What are the ways (pls provide examples) in which writing literature essays and studying literature at Master's level differs from undergraduate level?
Certainly, there is more specialization on the graduate level where one focuses solely on courses relative to one's Major. In addition, the depth of analysis is increased. Rather than playing "follow the leader" with the professor, the graduate student must be independent, innovative, and creative, along with being extremely critical in his/her thinking.
My undergraduate students become exposed, for the first time, to several aspects of literature which were taught to them in High School in a general way, unless they were A.P. students. They write papers for the first time that require a number of specific formats and literary evidence that can put them at a safe level of "apprentice".
Graduate students have already surpassed this level, and they are seasoned with essay-writing, finding evidence, and conducting more research. Students at this level are expected to be well-versed and communicative enough in the field to attain a level of "Proficient researchers". Once they earn their graduate degree they can go on and teach others,hence the term "Master". However, that is also changing, for Lit. majors everywhere are strongly adviced to pursue their PhD's in order to attain an expert level.
I can't speak specifically for literature, but generally speaking, graduate school work is expected to be more original than undergraduate work. Students are expected to look at literature through different analytical frameworks (gender is a particularly popular lens nowadays) and formulate new conclusions from familiar works.
Application of your extensive research to develop interesting and original conclusions is also important in your Master's thesis. This can be difficult in some areas of literature where we can feel it has all been said before. Looking at works in the contemporary context and with today's perspectives can help ensure your work is new.
The writing of your final Master's thesis will include an extensive review of other literature that is applicable to your particular field. You will be expected to locate authoritative articles that have already been validated by others as making worthwhile contributions to the literature about your area of study. You will then need to show how the information in these previous works applied to and helped to shape the research you undertook to add new knowledge to the topic.
Yes, research! I am currently finishing up my last class and writing my Master's Thesis. Of course there are many courses that you will take before you get to writing the thesis, but I have been surprised at the level of accuracy that is expected throughout the process. Every professor is different when it comes to expectations, but in my experience they seemed to watch the grammar and punctuation more closely. At the master's level, you are on your way to becoming more of a specialized professional and you will be held accountable as such. I actually felt more challenged throughout the master's classes and wanted to prove to myself that I could be/can be better in my field of study. The rigour is challenging, but worth it.
At a master's level it is more about research. You will focus on one type of literature, while you continue to explore others. For example, you might choose an author you like and research and write a thesis on that author's works. The idea is that you will be contributing something new to the field in terms of ideas and literary criticism.
Studying literature at a Master's level will obviously be much harder than an undergraduate level. At the undergraduate level, the professor will guide you on the interpretation and meaning of a text. A masters level student will be expected to interpret and analyze independently. Master level papers will be much more in-depth and less guided by the professor as well. Papers will be longer and far more difficult in terms of writing skill level and topic.