Master of Arts in Literature

Through advanced literary study, students grapple with the thought and creative vision of the world’s most remarkable minds: rediscover and master classic texts while exploring exciting, contemporary works, diverse genres, and cutting-edge ideas in narrative form and interpretation. This broad and stimulating intellectual challenge improves the ability to analyze complex information, challenge assumptions, weigh competing considerations and reach effective conclusions. Graduates of the MALit program are well prepared for application to PhD programs and for success in diverse professional areas from advertising to law. Secondary-school teachers develop a competitive edge by deepening their subject-area knowledge — a key distinction between the MALit program and more general graduate programs in education.



Earn your master's degree entirely online

You can earn your a master's degree in literaure from Northwestern University part-time, online format that is designed to work with students' busy schedules. Online courses in this program are a blend of synchronous (logging in live at scheduled times) and asynchronous (access materials at your own pace) and marry the best aspects of online technology with the interactivity of the classroom in a format.

Paula Derdiger

In a professional sense what made a big difference for me was the opportunity to study with the faculty. One in particular I still work closely with today.”

Paula Derdiger (MALit) PhD, assistant professor, University of Minnesota-Duluth


About the MA in Literature

I had a very good experience at Northwestern. All of my professors were extremely interested in helping all of their students meet whatever their goals after Northwestern were. These have really been most academically exciting and stimulating two years of my career.”

Emily Naser-Hall, MALit alum, PhD candidate, University of Kentucky

Program Goals

MALit graduates benefit from an interdisciplinary program that:

  • Exposes students to Northwestern University’s distinguished and world class instructors.
  • Provides students with countless opportunities to engage with others who are passionate to rediscover and master classic texts while exploring exciting, contemporary works, diverse genres and cutting-edge ideas in narrative form and interpretation.
  • Engages students in advanced literary study, which improves critical assessment and problem solving skills which translate to work, personal and intellectual life.
  • Sharpens analytical and writing abilities, which can help prepare students for application to PhD programs.


Students must complete nine courses to complete their Master of Arts in Literature degree. Students must complete one core course (LIT 410 Introduction to Graduate Study), seven elective courses and a capstone project. Students can take elective courses that cover such topics as comparative literary studies, English, French and Italian, Slavic languages and literatures, and theatre. 

Students sign up for the final course in the program during the term in which they start their master's thesis. The capstone project for the MALit program is an essay of 40 to 60 double-spaced pages written under the supervision of an approved faculty member. The project presents an opportunity to research and explore a topic thoroughly. Students often elect to expand a seminar paper from a previous course. With the approval of the program director, students may create an interdisciplinary final project rather than a traditional thesis.

Current students should refer to Literature Curriculum requirements in place at time of entry into the program.


Explore Literature Courses. You can narrow your course search by day, location or instructor.

MA in Literature Specializations

Students who wish to lend more structure to their experience can elect to complete a MA in Literature Specialization. A specialization may be especially beneficial to educators, students who are thinking of going on to a PhD program, or anyone who wants to focus their literary study more precisely. Students complete four thematically linked courses for a specialization. Choose from the five subjects below.

  • American literature
  • British literature
  • Comparative and world literature
  • Film, literature, and visual culture
  • Interdisciplinary studies


The Master's in Literature faculty is comprised of dynamic and distinguished educators. Get to know the instructors on our Literature Faculty page.


A variety of factors are considered when your application is reviewed. Background and experience vary from student to student. For a complete list of requirements, see the Admission page for SPS graduate programs.

Tuition and Financial Aid

Tuition for the Master's in Literature program at Northwestern is comparable to similar US programs. Financial aid opportunities exist for students at Northwestern. Complete details can be found on the Literature Tuition and Financial Aid pages.

Registration Information

Already accepted into the Master's in Literature program? Get ahead and register for your classes as soon as possible to ensure maximum efficiency in your trajectory.


Literature Special Events

The Liberal Studies and Literature lecture series connects MALS and MALit students with Northwestern faculty presenting work from a range of engaging and thought-provoking topics. Visit the SPS events calendar to check for upcoming events. See the Literature Special Events page for summaries and video recordings of past events.


Find out more about Northwestern's MA in Literature

Related programs

Master's in Writing     Online MFA     Creative Writing Certificate     Business Writing Course     Summer Writing Workshop     Content Strategy Courses     1-Year MA in Liberal Studies
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