in a work of literature.  Some of these elements might be imagery, symbolism, diction and figures of speech, point of view, characterization, and/or other rhetorical devices.  You might also consider cultural references, historical allusions, and structural elements, among other things.  What is important is that you demonstrate your ability to recognize and interpret specific elements of the text and to show how those elements contribute to a unified theme(s) that is central to the larger work.   

Reading List

The Book of Margery Kempe (1501)

William Shakespeare, Coriolanus (c. 1605)

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam (1850)

Willa Cather, My Antonia (1918)

Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)

Federico Fellini, 8 1/2 (1963)

Back to Top