Comprehensive Exam and Reading List


At the close of their studies for an M.A. in English at Xavier University, students must pass a written, closed-book comprehensive examination based on works of literature, linguistics, composition, and literary theory. The exam is administered in November and April of each year. The department faculty choose between thirteen and fifteen of these works; the remaining three works are chosen by the student.  This reading list is revised every two years. Students wishing to sit for the exam must notify Ms. Linda Loomis, the English Department Secretary, one month in advance of an exam date. As in the past, students will be required to answer at least one comparative question and several essay questions on individual works. There will also be a section requiring specific textual analysis or explication of one or more passages from one or more of the works on the lists.


The comprehensive exam for the Master's Program in English will be given
Wednesday, November 18th, 2015 from 8:45AM-3:00PM.

Students planning to take the exam should notify the Director of the Graduate Program, Dr. Tyrone Williams (513-745-2014,, by Wednesday, October 21st, or leave a message with the department secretary, Linda Loomis (513-745-2887,  If you plan to take the exam in November, be sure to have your three individually chosen books approved by October 21st.

On Wednesday, November 18, students should come to the English Department office (236 Hinkle) at 8:30 a.m.

M.A. Exam Reading List

Fall 2014 through Spring 2016

Click here to download a printable version of the list

1. Cleanness, by the Gawain-Poet c. 1375

Useful reading: Keiser, Elizabeth B. Courtly Desire and Medieval Homophobia: The Legitimation of Sexual Pleasure in Cleanness and Its Contexts. Yale UP, 1997.

2. The Winter's Tale, by William Shakespeare

Useful readings: Paster, Gail Kern. "Seeing the Spider: Cognitive Ecologies in The Winter's Tale." In Embodied Cognition and Shakespeare's Theatre: The Early Modern Body-Mind. Eds. Laurie Johnson, John Sutton, and Evelyn Tribble. New York: Routledge, 2014.

Pitcher, John. "Introduction." The Winter's Tale. The Arden Shakespeare, third series. Ed. John Pitcher. Methuen Drama. London: A & C Black Publishers, Ltd., 2010.

 Kuzner, James. "The Winter's Tale: Faith in Law and the Law of Faith."Exemplaria: A Journal of Theory in Medieval and Renaissance Studies 24.3 (Fall 2012): 260-81.

3. "Turkish Embassy Letters," by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

Useful reading: Johnson, Claudia L. On Austen: Jane Austen's Cults and Cultures. University of Chicago Press, 2012.

4. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Stevenson

Useful readings: Felski, Rita. The Gender of Modernity, 1995.

Sedgwick, E. K. Between Men, 1985.

5. Odes, by John Keats (1819; available in any edition of Keats's Complete or Selected Poems)

Useful reading: Butler, Marilyn. Romantics, Rebels, and Revolutionaries, 1981.

6. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Written by Herself, by Harriet Jacobs

Useful readings: Smith, Stephanie A. "Harriet Jacobs: A Case History of Authentication." The Cambridge Companion to the African American Slave Narrative. Ed. Audrey Fisch. New York: Cambridge UP, 2007. 189-200.

Sanchez-Eppler, Karen. "Righting Slavery and Writing Sex: The Erotics of Narration in Harriet Jacobs's Incidents." Touching Liberty: Abolition, Feminism, and the Politics of the Body. Berkeley: U of California P, 1993.

Foster, Frances Smith. "Writing across the Color Line: Harriet Jacobs and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl." Written By Herself: Literary Production by African American Women, 1746-1892. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1993. 95-116.

7. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee

Useful reading: Roudané, Matthew. "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?: Toward the Marrow." The Cambridge Companion to Edward Albee. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2005. 39-58.

8. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Useful reading: DeVere Brody, Jennifer. "The Blackness of Blackness... Reading the Typography of ‘Invisible Man.’" Theatre Journal 57:4: Black Performance. 679-69. 

Lee, Kun Jong. “Ellison's Invisible Man: Emersonianism Revised." PMLA 107:2. 331-344.

9. The Palm at the End of the Mind by Wallace Stevens

Useful readings: Kelly, Áine. "A Radiant and Productive Atmosphere: Encounters of Wallace Stevens and Stanley Cavell." Journal of American Studies 46:3. 681-694.

Simons, Hi. "Wallace Stevens and Mallarmé." Modern Philology 43:4. 235-259.

Doggett, Frank. "Wallace Stevens' Later Poetry." ELH 25:2. 137-154.

10. The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead

Useful readings: Liggins, Saundra. "The Urban Gothic Vision of Colson Whitehead's The Intuitionist." African American Review. 40.2 (2006): 359-369. Literary Reference Center

Selzer, Linda. "Instruments More Perfect Than Bodies: Romancing Uplift in Colson Whitehead's The Intuitionist." African American Review. 43.4 (2009): 681-698. Literary Reference Center.

Tucker, Jeffrey Allen. "Verticality is Such a Risky Enterprise: The Literary and Paraliterary Antecedents of Colson Whitehead's The Intuitionist." Novel: A Forum on Fiction. 43.1 (2010): 148-156. Literary Reference Center.

11. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi-Adiche

Useful reading: Gikandi, Simon. Language and Ideology in Fiction. Portsmouth [NH]: Heinemann, 1991.

12. Language, Gender, and Feminism by Sara Mills and Louise Mullany

Useful reading: Cameron, Deborah. The Myth of Mars and Venus: Do Men and Women Really Speak Different Languages?  New York: Oxford UP, 2009.

13. Literary Theory by Terry Eagleton

Useful reading: Graff, Gerald. Professing Literature (1997).