The M.A. in Language and Literature is an academically rigorous degree program at the graduate level.

Signum University’s M.A. in Language and Literature focuses on close, critical readings of classical and contemporary texts in their historical and conceptual contexts.

Why Both Language and Literature?

In his 1959 Valedictory Address at Oxford University, J.R.R. Tolkien declared:

The right and natural use of Language includes Literature, just as Literature includes the study of the language of literary works.

As Tolkien lamented in this address, far too many graduate degree programs have separated the study of language (historically known as “philology” – love of words) from the study of literature. However, language and literature are inextricably linked: Literature cannot exist without language; likewise, language is influenced and shaped by literature.

Because we believe that studying language and literature together enriches the individual study of each discipline, the M.A. in Language and Literature requires that students take at least two literature classes and two language classes. The rest of the coursework (six classes) is distributed across the disciplines, followed by two semesters of thesis planning and development. (See Degree Requirements below.)

Is this an English Literature degree?

Strictly speaking, no. Practically speaking — it depends what you mean by “English literature.”

Many of the texts studied in our courses are written in English, either primarily or through translation. However, the English language has a long and (let’s be honest) somewhat sordid history. The English language of today is a collage of many languages, due to influences from foreign invasions, mercantile trade, colonization, and the rapid spread of technology in the 20th and 21st centuries, and other factors. Studying the roots and origins of any particular piece of “English literature” can lead students and researchers in many different historical and cultural directions.

Furthermore, what people think of as “English literature” tends to include a relatively small historical segment of the language – specifically, Modern English, with perhaps a smattering of Chaucerian Middle English thrown in for good measure. We take a broader view. Some of our courses go back much further, not just to the English language’s Anglo-Saxon (i.e., Old English) roots and works such as Beowulf, but even to the development of the Germanic branch of Indo-European, the influences of which can still be seen in language and literature today. At the other end of the historical spectrum, we also are interested in the use and development of the English language (and its effects on literature) now and in the future, as it appears in various media – including books, movies, television, and video games.

In addition to more traditional areas, Signum University welcomes theses that examine elements of Tolkien studies, Inklings studies, fantasy literature, speculative fiction, and popular culture that have been hitherto overlooked by the larger academic community.

By emphasizing both language and literature, our M.A. in Language and Literature incorporates the study of the development of English language over time. For example, studying Latin can help students better understand the influence of that “dead” language in English literature, whether through classical or medieval, liturgical or scientific sources. The study of other languages can offer similar insights into the development and use of English literature throughout the ages.

So, while the M.A. in Language and Literature is not technically an “English Lit” degree, we believe that our program provides students with a broader understanding of English literature than many programs that are available today.

How can an M.A. in Language and Literature help me?

The reasons for pursuing an advanced degree can vary. For some people, earning a graduate degree opens up new professional or academic opportunities; for others, it is a personal measure of achievement.

Likewise, each person has their own reasons for wanting to study language and literature specifically. Our M.A. students tend to fall into one of the following categories:

  • Individuals with undergraduate degrees in literature or language who are looking for an advanced degree in a similar field
  • People with undergraduate or graduate degrees in other fields who enjoy language and literature and want to expand their knowledge and skills into a new field
  • Educators who are looking for opportunities to engage in continuing education

Whichever of these situations apply to you, we will work with you to help you fulfill your goal of earning an M.A. in Language in Literature.

Degree Requirements for the M.A. in Language and Literature

Important: Before taking classes toward an M.A. in Language and Literature, you must have already earned a Bachelor’s degree and submit an application.

Students who wish to earn their M.A. in Language and Literature must successfully complete a total of 36 semester hours with Signum University. The University offers a flexible timeframe to complete these requirements: Students are granted a minimum of 2 years and a maximum of 7 years to finish their degree program. During that time, students are welcome to take most courses at the pace that best suits them.

To receive an M.A. in Language and Literature, students must complete:

  • 6 credit hours dedicated to any of Signum’s language courses*
  • 6 credit hours dedicated to any of Signum’s literature courses*
  • 18 credit hours dedicated to a combination of the University’s language or literature courses
  • 6 credit hours dedicated to thesis planning and writing (after completing the above requirements):

Upon successfully completing the required courses and presenting a thesis project, students will be awarded their M.A. in Language and Literature. See the Thesis Guidelines for additional details about the thesis.

* Some classes may be eligible for either literature or language credit. For special circumstances, speak with your advisor or contact the University.

Language and Literature Classes

You can find a listing of current and past language and literature classes offered by Signum University in our course catalog.