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Hal

reading list in preparation for MA in English Literature.

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I'm going to be applying to MA programs for next fall so I figured I better brush up on important texts.I'm leaning towards an American Literature concentration.

So , for those that are already doing graduate work in English I'd be curious to hear what texts you can recommend I start pouring over.I know this question is kind of vague since every program is different, but I figured I'd ask anyway.

So far I've been reading Harold Bloom's "The Western Canon." I've also been re-reading a lot of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Hawthorne, and Faulkner.

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Great question! Did your undergrad supply you with a thorough background in literary theory? Mine did not, and I was totally lost during my first semester as an MA student. I wish I had read this book, which was recommended to me by my classmates: The Routledge Companion to Critical Theory.

Other than that, take this pre-MA time to just enjoy reading. I haven read so few books for pleasure since I started my MA program in 2008; now that I'm teaching, I still rarely have time to read! So make sure to throw some Hunger Games, Southern Vampire Mystery series, Dave Eggers, or whatever other non-canon books float your boat on your reading list as well!

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This is a great question, Hal -- does your current school (if you're currently enrolled somewhere) have any graduate programs in English? you might check with your department to see if there are exam or reading lists available. Or, search some programs you're interested in to see if they (or any of their faculty) have reading lists (or exam lists, for example) online.

This is one from Northwestern for the PhD exams:

http://www.english.northwestern.edu/graduate/grad%20documents/QE1%20Reading%20Lists.pdf

Could be a good reference (have to scroll down to get to American Lit section)

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Read Harold Bloom with a grain of salt. His isn't exactly the brand of scholarship one might build their academic career on, and you might find professors in graduate school are actually hostile towards him and what he represents (I won't divulge "what he represents"...).

Look around in journals in your field too. Try to figure out some top journals (this is a good starting place) and head over to your library and read some of the most recent editions, particularly if there are some articles on authors/periods of interest. Here is some good advice offered to new students entering my program: "In addition to reading literature over the summer, you might find it useful to look at scholarly journals in your area(s) of interest. Secondary research is crucial for graduate work, not only because you will be engaging in broader critical conversations, but also because most of the writing you do will be in the form of the scholarly research essay. Accordingly, you should read scholarly work with an eye both to content and to compositional and stylistic practices."

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Jonathan Culler's Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction, is quite useful for a quick overview to theory as well. I read it before getting to my MA and it turned out to be my first assigned reading in my theory class.

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