Academic Programs

J.D./M.A. in English

Boston University 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 literary theory, rhetoric, and the role of law in literature.

Successful candidates receive both the Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree and a Masters of Arts (M.A.) 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.

The dual degree can significantly benefit a student, regardless of his or her career path. Students who intend to practice law will benefit from the careful, critical approach to textual analysis that is taught in graduate literature courses. Coursework taken in the program also will enhance the student's writing skills, which are essential to law practice. Similarly, a student who decides to pursue a career outside law, such as teaching literature, will benefit from the rigorous specialized training in the analysis of legal texts and issues that a J.D. degree provides.


Program Requirements

Course Requirements

To earn the MA degree, students must complete eight graduate courses (normally 32 credits) in English. To earn the J.D. degree, students must earn at least 84 LAW credits, and must comply with additional School of Law requirements. The dual degree program allows students to receive joint credit for some courses taken in BU Law and in the Department of English, 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 J.D./M.A. thesis. Of the six English courses, at least four must be graduate seminars (courses numbered 700 or higher).

Four of the literature courses taken to satisfy M.A. requirements also may be applied to the J.D. degree, up to a maximum of 12 LAW credits total. (NOTE: The Law School must adhere to ABA accreditation requirements, which typically means that a 4- credit GRS course ordinarily 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). Students apply these literature courses to the J.D. degree during their second and third years of law school (typically one course per semester).

Students also must take at least two Law School courses during their second and third years of law school that are approved by the Joint Advisory Board as relevant to the dual program.

To complete the M.A. in English, students must take two English courses beyond those needed to complete the J.D. degree. These can be completed in one of four ways, three of which permit the student to earn the J.D. and M.A. degrees in six semesters. The fourth option involves taking the remaining M.A. courses in the summer after receiving the J.D. degree, or in a seventh semester after receiving the J.D. degree.

Thesis Requirement

The core requirement of the joint J.D./M.A. 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:

  1. satisfy BU Law’s Upperclass Writing Requirement;
  2. be jointly supervised by a faculty member in the law school and in the Department of English;
  3. be registered and counted as a Department of English Directed Study course;
  4. be approved, in its final form, by a faculty member in BU Law and in the Department of English;
  5. not substantially duplicate written work submitted for other courses either in the Department of English or in BU Law.


Admissions Requirements

Students must apply and be admitted separately to the School of Law and to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GRS). For School of Law application procedures, please consult the School of Law web site. For the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences application procedures, please consult the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Department of English web site for information on applying to GRS.

a. To be admitted to the joint degree M.A. in English program, students should have a substantial background in literature, at a minimum the equivalent of a minor (six courses), and preferably more.

b. Once students are admitted to the JD program, they may request that the JD application (and transcripts) be forwarded to GRS from the JD Admissions Office. Requests can be made via email to Law Admissions. Note the following:

  1. Students ordinarily apply to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciencesbefore or during their first year of law school to begin the M.A. program in their second year of law school. Students may apply to the two programs simultaneously or sequentially. A J.D. student must apply to GRS no later than his or her third semester in law school.
  2. If a student applies to the M.A. in English after beginning law school, he/she must write a new personal statement and submit at least one new letter of recommendation. Both should address the student’s scholarly skills and achievement in English and interest in the J.D./M.A. program. (The student also should submit his/her other law recommendations).
  3. Must take the General GRE (Graduate Record Examination). The subject matter GRE in Literature in English is recommended but not required.