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The Department of English and Modern Languages at Georgia Southwestern State University is proud to offer an MA in English with a focus on Critical Literacy and Communications.  Within classes that are a part of this program, faculty help students unpack traditional definitions of literacy and explore how new technologies change the way scholars and the public think about reading and writing.  Through an intensive study of the history of literacy, students learn how dramatically our understanding of reading and writing has changed over time. Furthermore, our students become equipped with scholarly techniques not only for reading literature, but other forms of cultural production such as film, nonfiction, the visual arts, philosophy, digital arts, and even video games.  This program is designed to help teachers and other working professionals gain knowledge in literacy studies and critical pedagogy as well as related fields including cultural studies, composition, literature, linguistics, the history of the book, and rhetoric.   Designed with teachers and other working professionals in mind, our small classes are often taught in an online or hybrid environment.Distinctive modes of communication develop constantly. Our program anticipates the need for students to learn and use multiple literacies in these new modes in order to successfully communicate effectively in what has become a multi-genre world. In this program, we invite students from all disciplines to engage in rigorous critique of today’s ever-evolving rhetorical modes.

Master of Arts in English

This program, founded on the ancient traditions of rhetorical and critical inquiry, will seek to apply these traditions not only in existing oral, visual, and written contexts and modes, but also in the emerging digital contexts and modes. In addition, the interdisciplinary program will explore how emerging modes and contexts alter existing rhetorical and critical traditions, thereby building students’ foundations in the liberal arts and sciences.

The bulk of our face-to-face classes are offered during the summer with evening hybrid/online, and Saturday courses throughout fall and spring semesters, thus allowing our students to work and attend classes toward their degree.

Student Outcomes

Graduates of the Master of Arts in English with focus on Critical Literacy and Communications will be able to:

  • Demonstrate breadth of knowledge of the scholarly literature in critical literacy, literacy studies, and a related field.
  • Understand, critique, and use the scholarly methods associated with the program including textual analysis, ethnography, interview, and survey.
  • Critique standards of literacy and analyze the cultural implications of those standards.
  • Write for an audience of scholars in critical literacy, literacy studies, and other allied fields.
  • Use approaches and insights from rhetoric, cultural studies, or a related field to identify and critique various discourses and codes of power in various media.
  • Critically analyze and interpret texts, including major works of literature, in their specific historical, cultural, social, political, technological, and economic contexts.

Admission Requirements

Successful applicants typically present a BA in English or its equivalent; a good undergraduate grade-point average, especially in upper-division English courses; acceptable scores on the GRE general test, and a graduate application.  We also require three accurate and candid letters of recommendation from three professors who assess the applicant’s suitability for graduate work in English, a thoughtful Statement of Purpose, and a writing sample (approximately 10-15 pages) that demonstrates the applicant’s ability for graduate study.  A successful applicant should provide the following:

  1. Graduate application for admission
  2. $25.00 nonrefundable application fee
  3. Official transcripts from all colleges/universities attended
  4. Three recommendation letters
  5. Official GRE score to meet the minimum requirement for regular admissions
    • (Cumulative GPA * 200) + (GRE score) > 520 verbal reasoning
    • 4.5 on analytical writing
  6. Immunization form (before enrollment)
  7. Documentation of Lawful Presence (before enrollment, if applying for in-state tuition)

Regular Admission (without conditions)

Applicants who fully meet the graduate admission program requirements will receive a letter from the Office of Graduate Admissions indicating they have been accepted into the program and can begin to fulfill the requirements toward the MA in English.

Regular Admission (with conditions)

Applicants who do not fully meet the graduate admission program requirements will receive a letter from the Office of Graduate Admissions indicating that they have not met the requirements for entry into the program, but may enroll for 3-6 hours of course work for one semester.  At the end of that semester, the student must have maintained  a “B” in all coursework.  If the student does maintain a “B”, he/she may continue in the program.

Program Requirements

In addition to fulfilling our exit requirements, students must complete 36 hours of coursework


Students are required to take the following courses, which make up the core program of the degree (15 hours total):

  • ENGL 5010:  Introduction to Literacy Studies
  • ENGL 5515:  Composition and Critical Literacy
  • ENGL 5525:  Composition and Digital Literacy
  • ENGL 6270:  Seminar in the History of American English
  • ENGL 6300:  Seminar in Technology of Literacy
  • ENGL 7000:  Qualitative Research in Critical Literacy
  • ENGL 7100:  Thesis/ Portfolio Option

In addition, the following courses are required (6 hours minimum):

In addition to these requirements, students are required to take five elective courses (15 hours).  The following courses are examples of previously offered electives:

  • ENGL 6340:  Women and Literacy
  • ENGL 6430: Visual Interpretations of Literature
  • ENGL 6350: Cultural Studies and Rhetoric
  • ENGL 6310:  21st Century Digital Literacies
  • ENGL 6320: Critical Literacy and Literature
  • ENGL 6450: Disability and Literacy
  • ENGL 6950: Special Problems in Critical Literacy and Social Justice

Exit Requirements

In order to complete the MA, all students are required to take a qualifying examination and to complete either a thesis or a portfolio.  Before taking the qualifying exams, typically by the end of the second semester, the MA student must form an advisory committee.  The purpose of this committee is to help direct the students towards completion of the program and serves as the exam, thesis, and portfolio committee as needed.  At any time after the committee is formed, the student is free to change the membership of this committee with the approval of the Director of the Program.

The advisory committee consists of three faculty affiliated with the program.  One of the faculty members should be designated as chair and all members must be approved by the Director of the Program.

The advisory committee does the following:

  • Helps the student develop material for his or her qualifying exams.
  • Serves as the thesis committee for students choosing that option
  • Serves as the examination committee for students choosing the portfolio option.

Once the student submits an Advisory Committee Report for MA work (which lists the advisory committee chair and members), the chair of the advisory committee becomes the student’s advisor.  Students should consult regularly with their advisors as they prepare for the final steps in the program.

The Advisory Committee Report can be found here.

Qualifying Exams

The qualifying examination is a two-session exam given over two days and is administered by the members of the student's Advisory Committee. It is based on a selection of works developed by the student and his or her committee members.  Normally the exam is given when students have completed all coursework except ENGL 7100, oftentimes in the summer.  In each session, the students will be given a number of questions (usually 4-5) and will be asked to answer one or two of those questions in the time allowed (usually 4 hours). Answers are generally expected to run 4-6 pages, but length requirements are left to the discretion of the committee.

Within a few weeks of the submission of the examination, the student's committee members should have evaluated the students answer(s) and provided their recommendations (of pass or failure) to the Program Director. If the committee agrees that the student has submitted passing work, the student may enroll in ENGL 7100. If the committee members believe the student has failed the exam, they may ask the student to retake the exam.

ENGL 7100:  Portfolio/ Thesis Option

When students enroll in ENGL 7100, they are asked to either complete a thesis or a portfolio.  The Advisory Committee will direct the students toward the option they think best suits the student, although the student is given the final say as to which option best fits their needs.  Students considering further graduate work are usually strongly advised to take the thesis option. 

Portfolio Option

Students taking the portfolio option are asked to assemble a portfolio of their best work in the program, and to revise this work as needed.  Specific instructions are left to the Advisory Committee, but typically a portfolio will consist of several individual essays, a reflective letter to the committee, and will address several areas identified by the student and the committee that are related to the student’s long-term goals.


Students choosing the thesis option write on a topic of choice, implementing methodological practices and techniques that guide academic research and scholarly writing, while receiving constructive guidance from members of their committee.  The Advisory Committee is in charge of making final decisions for how this process works. Typically, students taking the thesis option begin the process by preparing a thesis proposal that outlines the argument of the thesis, explains its contribution to the field, and provides a working bibliography that demonstrates mastery of their topic. 

The thesis is usually between 40-60 pages in length, and most often is composed of multiple chapters.  Again, specifics should be discussed with the Advisory Committee.

At the end of the process, you may have to “defend” your thesis to the thesis committee. This meeting will challenge you to explain your research, justify your claims, and consider the larger implications of the work that you have done.

Students pursuing a master's degree must adhere to the following standards:

  • A cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better must be maintained.
  • Only two courses with grades of C can be applied to the degree.
  • No course with a grade below a C will be applied toward a degree. In any graduate degree program, all requirements, including course work at Georgia Southwestern State University, transfer credit and transient credit course work, must be completed within seven (7) calendar years from the date of initial enrollment in course work, without regard to the initial admission status and without regard to credit hours earned.
  • Graduate students who fail to maintain academic standards will be placed under academic review [PD3] at the end of the semester in which their status falls below the required standards.

Students Under Review


  • Students who have been placed under review will have early registration cancelled for the following semester. These students will not be able to register online and must report to their graduate advisor.
  • The Registrar will send the names of students under review to the Chair of the Department of English and Modern Languages and the graduate advisors.
  • A student under review must meet with his or her graduate advisor to develop an Individual Remediation Plan (IRP) to demonstrate how the student can return to good standing. The plan will be forwarded to the Chair of the Department of English and Modern Languages for approval before being placed in the student's file. A copy of the form will also be sent to the Registrar's Office.
  • At the end of the probationary semester, if the student is not successful in returning to good standing, the Chair of the Department of English and Modern Languages will send a certified letter of dismissal to the student with a copy to the student's graduate advisor and the Registrar's Office.
  • Graduate students who are dismissed from the graduate program may follow the Academic Grievance Policy outlined in the graduate student bulletin.
  • Re-admitted students who do not return to good standing after the initial probationary semester will be dismissed from the program and the University.
  • Dismissed graduate students may re-apply for admission to the program after three calendar years. If the student is readmitted, he or she must meet all requirements for the degree program at the time of re-enrollment. The years completed prior to dismissal will count towards the total seven (7) years to complete the degree. Re-admission is not automatic. Each application will be considered individually.


Useful Links

Contact Information

Office of Graduate Admissions
Wheatley Administration Building
Phone: 229-931-4206
Fax: 229-931-2983

Dr. Paul Dahlgren
Assistant Professor, English Department
Phone: 229-931-2191

Georgia Southwestern State University
Attn: Graduate Admissions
800 GSW State University Drive
Americus, GA 31709
United States of America

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