Graduate Studies In English

The Master of Arts in English at Cal Poly

Students in the Master of Arts in English explore and research texts and their contexts, in intimate cohorts and with award-winning, nationally- and internationally-recognized faculty. Designed to provide a comprehensive experience of the field of English Studies, the M.A. offers courses in American, British, and World Anglophone literatures; literatures in translation; composition and rhetoric; technical and professional writing; linguistics; and literary theory and criticism. Students in their second year have the opportunity to teach first-year writing courses, and all students undertake a capstone "portfolio" project.

Cal Poly also offers the only Blended B.A. + M.A. Program in English in the CSU, allowing highly qualified students to complete both degrees in five years. Students interested in the Blended Program can learn more at this link.

Program Learning Objectives


  1. Understand how British and American literary traditions developed, becoming familiar with significant writers, their works, and the connections between them.

  2. Understand the structure of language and its change over time and across social situations and groups.

  3. Understand the movements and traditions of Composition and Rhetoric Studies.

  4. Be able to think creatively and critically and to write effectively within all these areas of English Studies.

  5. Know how to conduct original research and integrate criticism (secondary sources) into your own analyses.

  6. Be prepared for lifelong learning.

  7. Be ready and able to pursue a wide range of personal and professional goals or to undertake further graduate studies.



Our curriculum is designed to emphasize the breadth, diversity, and interdisciplinarity of the field of English Studies. Students in the program move through coursework that involves them in the study of literary and cultural texts, literary criticism and theory, composition and rhetoric, theories and practices of writing pedagogy, professional and technical communication, and the digital humanities. Moreover, they gain an intimate working knowledge of where our discipline is in the contemporary moment – of the heterogeneous objects, methods, frameworks, questions, and debates that comprise its present horizon of concerns.

English M.A. students complete 46 units of coursework: 11 four-unit seminars, and a two-unit capstone portfolio project. In addition to our three required "foundations" courses and the capstone project, students must take at least four literature seminars – two in U.S. American literatures and two in U.K. and/or Irish literatures. The remaining 16 units of coursework are chosen from among our various course offerings in literary and cultural studies, technical and professional communication, rhetoric and writing studies, criticism, and theory.

The "typical" path through the degree entails taking eight units per quarter for the first five quarters, and six units (one seminar + the capstone project) in one's sixth and final quarter.


Required Courses (30 Units)

ENGL 501 Introduction to English Studies (4 units)
ENGL 502 Introduction to Criticism and Theory (4 units)
ENGL 505 Introduction to Composition Theory (4 units)
ENGL 511* (2) U.S. American Literature (2 x 4 units)
ENGL 512*

(2) U.K. and/or Irish Literature (2 x 4 units)

ENGL 598 Capstone Project: The Research Portfolio (2 units)

* These are variable topics courses; a diverse range of such courses is offered across every two-year cycle. Note that M.A. students must take at least one early period (pre-1850) literature course.

Elective Coursework (16 units)

Students' 16 elective units of coursework are to be selected from among the following offerings:

ENGL 506* Pedagogical Approaches to Composition (4 Units)
ENGL 511 U.S. American Literature (4 units)
ENGL 512 U.K. and/or Irish Literature (4 Units)
ENGL 513 Global Anglophone Literature or Literatures in Translation (4 Units)
ENGL 518

Technical and Professional Communication (4 Units)

ENGL 519

Special Topics in Rhetoric and Writing (4 Units)

*ENGL 506 is strongly recommended for students admitted to the T.A. Program.

The English Teaching Associate Program

Students in the M.A. program may apply for a Teaching Associate position. In their second year in the Master's, Teaching Associates teach ENGL 134: Writing and Rhetoric, a required course for Cal Poly undergraduates; typically, TAs teach one section of this course per quarter, typically for all three quarters of their second year. Previous teaching experience, while valuable, is not required; Teaching Associates receive comprehensive training and instruction before entering the classroom.

Many Teaching Associates consider their work with student writers to be one of the most rewarding experiences of the graduate program. Past TAs have taken teaching positions at community colleges and high schools. Some have gone on to top-tier doctoral programs in Rhetoric and Composition.

Students who wish to apply for a Teaching Associate position must:

  • Be enrolled in the graduate program

  • Maintain a 3.7 GPA for graduate level courses

  • Complete ENGL 368: Peer-to-Peer Writing Instruction

  • Completion ENGL 505: Introduction to Composition Theory (with a final grade of an A- or better)

  • Be "in good standing" (i.e., applicants on Academic Probation will not be considered)

Students who meet the above criteria can submit the following materials in the spring of their first year of the program: 

  • A one or two page letter of intent

  • Faculty Recommendation

  • A Vita/Resume outlining relevant academic/professional

  • Three letters of reference

  • Official transcripts of highest degree earned

Students who want to become Teaching Associates may enroll in English 506 in their first quarter of teaching ​in order to support and develop their teaching and pedagogy. In addition, students who are selected as TAs must complete a ​paid one-week intensive training course in early September. For more detailed information about the Teaching Associate program, please contact Jay Peters


Dr. Ryan Anthony Hatch, Director of Graduate Studies in English


Recent Student Accomplishments

Ian Fetters, Cal Poly

English Master's Student Wins Prestigious Fellowship

English Master’s student Ian Fetters (English, ‘15) was awarded the S.T. Joshi Endowed Research Fellowship to study the literature of horror-fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft. The fellowship provides a monthly stipend of $1,500 for up to two months of research at the John Hay Library at Brown University — home to the largest collection of H.P. Lovecraft materials in the world. Fetters competed with advanced graduate students, faculty and independent scholars to be the sole fellowship recipient for 2017. Fetters began his two-month fellowship on July 1. The research and findings he compiles will be summarized in a presentation at the conclusion of the fellowship. “The intention is to use archival material to develop a project for presentation at a public lecture alongside a panel with other Lovecraft scholars,” Fetters said.

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