College of Arts and Sciences


Overview of the M.A in English at WIU

 The Department of English offers graduate-level study in literature, writing, and cultural studies.

You will take courses in traditional and emerging literatures, professional writing and editing, composition, new media, film, and popular culture. Through your course work, you will explore a broad range of literatures, rhetorics, theory, and criticism. As you progress through coursework, you will define your interests, master powerful theoretical perspectives and research methodologies, and develop your scholarly and professional identities. 

In the final “exit-option sequence,” you will work under the direction of a faculty committee to develop, complete, and defend an ambitious project that makes a significant intellectual contribution. In consultation with your committee, you can choose between three types of exit-option projects:

  • Thesis: 40-60 pages of original scholarly writing.

  • Directed Readings and Exam: Reading extensively in primary and secondary texts to master a particular field.

  • Applied Project: A significant and ambitious project, often tied to an internship in a professional setting.

Many students also earn credits with internships in teaching, professional writing, library science and other fields, gaining hands-on experience and making valuable professional connections.

Understanding English Studies Today: Literature, Writing, and Cultural Studies


Literature is most often understood primarily as imaginative writing: poetry, plays, short stories, and novels. These forms are at the heart of literary studies, but literature also includes many other forms, from non-fiction essays and philosophical arguments to works of history and biography that have become key to understanding a tradition. There are also emerging literatures, such as slam-poetry, flash-fiction, and even the interactive narratives of video gaming. In the M.A. program, you will explore both traditional and emerging literatures in your coursework. 

The study of literature always means wrestling with questions of meaning and interpretation. Literary theory and criticism provide the conceptual and historical backgrounds you need to make sense of the forms and traditions you are reading. ENG 500 will introduce you to some of the most important theoretical and critical approaches, and as you move through your coursework you will constantly be learning more about theory and criticism while you develop your ability to apply theory in your own critical writing.  

The literature faculty at Western have deep expertise in British, American, World, and Emerging literatures. You should familiarize yourself with the faculty and their work. You can find out more here here:    

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Study of the history and theories of persuasion, argument, and human communication in visual, written, and oral form since ancient times and analysis of how particular texts (broadly defined) function within their discourse communities and contexts and how we construct our worlds and meaning through language; also includes modern subfields informed by various critical approaches such as feminist rhetoric, visual rhetoric, environmental rhetoric, and rhetoric of science.


Research and theory in the history and practice of writing and writing pedagogy, especially at the post-secondary level, with scholars focusing on the writing process, writing center studies, English Language Learners, writing across the curriculum, writing in the disciplines, basic writing, conventions and genres of writing, writing and technology, literacy studies, and more, as well as different critical approaches informed by such fields as ecocriticism, cognitive psychology, and feminist studies.

Technical Communication

The study and practice of conveying written, visual, and oral information to a specific audience, including attention to usability, accessibility, style, conventions, genres, and media for delivery; areas of study in technical communication might also include internet studies, digital and new media studies, graphic design, visual rhetoric, etc.

The writing faculty at Western have deep expertise in rhetoric, composition, and technical communication. You should familiarize yourself with the faculty and their work. You can find out more here:

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Cultural Studies

Cultural studies emphasizes interdisciplinary approaches to interpreting the meaning of cultural phenomena, from the texts of popular culture to practices of everyday life. Cultural critics employ the sophisticated methods of literary analysis in concert with theories of power and the perspectives and techniques of other disciplinesparticularly history and sociology.

Cultural  critics often take as their subjects popular culture texts including music, film, and television. However, cultural critics might also write about architecture, fashion, food, etc. Cultural critics are often just as interested in the subcultures associated with particular texts, or with practices of everyday life. 

Some of the graduate faculty specialize in cultural studies, and many of the faculty at Western have a secondary emphasis in cultural studies:


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