Department of English Language and Literature

M.A. Portfolio Requirement

Graduate students in the MA in Literature program who began their studies in Fall 2019 or later (or who began in 2018 or Spring 2019 and opted to follow the new requirements) must submit an MA Portfolio that meets the following requirements. (For students following the old requirements, see below.)

The portfolio must include:

  • A Critical History Essay on a text or body of texts from English, American, or Anglophone literatures (with an emphasis on those texts with substantial critical histories). The first version of this paper will be begun in English 5750 or 5780 (with some preliminary work done in 5790) and subsequently expanded and revised by the student for the Portfolio.
    • Students are urged to seek the advice of the Advisor for the literature concentration and any faculty members with pertinent expertise while expanding and revising this work. Students should plan to spend additional time on research and revision over the summer between their first and second years. (20 pages)
  • 2 original, Analytic Essays, 30-40 pages cumulatively, on different texts and in different historical or national fields, from work previously submitted for courses.
    • One essay must address a pre-1915 topic.
    • One essay will be modeled on a journal article and revised and developed under the supervision of the Graduate faculty member for which it was originally written.
      • The supervising faculty member will provide the student with formal written 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 supervisor's comments are to be submitted with the essay itself as part of the Portfolio.
      • Students should plan in advance with their faculty supervisor to schedule the revision of this paper and expect to do additional research and multiple revisions. Students must plan to give their supervising faculty member a final version of the essay at least at least a month in advance of the Portfolio deadline (unless the supervisor makes other arrangements), in order to give the supervisor time to write their remarks and to give the student time for any addition revision or polishing.
    • Note: the pre-1915 requirement and the faculty supervision requirement may be met by the same essay.
  • A descriptive list documenting the student's attendance at four events either hosted or supported by the English Department. (1-2 pages; see details below)
  • A self-reflective, introductory statement of 6-8 pages that includes a) description of the content of the portfolio, b) rationale for essays selected, c) description of methodology and critical practices that guide their portfolio, and their research work in general, and d) brief self-assessment of their critical trajectory and development during their M.A. degree.
  • Those students who held either the Toledo Press Fellowship or the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library Fellowship must also include a 2-page report (double-spaced, one-inch margins, twelve-point font) elaborating on projects completed during the fellowship year.

Note: Each essay in the portfolio (Critical History, two Analytic Essays) must be on different authors and texts.

Submission and assessment

The portfolio as a whole will be submitted in the student's 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. 

NOTE: The deadlines are FIRM. Therefore students must be responsible for ensuring that they give the final version of the supervised 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, in hard copy, to Natalie Hefner 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 four events relevant to their intellectual or professional development by the time they submit their MA portfolio. (To reiterate, that's four 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 or organized 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.

Be alert to announcements for:

  • Summers Lecture
  • Humanities Institute events
  • Other public lectures or events organized by department faculty
  • 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 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, helping to make it a vibrant and dynamic community.

Old M.A. Portfolio and Poetry Exam Requirements

Students who began their studies prior to Fall 2019 may still be governed by the old Portfolio and Poetry Exam requirements. (If you are unsure what requirements apply to you, please see the Director of Graduate Studies.) Those requirements are detailed below.

Poetry Analysis Exam

Students following the old requirements 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.

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 email 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.

Old MA Portfolio

For students following the old requirements, the portfolio must 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.
  •  A 1-2 page letter documenting the student's attendance at three events either hosted or supported by the English Department. (1-2 pages)

Note: The Critical History Essay and Analytic Essay may NOT be on the same author or the same text.

Submission and Assessment

The portfolio as a whole will be submitted in the student's 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.

NOTE: The deadlines are FIRM. Therefore students must be responsible for ensuring that they give the final version of the supervised 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, in hard copy, to Natalie Hefner 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.

Last Updated: 7/24/19