Julie Paulson

Message from the Graduate Coordinator

Our Graduate Program in English Literature prides itself on its intellectual rigor, diversity of subjects and approaches, and commitment to excellence in teaching. Our course offerings balance traditional literary history with new work in such fields as postcolonial studies; food studies; digital literacies; environmental humanities; cultural studies; literature and psychology; narrative, lyric, and performance theories; and feminist studies. Students in our program have the flexibility to design and personalize their master’s program to meet their diverse interests and provide opportunities for professionalization in the field.

The M.A. Program serves the needs of those whose goal is teaching in junior or community colleges or private high schools, pursuing a PhD, or advancing skills and knowledge in reading and writing about literature. Our graduates work as teachers in high schools and community colleges; enter the field of publishing; write for journals, magazines, and online publications; earn PhDs; enter law school; start their own businesses; and work for non-profits, foundations, and government agencies.

Julie Paulson, Associate Professor of English Literature
Phone: (415) 338-3107
Humanities Building, Room 537

For questions about the application process, please contact our Graduate Programs Administrative Coordinator, Cynthia Losinsky at

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Read about faculty research and teaching interests

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Post Fall 2019 Requirements & Courses

Specific information coming soon!

Pre Fall 2019 Requirements

The M.A. Program in Literature is designed both to give students a broad background in literature written in English and to provide the opportunity for in-depth study. A minimum of 10 courses (30 units) is required to complete the program.

Course Requirements

  • ENG 741 Seminar: Literary Theory and Research Methods (3 units)
  • ENG 742 - ENG 790, ENG 820 Graduate Seminars (9 units)
  • ENG 711, 712, ENG 742 - 790, ENG 820 Graduate-level Courses (9 units)
  • Electives to be taken with the approval of an advisor (6 units)
  • ENG 898 Master’s Thesis, OR ENG 896 Master’s Oral Examination Culminating Experience (3 units)

All students must take ENG 741: Literary Theory and Research Methods, the program portal course, preferably at the beginning of degree study; and all students must enroll in either ENG 896: CE Exam OR ENG 898: Master’s Thesis, as their “culminating experience.” These courses comprise the “frame” of the program, and count toward the 7 courses (21 units) that must be taken in courses numbered 700 or above.*

A total of 6 additional courses (18 units) must also be taken in courses numbered 700 or above. Three of these courses (9 units) must be seminars numbered 742–790 or 820. The other 3 courses may be other seminars in this range, and/or ENG 711, ENG 712, or ENG 717: Projects in the Teaching of Literature.

The final 2 courses (6 units) are electives. The electives may be filled using 1) upper-division undergraduate courses in literature (500- and 600-level); 2) graduate seminars in the ranges listed above; 3) ENG 803: Teaching Practicum 4) ENG 899: Independent Study; 5) a combination of 1-5. You may take ENG 803 twice, but can only count it once towards the M.A.

*Note: Courses in grammar and composition pedagogy, such as English 657, 704, 705, 715, and 716, may NOT be included. However, courses from other departments related to a student’s particular field of interest—up to six units with approval of adviser—may be counted.)

Subject Requirements

As part of their 30-unit program requirements, students must fulfill the following subject requirements:

  • One course (minimum 3 units) from those designated under the category Literary History as follows: 
Graduate pro-seminars and seminars: 711, 712, 750–789
 or classes approved by an advisor.
  • One course (minimum 3 units) from those designated under the category Literary Theories and Methods as follows (this is in addition to English 741): Graduate seminars: 742; 744; 745; 746; 747; 748; 790; 800
 or classes approved by an advisor.
  • Early Period Requirement: 3 of the 30 units (1 course) must be chosen from courses in literature before 1800. The early period requirement may be met by courses that also fulfill the above listed subject requirements (for example, the early period course might also count as the “Literary History” required course, or it might count as an elective). Thus, the early period requirement is a distribution requirement, not a course requirement.

Culminating Experience (CE)

All students must choose one of the following options:

Master’s Thesis (ENG 898) 

The CE Thesis consists of three parts: the prospectus, the prospectus examination, and the thesis itself. Before undertaking these, students ready for ENG 898 must discuss their idea(s) for the thesis with their adviser and/or the faculty members they would like to serve as readers. After the thesis committee has been established, the student must submit a prospectus to his or her committee members. The prospectus then becomes the basis for the oral prospectus exam, which is scheduled before a student begins writing the thesis. The prospectus is a written statement, usually including the controlling purpose of the thesis; the selection of literary sources; an overview of the relevant scholarship and criticism; and the value and interest of the study. The prospectus exam is a one-hour discussion of the prospectus conducted by the two thesis readers. Please consult the Thesis Guidelines (pdf) and Prospectus Guidelines (pdf) handouts for M.A. Literature Students available in HUM 484 and online. Also look for the department’s “Thesis Workshop” offered every fall semester.

Written and Oral Examination 

Students pursuing this option will be examined on texts in two fields of the discipline based on departmental reading lists and student’s special area of interest. A list of the required readings for each historical field is kept on file in the Department of English. For each field, students will typically select 25 texts from a list of 30 primary texts, and 5 texts from a list of 10 works of criticism. The students’ CE exam, then, will typically be based on a total of 50 primary texts and 10 works of criticism. In both fields, students will submit a 5 to 6-page written assignment, one for each field, or 10-12 pages total of writing. The CE culminates in a 90-minute oral examination. The exam will be conducted by two faculty members who will each examine the student in one of their two chosen fields. To receive Credit for ENG 896, students must pass the two sections of the CE Examination. Consult the handout: Procedures & Timeline For CE Exam ENG 896 (pdf) available in the Department of English and online for more information.

Candidates who have selected the thesis option (ENG 898) as their CE project may NOT switch to the exam option (ENG 896), or vice versa, except upon advisement.

Seminar Grading

The department uses an A-F grading scale for all of its courses, including graduate seminars. Graduate students whose GPA falls below 3.0 are placed on probationary status; therefore, students receiving several Bs or below should consult their graduate adviser. Students must earn a grade of B or better in all courses listed on the ATC (Advancement to Candidacy Form).

Application Procedures & Advising

Admission to the program is competitive. It is also a two-part process: you must submit application materials to both Graduate Studies and the Department of English. GRE is not required for admission to the program. However, GRE is recommended for out-of-state applicants to determine eligibility for merit-based scholarships.

Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP): Eligible out-of-state students can now pay in-state tuition in the MA Literature program. 

IMPORTANT: Please review these (often time saving!) tips before applying: Graduate Studies Application for Admission Instructions.

If you have questions about the process, please contact:

1. Complete the online application through Cal State Apply.

Create your account AND Complete your profile. 
TIP: Students who will study on a F1/J1 visa must select Non-Resident for U.S. Citizenship Status under your Extended Profile.
Please note: You will only see a list of programs that aligns with your academic degree objective.

2. Submit the following online (A-D) by uploading on the Cal State Apply site’s “Program Materials” section:

A) Your completed English Department M.A. Literature application (pdf). Please use Adobe Acrobat to fill out the application.
B) A 1-2 page typed statement of purpose detailing your intellectual interests, the basis of your engagement in the field, and professional goals (#9 on the Literature application).
C) One writing sample (a critical or scholarly essay of 5-10 pages, preferably one written as part of a literature course).
D) Please upload legible unofficial copies of transcripts from each college or university attended. Including study abroad coursework, or community college coursework, even if this coursework appears as transfer credit appears on your degree transcript. Full academic disclosure is required. Photographs or screenshots of transcripts will be rejected. An incomplete academic history will significantly delay review of your application. 

3. If selected for admission, you will be required to submit official transcripts to the Division of Graduate Studies in order to secure your offer of admission. Please note: if you previously attended SF State, you do not need to submit a SFSU transcript.

If selected for admission, please mail official transcripts to:

Graduate Admissions Office, ADM 250
San Francisco State University
1600 Holloway Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94132

4. If you are an international applicant, see Grad Studies International Admissions.

International applicants who are non-native speakers of English must also have official TOEFL scores sent (institution code: 4683, department code:14). IELTS scores are also accepted.

International applicants who are non-native speakers of English must also submit a certified financial statement.

5. Two or more academic letters of recommendation (preferably from one of your current or former literature professors). Use the Evaluations tab to manage submission of letters of recommendation. Letter writer email addresses should be from professional or academic organizations (ex., or, not personal email addresses. Cal State Apply instructions on how to submit letters of recommendation.

For spring admission, October 15 is the early decision deadline and December 1 is the regular decision deadline. If you would like an early decision, please submit your application by October 15. For fall admission, February 1 is the early decision deadline, April 1 is the regular decision deadline, and July 31 is the late decision deadline. Please submit your application by February 1 for an early decision. International applicants should submit their materials by January 1 for fall admission or September 1 for spring admission. 

Admission Categories

Once a student has been admitted to the graduate program in Literature, s/he may be given CLASSIFIED standing if (a) s/he has completed an undergraduate degree in English comparable to the undergraduate major program at SF State, and (b) s/he has achieved a grade point average of at least 3.0 in the major. This CLASSIFIED graduate student is ready to take English 741, the seminar which functions as a “portal course” to further seminar work. Students admitted in one of the three categories described below may not take seminars in the range 741-790 until they have achieved CLASSIFIED status.

These are the three categories of CONDITIONAL CLASSIFIED status:

  1. CC/SD (Conditional Classified/Subject Deficiency): Usually given to students who have an undergraduate major other than English (with a 3.0 or higher GPA), or a background showing substantial personal interest in literature. This applicant will be required to complete a specified number of upper-division courses in literature determined by the admissions committee. These courses may not be credited toward the 10-course M.A. program.
  2. CC/P (Conditional Classified/GPA Deficiency): Usually given to students with an undergraduate English major GPA of 2.5–2.9 (without 9 or more units of graduate English courses taken with a GPA of 3.0 or higher). This applicant will be required to complete a specified number of courses (upper-division or possibly seminars) determined by the admissions committee with a GPA of 3.3 or higher. Once completed, these course do become part of the 10-course M.A. program.
  3. CC/SD & P (Conditional Classified, with both Subject and GPA Deficiency): Usually given to students with a course record described in (1) above with a GPA of 2.5–2.9.

Questions About Applying?

Contact our Graduate Programs Administrative Coordinator, Cynthia Losinsky at

Career Options in Literature

Our Graduates

Graduates of the M.A. in Literature work as teachers in high schools and community colleges; enter the field of publishing; write for journals, magazines, and online publications; earn Ph.D.s; enter law school; start businesses; and work for non-profits, foundations, and government agencies. We have a strong record of placing our students in tenure-track teaching positions at two-year colleges in California, particularly when they pursue a Composition and/or Reading Certificate in conjunction with the M.A..

Doctoral Program Placements

Recent graduate students of the M.A. in English Literature program have gone on to PhD programs at Brown, Northwestern, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Riverside, UC Santa Cruz, University of Southern California, University of Texas, Austin, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champagne, and Stanford among others.


Faculty in Literature

Literature Faculty

Click on the links below to learn more about our faculty.

  • Sarita Cannon, Associate Professor, 20-21st century American Literature
  • William Christmas, Professor, 18th-century British Literature
  • Kathleen De Guzman, Assistant Professor, Postcolonial Studies
  • Geoffrey Green, Professor, 20-21st century American Literature; Literary Theory
  • Sara Hackenberg, Associate Professor, 19th century British and American Literature
  • Lawrence Hanley, Professor, 20-21st century American Literature
  • Angela Jones, Associate Professor, 19th-20th c. Literature; Gender Studies
  • Martha Klironomos, Professor, British, American, and Greek Modernism; Greek American Literature
  • Michael Krasny, Professor, 20-21st century American Fiction and Drama
  • Wai-Leung Kwok, Associate Professor, British Romantic Literature; Literary Theory
  • Lois Lyles, Professor, 16th century through modern British and American Literature; Ethnic and Women’s Literature
  • Jennifer Mylander, Associate Professor, Early Modern Literature; Colonial America; Book History
  • Julie Paulson, Professor, Late Medieval English Literature; Early English Drama
  • Meg Schoerke, Professor, 19-20th century Poetry; Science Fiction
  • Gitanjali Shahani, Professor, Shakespearean and non-Shakespearean Drama; Postcolonial Studies
  • Summer Star, Assistant Professor, Victorian Literature; Poetry; Prosody Studies; Ethical Theory
  • Loretta Stec, Professor, Modernism; Southern African Literature; Atlantic Studies; Feminist Studies
  • Beverly Voloshin, Professor, US Literature and Culture through the early 20th century; The English Enlightenment; Modern Literary Theory

Graduate Advisors

  • Sara Hackenberg, Associate Professor, 19th century British and American Literature
  • Geoffrey Green, Professor, 20-21st century American Literature; Literary Theory
  • Wai-Leung Kwok, Associate Professor, British Romantic Literature; Literary Theory
  • Julie Paulson, Professor, Late Medieval English Literature; Early English Drama
  • Gitanjali Shahani, Professor, Shakespearean and non-Shakespearean Drama; Postcolonial Studies

FAQ, Opportunities, and Resources