CSULA Department of English | Comprehensive Examinations and Thesis

Master's Thesis

Period Reading Lists

Part II Primary Text(s)

The Master's Examination in English

The Master’s examination in English, commonly referred to as
the Comprehensive Exam or comps, is composed of two parts. For
students in the Literature option, Part I is designed to test a
student’s grasp of a specific historical period. For students in
the Composition, Rhetoric and Language option, Part I tests a
student's grasp of all three components of the option. Part II of
the exam is the same for all students and tests their ability to
treat formal, critical problems.

Part I (Literature Option): Examination on a Historical
Period

No later than two quarters before the student sits for the examination, she
or he must select a historical period from the list provided by the Department
and inform the Graduate Studies Committee of his/her choice. The student may
either prepare the texts recommended by the Committee or may substitute
equivalent texts of her or his choosing. All substitutions must be approved by
the Committee at the time of the original selection. After approval of a revised
list, no other substitution may be made without petitioning the Committee, and
no changes may be made during the quarter in which the student sits for the
examination. The historical portion of the examination is three hours.

The student is not only accountable for the texts listed for each period, but
is also, and more importantly, responsible for an understanding of the nature of
the particular historical period itself. The selected texts, then, are to be
considered as foci or exemplars by means of which the student will demonstrate
her or his broader knowledge. In no sense does the Committee wish to suggest
that a thorough knowledge of any period can be achieved by merely preparing the
selected items. The pursuit of the objective of acquiring a "sense of the
past" can be gained only through investigating other diverse sources,
including social, intellectual, and literary histories; critical studies; and
other primary texts of the authors of the period. See the current list of
selected texts for each historical period.

Part I (Composition, Rhetoric and Language Option)

The examination is divided into two areas: (1) Composition and Rhetoric and
(2) Language and Literacy. A list of selected texts, representing a
comprehensive range of theories, research, and issues in the field, has been
constructed for each area. To prepare for the examination, students, in
consultation with the Composition, Rhetoric and Language advisor, select five to
seven texts from each area list for a total of ten to fourteen primary texts.
Questions will not, however, be based on specific texts; rather, students are
expected to use the selected texts (as well as any others that may be relevant)
to demonstrate a broad understanding of issues in the field and way in which
rhetorical and literacy theories and composition/linguistic research inform
their understanding of these issues. The three-hour examination is divided into
two ninety minute segments, one for Composition and Rhetoric and one for
Language and Literacy. Copies of the Composition, Rhetoric and Language reading
lists are available in the Advisement Office.

Part II: Critical Analysis of Texts

The second portion of the Master’s examination focuses on critical analysis
of a specific text or group of related texts. The emphasis in this portion is on
the student’s ability to elucidate and interpret primary texts. Thus, although
the student is expected to be familiar with significant theories, what matters
in this portion is not so much to what extent the student "knows"
theories but how well she or he can use theoretical insights and suitable
discourse(s) to explicate the "content of the text’s form" and/or to
re-evaluate and re-envision the text. In the spirit of contemporary theory,
critical thinking or active reading skills are, therefore, crucial. Whether the
critical method is rhetorical, formalist, structuralist, psychoanalytical,
Marxist, feminist, narratologist, post-colonial, deconstructionist, or, as is
often the case, a combination of two or more methods, the student must bring to
light, through "close reading" of the text’s rhetorical strategies
or semiotic codes, its artistic, social, historical, and cultural implications
and may critique certain values embodied in the form.

At least two quarters before the examination, the Committee will announce the
primary text or texts for this portion of the examination. The formal portion of
the examination is three hours long.