Master of Arts in Humanities

Admission to the Program

Applications for admission should include a statement of the applicant's purpose in applying to the program, a writing sample, and two letters of recommendation. Applicants whose native language is not English and whose B.A. is from a university in which English is not the medium of instruction must have a minimum TOEFL score of 570 (computer-based TOEFL 230). The GRE is not required.

Admission to classified standing in the program is given on evaluation of several factors in an applicant's education and experience. Of considerable importance are the subjects and range of undergraduate study; emphasis is given to courses in literature, history, languages, philosophy, the arts, cross-cultural and interdisciplinary humanities, but studies in the sciences or social sciences may also be valuable.

Program Learning Outcomes

Students completing an M.A. in Humanities should, by the completion of their degree, be able to:

  • understand the difference between humanistic ways of knowing and scientific, sociological or religious perspectives;
  • understand and apply the critical methods of at least two disciplines in the humanities;
  • appreciate diverse forms of human cultural expression and describe and compare them in a culturally sensitive way;
  • articulate a theoretically informed interdisciplinary question and find, organize, and present evidence to support a response to it.

Written English Proficiency Requirement

Level One (entry)

The department admissions committee will evaluate Level One written English proficiency on the basis of the applicant’s 500-word statement of purpose, and an eight to ten-page writing sample on a humanities-related topic. Taken together these should show that the applicant understands the nature of the program, has thought carefully about their reasons for applying and can articulate them effectively, and can express clearly and thoughtfully in writing on ideas and materials appropriate to the program.

The admissions committee will evaluate the quality of these materials as either insufficient for admission, satisfactory for conditionally classified admission, or satisfactory for admission to classified status. This classification is based on

  1. fluency and precision of expression,
  2. clear organization and persuasive argument, and
  3. appropriateness of the applicant’s interests and academic experience to the program.

Those who are admitted conditionally must receive a B or better in HUM 700 or HUM 721 in their first semester to be advanced to classified status.

Level Two

Level Two written English proficiency is demonstrated by the quality of the student’s work in HUM 898, or HUM 896 and HUM 896EXM. The criteria are the same for both:

  • Ability to articulate a critical framework that encompasses several kinds of primary texts.
  • Ability to express one’s perspective about the most significant secondary scholarship on those primary texts.
  • Ability to articulate and support an argument of substantial length and complexity.

Advancement to Candidacy

Besides meeting the general requirements of the program, students must maintain a 3.0 grade point average to qualify for advancement to candidacy for the master's degree. Official advancement to candidacy comes about with acceptance of an Advancement to Candidacy form by the Graduate Division.

With the graduate advisor's approval, most upper-division Humanities Department courses may be used to satisfy a portion of the Master of Arts requirements.

Humanities (M.A.) — Minimum 30 units

Core Requirements (12 units)

HUM 700Introduction to Integrative Study3
or CWL 800 Introduction to Graduate Study in Comparative Literature
HUM 705Text and Context: The Word and the World3
HUM 706Image and Culture: Picturing the World3
HUM 720Current Topics in the Humanities3

Electives (15 units)

Units selected on advisement with the graduate coordinator and advisor. A list of suggested electives drawn from Humanities and other M.A. programs will be circulated each semester. 

Culminating Experience (3 units)

HUM 896Directed Study of Humanistic Works (and HUM 896EXM Culminating Experience Exam)3
or HUM 898 Master's Thesis

Culminating Experience

The candidate must present a proposal and bibliography for his/her culminating project in writing to a Humanities faculty member by one week before the Graduate Division's deadline for Culminating Experience and ATC forms in the semester prior to enrolling in HUM 896EXM or HUM 898. The chosen culminating experience (HUM 896 or HUM 898) should be integral to the candidate's larger M.A. plan and with his/her longer career objective. It will be carried out in the final semester of work for the degree, with the aid of a graduate faculty member acting as chair and first reader; at least one other faculty member will serve as the first reader on the student's M.A. committee and will join as the second reader in evaluation of the culminating experience. Both HUM 896EXM and HUM 898 require an oral defense of the thesis.

Second Language

Reading proficiency in a second language is required. Under exceptional circumstances, a candidate may petition to substitute demonstrable proficiency in an auxiliary skill that has a clear relationship to his/her M.A. program.