Dual JD/MA in English

This program offers qualified students a unique opportunity to combine the study of law with coursework in English and American literature. “Law and literature” is an established scholarly field. The dual degree program facilitates inquiry into the common terrain of these two disciplines, including textual analysis and interpretative techniques, legal and literacy theory, rhetoric, and the role of law in literature. Successful candidates receive both the Juris Doctor (JD) degree and a Master of Arts (MA) degree.

With careful planning, the dual degree program can be completed in six semesters, rather than the eight semesters required to obtain each degree independently because some courses can be credited toward both degrees.

Academic Requirements

To earn the MA, students must complete eight graduate courses (normally 32 credits) in English. To earn the JD, students must earn at least 84 School of Law (LAW) credits and must comply with additional school requirements. The dual degree program allows students to receive joint credit for some courses taken at BU Law and in the Department of English (“the Department”), subject to limitations described below.

The Department of English requires that dual degree students complete at least six graduate-level courses in the Department, including one course in literary theory and one Directed Study, which is devoted to the required JD/MA thesis. Of the six English courses, at least four must be graduate seminars (courses numbered 700 or higher). Examples of courses offered by the Department that may be of particular interest to dual degree students are listed in Attachment A of this document (PDF).

Four of the literature courses taken to satisfy MA requirements also may be applied to the JD degree, up to a maximum of 12 LAW credits total. Students apply these literature courses to the JD degree during their second and third years of law school (typically one course per semester). Students also must take at least two LAW courses during their second and third years of law school that are approved by the Joint Advisory Board as relevant to the dual program. Examples of recent LAW offerings that apply are found in Attachment B of this document (PDF).

(Note: The School of Law must adhere to ABA accreditation requirements, which typically means that a 4-credit course offered by the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences [GRS] will yield 3 LAW credits. Please check with the LAW Registrar’s Office to determine how many LAW credits may be granted for a GRS course.)

To complete the MA in English, students must take two English courses beyond those needed to complete the JD. These can be completed in one of four ways, three of which permit the student to earn the JD and MA degrees in six semesters:

  1. The JD/MA student will take two extra courses over the course of the second and third years, one English graduate seminar and one English Directed Study (used to write the interdisciplinary law/literature thesis). These courses will be taken as overloads during the academic year. The student completes the JD/MA program in six semesters.
  2. The JD/MA student will complete one or both of the extra courses over the summer by taking one 500-level English course and/or the Directed Study during either of the BU summer terms. The JD/MA student completes the program in three academic years and graduates with his or her entering law school class.
  3. The JD/MA student combines Options 1 and 2 above by taking one overload course during one academic year and one summer course. The student graduates in three years with his or her entering law school class.
  4. The JD/MA student completes the two extra courses after finishing the JD requirements, during the summer after law school graduation or during a seventh semester after law school graduation.

Thesis Requirement

The core requirement of the joint JD/MA in English program is the thesis. Students must write a thesis that is a work of original scholarship and research and that substantially engages both legal and literary subjects, methods, texts, and/or analysis. This paper must:

  • Satisfy BU Law’s Upperclass Writing Requirement;
  • Be jointly supervised by one faculty member in the School of Law and one in the Department of English;
  • Be registered and counted as a Department of English Directed Study course;
  • Be approved, in its final form, by one faculty member in BU Law and one in the Department of English; and
  • Not substantially duplicate written work submitted for other courses either in the Department of English or in BU Law.