Download the Core List


Anglo-Saxon and Medieval (5th c.-1485)

Choose at least two of the following works:

  • Selected riddles from Exeter Book and The Dream of the Rood
  • Beowulf
  • Cynewulf, Juliana and Anonymous, Judith
  • The Seafarer, The Wanderer, and The Wife’s Lament
  • Three Middle English lyrics studied in a class
  • The Owl and the Nightingale
  • King Horn and Havelok the Dane
  • Sir Orfeo
  • Thomas Chestre, Sir Launfal
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
  • Pearl
  • Saint Erkenwald or one other representative saint’s life studied in a class
  • Geoffrey Chaucer, two complete selections from The Canterbury Tales (e.g. “The General Prologue” and “The Miller’s Prologue and Tale”), OR Troilus and Criseyde (at least one book), OR one of the dream visions
  • William Langland, Piers Plowman (Prologue and at least one Passus)
  • Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love
  • Thomas Malory, Morte Darthur, selections studied in a class
  • Everyman or one other substantial representative morality or mystery play studied in a class

Relevant Terms and Concepts: Epic, Heroic Ideal, Elegy, Anglo-Saxon Prosody, Romance, Fin’ Amors (Courtly Love), Chivalric Code, Alliterative Revival.

Renaissance (1485-1660)

Choose at least two of the following:

  • John Skelton, The Book of Phillip Sparrow, The Tunning of Eleanor Rumming, or three representative lyric poems
  • Sir Thomas Wyatt, three representative lyric poems
  • Christopher Marlowe, The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus
  • Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, one book
  • Sir Philip Sidney, Astrophil and Stella
  • Sir Philip Sidney, Defense of Poesy
  • William Shakespeare, three sonnets
  • John Donne, three representative poems
  • Ben Jonson, three representative poems
  • George Herbert, three representative poems from The Temple
  • Robert Herrick, three representative poems from the Hesperides
  • John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi
  • Lady Mary Wroth, Pamphilia to Amphilanthus
  • Elizabeth Cary, The Tragedy of Mariam
  • Mary Sidney, selections from The Psalms
  • Aemilia Lanyer, selections from Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum
  • Thomas Carew, “A Rapture”
  • Sir John Suckling, Richard Lovelace, Edmund Waller, and/or Abraham Cowley, three representative cavalier poems studied in a class
  • Katherine Philips, three representative poems
  • Andrew Marvell, “To His Coy Mistress”
  • John Milton, Paradise Lost, at least one book

Relevant Terms and Concepts: Humanism, Blank Verse, Italian and Shakespearean Sonnet, Petrarchan Love, Epic.

Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Choose two representative plays from two different genres (e.g., one comedy and one tragedy).

Relevant Terms and Concepts: Comedy, Tragedy, Revenge Tragedy, Overreacher.

Restoration and Neoclassical (1660-1789)

Choose at least two shorter works or one longer work:

Shorter Works

  • John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester, three representative poems
  • Aphra Behn, The Rover or one other play
  • Aphra Behn, Oroonoko
  • Aphra Behn, two short stories or three representative poems
  • John Dryden, MacFlecknoe
  • John Dryden, “Absalom and Achitophel”
  • Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock
  • Alexander Pope, Essay on Man
  • Samuel Johnson, The Vanity of Human Wishes
  • Eliza Haywood, Fantomina: or, Love in a Maze

Longer Works

  • Jane Austen, Emma, Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility
  • Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe or Moll Flanders
  • Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, at least Books I, II and IV
  • Henry Fielding, Tom Jones
  • Samuel Johnson, Rasselas
  • Samuel Richardson, Pamela
  • Samuel Richardson, Clarissa
  • William Wycherley, The Country Wife

Relevant Terms and Concepts: Satire, Heroic Couplet, Reason, Enlightenment, Restoration, Nature, Wit, Irony.

Romantic (1789-1832)

Choose at least two works by two different authors:

  • Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
  • Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
  • William Blake, four to six representative poems from The Songs of Innocence and Experience
  • William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
  • William Wordsworth, three representative poems including either “Lines” or “The Immortality Ode”
  • William Wordsworth, “Preface” to the Lyrical Ballads
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge, three representative poems
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Rime of the Ancient Mariner
  • John Keats, two of the major odes
  • John Keats, The Eve of St. Agnes
  • George Gordon, Lord Byron, Manfred
  • George Gordon, Lord Byron, Don Juan, Cantos I and II
  • Percy Shelley, three representative short poems
  • Percy Shelley, Adonais
  • Percy Shelley, A Defense of Poetry

Relevant Terms and Concepts: Greater Romantic Lyric, Nature, Transcendence, Ode, the Sublime, Spots of Time, Byronic Hero.

Victorian (1832-1901)

Choose at least two shorter works or one longer work:

Shorter Works

  • John Ruskin, Thomas Carlyle or John Henry Newman, one essay studied in a class
  • Robert Browning, three representative dramatic monologues
  • Alfred, Lord Tennyson, three representative poems
  • Christina Rossetti, “Goblin Market” and three shorter poems
  • Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “Jenny”
  • Matthew Arnold, three representative poems
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnets from the Portuguese
  • Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland and/or Through the Looking Glass
  • William Morris, House of Life , The Blessed Damozel or The Defense of Guinevere
  • George Meredith, Modern Love
  • Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet or three short stories
  • Gerard Manley Hopkins, Three Representative Poems

Longer Works

  • Any novel, preferably studied in a class, by Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, William Makepeace Thackeray, Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope
  • Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray or The Importance of Being Earnest
  • Alfred, Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam A.H.H.

Relevant Terms and Concepts: Realism, Dramatic Monologue, and depending on which work(s) you choose, “Sweetness and Light,” “Pre-Raphaelite,” Melodrama.

American Literature to the Twentieth Century (1620-1900)

Choose at least one of the following longer works or two shorter works:

Longer Works

  • Henry David Thoreau, Walden, one book
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson, one essay
  • Mark Twain, Huck Finn
  • Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
  • Henry James, The American
  • Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself
  • Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Written by Herself
  • Any novel studied in an American literature class

Shorter Works

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature,” “The American Scholar,” “The Divinity School Address,” “Experience,” or “Fate”
  • Walt Whitman, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking,” “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” or “Passage to India”
  • Nathanial Hawthorne, “Young Goodman Brown,” “The Birth Mark,” or “The Minister’s Black Veil”
  • Edgar Allen Poe, “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Tell Tale Heart,” or “The Cask of Amontillado”
  • Stephen Crane, “The Open Boat”
  • Herman Melville, “Bartleby the Scrivener”
  • Emily Dickinson, three representative poems (preferably from the 320 reading list)
  • Phillis Wheatley, three representative poems
  • Any three poems by one author studied in an American literature class

Relevant Terms and Concepts: The Enlightenment, Transcendentalism, Realism and Literary Naturalism.

Modern and Contemporary British and American (1901-?)

Choose at least two of the following works, including at least one complete novel:

  • T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” or The Waste Land
  • William Butler Yeats, three representative poems
  • Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse, Mrs. Dalloway, or Orlando
  • James Joyce, selections from Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, or Ulysses (two or three chapters)
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
  • Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence
  • D.H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterly’s Lover, Sons and Lovers, or one other novel
  • Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
  • George Orwell, 1984
  • Eugene O’Neill, Long Day’s Journey Into Night
  • William Faulkner, any novel from a class reading list
  • Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises or A Farewell to Arms
  • Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
  • Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim
  • Wallace Stevens, three representative poems
  • Robert Frost, three representative poems
  • William Carlos Williams, three representative poems
  • Elizabeth Bishop, three representative poems
  • Anne Sexton, three representative poems
  • Sylvia Plath, three representative poems
  • Allen Ginsberg, three representative poems
  • Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness or one novel from a class reading list
  • Willa Cather, My Antonia
  • Ford Maddox Ford, The Good Soldier
  • Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita, Pale Fire, Ada or Ardor: a Family Chronicle, Pnin, or The Real Life of Sebastian Knight
  • Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
  • Flannery O’Connor, The Violent Bear it Away
  • Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory, The End of the Affair, or Brighton Rock
  • Evelyn Waugh, A Handful of Dust or Brideshead Revisited
  • E.M. Forster, A Passage to India or Howards End
  • Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road
  • Toni Morrison, Beloved, The Bluest Eye, or Song of Solomon
  • Tom Stoppard, Arcadia
  • Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony
  • Louise Erdrich, Tracks
  • A novel or short story not listed here and written post-WWII from a class reading list (by authors such as Donald Barthelme, J.D. Salinger, Grace Paley, Stanley Elkin, Richard Yates, William Trevor, Frank O’Connor, Eudora Welty, Katherine Mansfield, Margaret Atwood, Nadine Gordimer, John Barth, Joanna Russ, Samuel R. Delany, James Tiptree, Jr., Angela Carter, Octavia Butler, Sherman Alexie, or Alice Walker)

Relevant Terms and Concepts: Modernism, the Jazz Age, the New Criticism, Marxism, Existentialism, Post-Modernism, Minimalism, Stream-of-Consciousness, Storytelling, Oral tradition.

Additional Works

Choose additional works to bring your total number of works to twenty. These works should reflect your interests and reading. We encourage you to choose texts from the Core List that you have read in class. However, you may select works that you did not read for a particular course and works not listed above. The Chair reserves the right to strike from a student’s list any works deemed too obscure or insubstantial for worthwhile discussion with the orals committee.


Updated Winter 2014

Holly Barbaccia