Partner Department: English

Program Length: 6 semesters

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 (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.

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 JD degree provides.

Program Requirements

Required Law School Courses

  • 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 their dual program.
  • 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).

Required Department of English Courses (6)

  • One in literary theory
  • One Directed Study
  • Of the six total, at least four must be graduate seminars (courses numbered 700 or higher)
  • To complete the MA in English, students must take two English courses beyond those needed to complete the JD degree.

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:

  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 websitefor information on applying to dual degree program in English within GRS.

To be admitted to the dual JD/MA program in English, students should have a substantial background in literature, at a minimum the equivalent of a minor (six courses), and preferably more.

Students ordinarily apply to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences before or during their first year of law school to begin the MA program in their second year of law school.  Students may apply to the two programs simultaneously or sequentially.  A JD student must apply to GRS no later than his or her third semester in law school.

For MA admissions provide the following:

  • Graduate School application for the JD/MA in English
  • Official GRE Scores.  The general test in required.  The GRS subject test in Literature in English is recommended but not required.
  • Scholarly writing sample
  • Three letters of recommendation.  If applying to the MA in English after beginning law school, at least one new letter of recommendation should be submitted which addresses the student’s scholarly skills and achievement in English.  For the remaining two letters, the student may use copies of law school recommendations and should contact the Graduate School to have their recommendations forwarded from the School of Law.
  • Personal statement.  It is in the student’s best interest to explain in the personal statement or in a separate statement their reasons for pursuing a dual degree. (If applying during your first year in law school, you should provide a new statement indicating specific interest in the dual program and in English).
  • Unofficial transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate schools attended

Contact Information

Admissions Office
Graduate School of Arts & Sciences
Boston University 617-353-2696

Robert Chodat, Professor
Director of Graduate Studies in the Engligh Department 

Gerry Muir, Associate Dean for Academic Engagement
Boston University School of Law

Gerry Leonard, Professor
Boston University School of Law

Kristin Collins, Professor
Boston University School of Law