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English Department Dissertations Collection

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Dissertations from 2023 2023

In Search of Middle Paths: Buddhism, Fiction, and the Secular in Twentieth-Century South Asia , Crystal Baines, English

Save Our Children: Discourses of Queer Futurity in the United States and South Africa, 1977-2010 , Jude Hayward-Jansen, English

Epistemologies of the Unknowable in Nineteenth-Century U.S. Literature , Maria Ishikawa, English

Revenge of the Nerds: Tech Masculinity and Digital Hegemony , Benjamin M. Latini, English

The Diasporic Mindset and Narrative Intersections of British Identity in Transnational Fiction , Joseph A. Mason, English


Dissertations from 2022 2022

Writing the Aftermath: Uncanny Spaces of the Postcolonial , Sohini Banerjee, English

Science Fiction’s Enactment of the Encouragement, Process, and End Result of Revolutionary Transformation , Katharine Blanchard, English



When Choices Aren't Choices: Academic Literacy Normativities in the Age of Neoliberalism , Robin K. Garabedian, English

Redefining Gender Violence: Radical Feminist Visions in Contemporary Ethnic American Women’s Fiction and Women of Color Activism 1990-2010 , Hazel Gedikli, English

Stories Women Carry: Labor and Reproductive Imaginaries of South Asia and the Caribbean , Subhalakshmi Gooptu, English

The Critical Workshop: Writing Revision and Critical Pedagogy in the Middle School Classroom , Andrea R. Griswold, English

Racial Poetics: Early Modern Race and the Form of Comedy , Yunah Kae, English

At the Limits of Empathy: Political Conflict and its Aftermath in Postcolonial Fiction , Saumya Lal, English

The Burdens and Blessings of Responsibility: Duty and Community in Nineteenth- Century America , Leslie Leonard, English

No There There: New Jersey in Multiethnic Writing and Popular Culture Since 1990 , Shannon Mooney, English

Ownership and Writer Agency in Web 2.0 , Thomas Pickering, English

Combating Narratives: Soldiering in Twentieth-Century African American and Latinx Literature , Stacy Reardon, English



Dissertations from 2021 2021

"On Neptunes Watry Realmes": Maritime Law and English Renaissance Literature , Hayley Cotter, English

Theater of Exchange: The Cosmopolitan Stage of Jacobean London , Liz Fox, English

“The Badge of All Our Tribe”: Contradictions of Jewish Representation on the English Renaissance Stage , Becky S. Friedman, English

On Being Dispersed: The Poetics of Dehiscence from "We the People" to Abolition , Sean A. Gordon, English

Echoing + Resistant Imagining: Filipino Student Writing Under American Colonial Rule , Florianne Jimenez, English

When Your Words Are Someone Else's Money: Rhetorical Circulation, Affect, and Late Capitalism , Kelin E. Loe, English

Indigenous Impositions in Contemporary Culture: Knotting Ontologies, Beading Aesthetics, and Braiding Temporalities , Darren Lone Fight, English


Negotiating Space: Spatial Violation on the Early Modern Stage, 1587-1638 , Gregory W. Sargent, English

Stranger Compass of the Stage: Difference and Desire in Early Modern City Comedy , Catherine Tisdale, English

Dissertations from 2020 2020


Materially Queer: Identity and Agency in Academic Writing , Joshua Barsczewski, English



Passing Literacies: Soviet Immigrant Elders and Intergenerational Language Practice , Jenny Krichevsky, English

Lisa Ben and Queer Rhetorical Reeducation in Post-war Los Angeles , Katelyn S. Litterer, English

Daring Depictions: An Analysis of Risks and Their Mediation in Representations of Black Suffering , Russell Nurick, English

From Page to Program: A Study of Stakeholders in Multimodal First-Year Composition Curriculum and Program Design , Rebecca Petitti, English

Forms of the Future: Indigeneity, Blackness, and the Visioning Work of Aesthetics in U.S. Poetry, 1822-1863 , Magdalena Zapędowska, English

Dissertations from 2019 2019

Black Men Who Betray Their Race: 20TH Century Literary Representations of the Black Male Race Traitor , Gregory Coleman, English

“The Worlding Game”: Queer Ecological Perspectives in Modern Fiction , Sarah D'Stair, English

Afrasian Imaginaries: Global Capitalism and Labor Migration in Indian Ocean Fictions, 1990 – 2015 , Neelofer Qadir, English

Divided Tongues: The Politics and Poetics of Food in Modern Anglophone Indian Fiction , Shakuntala Ray, English

Globalizing Nature on the Shakespearean Stage , William Steffen, English

Gilded Chains: Global Economies and Gendered Arts in US Fiction, 1865-1930 , Heather Wayne, English


Dissertations from 2018 2018

Sex and Difference in the Jewish American Family: Incest Narratives in 1990s Literary and Pop Culture , Eli W. Bromberg, English

Rhetorical Investments: Writing, Technology, and the Emerging Logics of the Public Sphere , Dan Ehrenfeld, English

Kiskeyanas Valientes en Este Espacio: Dominican Women Writers and the Spaces of Contemporary American Literature , Isabel R. Espinal, English



Charting the Terrain of Latina/o/x Theater in Chicago , Priscilla M. Page, English

The Politics of Feeling and the Work of Belonging in US Immigrant Fiction 1990 - 2015 , Lauren Silber, English

Turning Inside Out: Reading and Writing Godly Identity in Seventeenth-Century Narratives of Spiritual Experience , Meghan Conine Swavely, English

Dissertations from 2017 2017

Tragicomic Transpositions: The Influence of Spanish Prose Romance on the Development of Early Modern English Tragicomedy , Josefina Hardman, English

“The Blackness of Blackness”: Meta-Black Identity in 20th/21st Century African American Culture , Casey Hayman, English

Waiting for Now: Postcolonial Fiction and Colonial Time , Amanda Ruth Waugh Lagji, English

Latina Identities, Critical Literacies, and Academic Achievement in Community College , Morgan Lynn, English

Demanding Spaces: 1970s U.S. Women's Novels as Sites of Struggle , Kate Marantz, English

Novel Buildings: Architectural and Narrative Form in Victorian Fiction , Ashley R. Nadeau, English


Dialogue and "Dialect": Character Speech in American Fiction , Carly Overfelt, English

Materializing Transfer: Writing Dispositions in a Culture of Standardized Testing , Lisha Daniels Storey, English

Theatres of War: Performing Queer Nationalism in Modernist Narratives , Elise Swinford, English

Dissertations from 2016 2016

Multimodal Assessment in Action: What We Really Value in New Media Texts , Kathleen M. Baldwin, English

Addictive Reading: Nineteenth-Century Drug Literature's Possible Worlds , Adam Colman, English

"The Book Can't Teach You That": A Case Study of Place, Writing, and Tutors' Constructions of Writing Center Work , Christopher Joseph DiBiase, English

Protest Lyrics at Work: Labor Resistance Poetry of Depression-Era Autoworkers , Rebecca S. Griffin, English

From What Remains: The Politics of Aesthetic Mourning and the Poetics of Loss in Contemporary African American Culture , Kajsa K. Henry, English

Minor Subjects in America: Everyday Childhoods of the Long Nineteenth Century , Gina M. Ocasion, English

Enduring Affective Rhetorics: Transnational Feminist Action in Digital Spaces , Jessica Ouellette, English

The School Desk and the Writing Body , Marni M. Presnall, English

Sustainable Public Intellectualism: The Rhetorics of Student Scientist-Activists , Jesse Priest, English

Prosthetizing the Soul: Reading, Seeing, and Feeling in Seventeenth-Century Devotion , Katey E. Roden, English

Dissertations from 2015 2015

“As Child in Time”: Childhood, Temporality, and 19th Century U.S. Literary Imaginings of Democracy , Marissa Carrere, English

A National Style: A Critical Historiography of the Irish Short Story , Andrew Fox, English

Homosexuality is a Poem: How Gay Poets Remodeled the Lyric, Community and the Ideology of Sex to Theorize a Gay Poetic , Christopher M. Hennessy, English

Affecting Manhood: Masculinity, Effeminacy, and the Fop Figure in Early Modern English Drama , Jessica Landis, English

Who Do You Think You Are?: Recovering the Self in the Working Class Escape Narrative , Christine M. Maksimowicz, English

Metabolizing Capital: Writing, Information, and the Biophysical World , Christian J. Pulver, English

Audible Voice in Context , Airlie S. Rose, English

The Role of Online Reading and Writing in the Literacy Practices of First-Year Writing Students , Casey Burton Soto, English

Dissertations from 2014 2014


Seeing Blindness: The Visual and the Great War in Literary Modernism , Rachael Dworsky, English


Interactive Audience and the Internet , John R. Gallagher, English

Down from the Mountain and into the Mill: Literacy Sponsorship and Southern Appalachian Women in the New South , Emma M. Howes, English

Transnational Gestures: Rethinking Trauma in U.S. War Fiction , Ruth A.H. Lahti, English

"A More Natural Mother": Concepts of Maternity and Queenship in Early Modern England , Anne-Marie Kathleen Strohman, English

Dissertations from 2013 2013

Letters to a Dictionary: Competing Views of Language in the Reception of Webster's Third New International Dictionary , Anne Pence Bello, English

Staging the Depression: The Federal Theatre Project's Dramas of Poverty, 1935-1939 , Amy Brady, English

Our Story Has Not Been Told in any Moment: Radical Black Feminist Theatre From The Old Left to Black Power , Julie M Burrell, English

Writing for Social Action: Affect, Activism, and the Composition Classroom , Sarah Finn, English

Surviving Domestic Tensions: Existential Uncertainty in New World African Diasporic Women's Literature , Denia M Fraser, English

From Feathers to Fur: Theatrical Representations of Skin in the Medieval English Cycle Plays , Valerie Anne Gramling, English

The Reflexive Scaffold: Metatheatricality, Genre, and Cultural Performance in English Renaissance Drama , Nathaniel C. Leonard, English

The World Inscribed: Literary Form, Travel, and the Book in England, 1580-1660 , Philip S Palmer, English

Shakespearean Signifiers , Marie H Roche, English

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While Sandel argues that pursuing perfection through genetic engineering would decrease our sense of humility, he claims that the sense of solidarity we would lose is also important.

This thesis summarizes several points in Sandel’s argument, but it does not make a claim about how we should understand his argument. A reader who read Sandel’s argument would not also need to read an essay based on this descriptive thesis.  

Broad thesis (arguable, but difficult to support with evidence) 

Michael Sandel’s arguments about genetic engineering do not take into consideration all the relevant issues.

This is an arguable claim because it would be possible to argue against it by saying that Michael Sandel’s arguments do take all of the relevant issues into consideration. But the claim is too broad. Because the thesis does not specify which “issues” it is focused on—or why it matters if they are considered—readers won’t know what the rest of the essay will argue, and the writer won’t know what to focus on. If there is a particular issue that Sandel does not address, then a more specific version of the thesis would include that issue—hand an explanation of why it is important.  

Arguable thesis with analytical claim 

While Sandel argues persuasively that our instinct to “remake” (54) ourselves into something ever more perfect is a problem, his belief that we can always draw a line between what is medically necessary and what makes us simply “better than well” (51) is less convincing.

This is an arguable analytical claim. To argue for this claim, the essay writer will need to show how evidence from the article itself points to this interpretation. It’s also a reasonable scope for a thesis because it can be supported with evidence available in the text and is neither too broad nor too narrow.  

Arguable thesis with normative claim 

Given Sandel’s argument against genetic enhancement, we should not allow parents to decide on using Human Growth Hormone for their children.

This thesis tells us what we should do about a particular issue discussed in Sandel’s article, but it does not tell us how we should understand Sandel’s argument.  

Questions to ask about your thesis 

  • Is the thesis truly arguable? Does it speak to a genuine dilemma in the source, or would most readers automatically agree with it?  
  • Is the thesis too obvious? Again, would most or all readers agree with it without needing to see your argument?  
  • Is the thesis complex enough to require a whole essay's worth of argument?  
  • Is the thesis supportable with evidence from the text rather than with generalizations or outside research?  
  • Would anyone want to read a paper in which this thesis was developed? That is, can you explain what this paper is adding to our understanding of a problem, question, or topic?
  • picture_as_pdf Thesis

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Digital Commons @ USF > College of Arts and Sciences > English > Theses and Dissertations

English Theses and Dissertations

Theses/dissertations from 2023 2023.

Of Mētis and Cuttlefish: Employing Collective Mētis as a Theoretical Framework for Marginalized Communities , Justiss Wilder Burry

What on earth are we doing (?): A Field-Wide Exploration of Design Courses in TPC , Jessica L. Griffith

Organizations Ensuring Resilience: A Case Study of Cortez, Florida , Karla Ariel Maddox

Theses/Dissertations from 2022 2022

Using Movie Clips to Understand Vivid-Phrasal Idioms’ Meanings , Rasha Salem S. Alghamdi

An Exercise in Exceptions: Personhood, Divergency, and Ableism in the STAR TREK Franchise , Jessica A. Blackman

Vulnerable Resistance in Victorian Women’s Writing , Stephanie A. Harper

Curricular Assemblages: Understanding Student Writing Knowledge (Re)circulation Across Genres , Adam Phillips

PAD Beyond the Classroom: Integrating PAD in the Scrum Workplace , Jade S. Weiss

Theses/Dissertations from 2021 2021

Social Cues in Animated Pedagogical Agents for Second Language Learners: the Application of The Embodiment Principle in Video Design , Sahar M. Alyahya

A Field-Wide Examination of Cross-Listed Courses in Technical Professional Communication , Carolyn M. Gubala

Labor-Based Grading Contracts in the Multilingual FYC Classroom: Unpacking the Variables , Kara Kristina Larson

Land Goddesses, Divine Pigs, and Royal Tricksters: Subversive Mythologies and Imperialist Land Ownership Dispossession in Twentieth Century Irish and American Literature , Elizabeth Ricketts

Oppression, Resistance, and Empowerment: The Power Dynamics of Naming and Un-naming in African American Literature, 1794 to 2019 , Melissa "Maggie" Romigh

Generic Expectations in First Year Writing: Teaching Metadiscoursal Reflection and Revision Strategies for Increased Generic Uptake of Academic Writing , Kaelah Rose Scheff

Reframing the Gothic: Race, Gender, & Disability in Multiethnic Literature , Ashely B. Tisdale

Intersections of Race and Place in Short Fiction by New Orleans Gens de Couleur Libres , Adrienne D. Vivian

Mental Illness Diagnosis and the Construction of Stigma , Katie Lynn Walkup

Theses/Dissertations from 2020 2020

Rhetorical Roundhouse Kicks: Tae Kwon Do Pumsae Practice and Non-Western Embodied Topoi , Spencer Todd Bennington

9/11 Then and Now: How the Performance of Memorial Rhetoric by Presidents Changes to Construct Heroes , Kristen M. Grafton

Kinesthetically Speaking: Human and Animal Communication in British Literature of the Long Eighteenth Century , Dana Jolene Laitinen

Exploring Refugee Students’ Second Language (L2) Motivational Selves through Digital Visual Representations , Nhu Le

Glamour in Contemporary American Cinema , Shauna A. Maragh

Instrumentalization Theory: An Analytical Heuristic for a Heightened Social Awareness of Machine Learning Algorithms in Social Media , Andrew R. Miller

Intercessory Power: A Literary Analysis of Ethics and Care in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon , Alice Walker’s Meridian , and Toni Cade Bambara’s Those Bones Are Not My Child , Kelly Mills

The Power of Non-Compliant Logos: A New Materialist Approach to Comic Studies , Stephanie N. Phillips

Female Identity and Sexuality in Contemporary Indonesian Novels , Zita Rarastesa

"The Fiery Furnaces of Hell": Rhetorical Dynamism in Youngstown, OH , Joshua M. Rea

“We developed solidarity”: Family, Race, Identity, and Space-Time in Recent Multiethnic U.S. American Fiction , Kimber L. Wiggs

Theses/Dissertations from 2019 2019

Remembrance of a Wound: Ethical Mourning in the Works of Ana Menéndez, Elías Miguel Muñoz, and Junot Díaz , José Aparicio

Taking an “Ecological Turn” in the Evaluation of Rhetorical Interventions , Peter Cannon

New GTA’s and the Pre-Semester Orientation: The Need for Informed Refinement , Jessica L. Griffith

Reading Rape and Answering with Empathy: A New Approach to Sexual Assault Education for College Students , Brianna Jerman

The Karoo , The Veld , and the Co-Op: The Farm as Microcosm and Place for Change in Schreiner, Lessing, and Head , Elana D. Karshmer

"The weak are meat, and the strong do eat"; Representations of the Slaughterhouse in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Literature , Stephanie Lance

Language of Carnival: How Language and the Carnivalesque Challenge Hegemony , Yulia O. Nekrashevich

Queer Authority in Old and Middle English Literature , Elan J. Pavlinich

Because My Garmin Told Me To: A New Materialist Study of Agency and Wearable Technology , Michael Repici

No One Wants to Read What You Write: A Contextualized Analysis of Service Course Assignments , Tanya P. Zarlengo

Theses/Dissertations from 2018 2018

Beauty and the Beasts: Making Places with Literary Animals of Florida , Haili A. Alcorn

The Medievalizing Process: Religious Medievalism in Romantic and Victorian Literature , Timothy M. Curran

Seeing Trauma: The Known and the Hidden in Nineteenth-Century Literature , Alisa M. DeBorde

Analysis of User Interfaces in the Sharing Economy , Taylor B. Johnson

Border-Crossing Travels Across Literary Worlds: My Shamanic Conscientization , Scott Neumeister

The Spectacle of The Bomb: Rhetorical Analysis of Risk of The Nevada Test Site in Technical Communication, Popular Press, and Pop Culture , Tiffany Wilgar

Theses/Dissertations from 2017 2017

Traveling Women and Consuming Place in Eighteenth-Century Travel Letters and Journals , Cassie Patricia Childs

“The Nations of the Field and Wood”: The Uncertain Ontology of Animals in Eighteenth-Century British Literature , J. Kevin Jordan

Modern Mythologies: The Epic Imagination in Contemporary Indian Literature , Sucheta Kanjilal

Science in the Sun: How Science is Performed as a Spatial Practice , Natalie Kass

Body as Text: Physiognomy on the Early English Stage , Curtis Le Van

Tensions Between Democracy and Expertise in the Florida Keys , Elizabeth A. Loyer

Institutional Review Boards and Writing Studies Research: A Justice-Oriented Study , Johanna Phelps-Hillen

The Spirit of Friendship: Girlfriends in Contemporary African American Literature , Tangela La'Chelle Serls

Aphra Behn on the Contemporary Stage: Behn's Feminist Legacy and Woman-Directed Revivals of The Rover , Nicole Elizabeth Stodard

(Age)ncy in Composition Studies , Alaina Tackitt

Constructing Health Narratives: Patient Feedback in Online Communities , Katie Lynn Walkup

Theses/Dissertations from 2016 2016

Rupturing the World of Elite Athletics: A Feminist Critical Discourse Analysis of the Suspension of the 2011 IAAF Regulations on Hyperandrogenism , Ella Browning

Shaping Climate Citizenship: The Ethics of Inclusion in Climate Change Communication and Policy , Lauren E. Cagle

Drop, Cover, and Hold On: Analyzing FEMA's Risk Communication through Visual Rhetoric , Samantha Jo Cosgrove

Material Expertise: Applying Object-oriented Rhetoric in Marine Policy , Zachary Parke Dixon

The Non-Identical Anglophone Bildungsroman : From the Categorical to the De-Centering Literary Subject in the Black Atlantic , Jarad Heath Fennell

Instattack: Instagram and Visual Ad Hominem Political Arguments , Sophia Evangeline Gourgiotis

Hospitable Climates: Representations of the West Indies in Eighteenth-Century British Literature , Marisa Carmen Iglesias

Chosen Champions: Medieval and Early Modern Heroes as Postcolonial Reactions to Tensions between England and Europe , Jessica Trant Labossiere

Science, Policy, and Decision Making: A Case Study of Deliberative Rhetoric and Policymaking for Coastal Adaptation in Southeast Florida , Karen Patricia Langbehn

A New Materialist Approach to Visual Rhetoric in PhotoShopBattles , Jonathan Paul Ray

Tracing the Material: Spaces and Objects in British and Irish Modernist Novels , Mary Allison Wise

Theses/Dissertations from 2015 2015

Representations of Gatsby: Ninety Years of Retrospective , Christine Anne Auger

Robust, Low Power, Discrete Gate Sizing , Anthony Joseph Casagrande

Wrestling with Angels: Postsecular Contemporary American Poetry , Paul T. Corrigan

#networkedglobe: Making the Connection between Social Media and Intercultural Technical Communication , Laura Anne Ewing

Evidence of Things Not Seen: A Semi-Automated Descriptive Phrase and Frame Analysis of Texts about the Herbicide Agent Orange , Sarah Beth Hopton

'She Shall Not Be Moved': Black Women's Spiritual Practice in Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, Beloved, Paradise, and Home , Rondrea Danielle Mathis

Relational Agency, Networked Technology, and the Social Media Aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing , Megan M. Mcintyre

Now, We Hear Through a Voice Darkly: New Media and Narratology in Cinematic Art , James Anthony Ricci

Navigating Collective Activity Systems: An Approach Towards Rhetorical Inquiry , Katherine Jesse Royce

Women's Narratives of Confinement: Domestic Chores as Threads of Resistance and Healing , Jacqueline Marie Smith

Domestic Spaces in Transition: Modern Representations of Dwelling in the Texts of Elizabeth Bowen , Shannon Tivnan

Theses/Dissertations from 2014 2014

Paradise Always Already Lost: Myth, Memory, and Matter in English Literature , Elizabeth Stuart Angello

Overcoming the 5th-Century BCE Epistemological Tragedy: A Productive Reading of Protagoras of Abdera , Ryan Alan Blank

Acts of Rebellion: The Rhetoric of Rogue Cinema , Adam Breckenridge

Material and Textual Spaces in the Poetry of Montagu, Leapor, Barbauld, and Robinson , Jessica Lauren Cook

Decolonizing Shakespeare: Race, Gender, and Colonialism in Three Adaptations of Three Plays by William Shakespeare , Angela Eward-Mangione

Risk of Compliance: Tracing Safety and Efficacy in Mef-Lariam's Licensure , Julie Marie Gerdes

Beyond Performance: Rhetoric, Collective Memory, and the Motive of Imprinting Identity , Brenda M. Grau

Subversive Beauty - Victorian Bodies of Expression , Lisa Michelle Hoffman-Reyes

Integrating Reading and Writing For Florida's ESOL Program , George Douglas Mcarthur

Responsibility and Responsiveness in the Novels of Ann Radcliffe and Mary Shelley , Katherine Marie McGee

Ghosts, Orphans, and Outlaws: History, Family, and the Law in Toni Morrison's Fiction , Jessica Mckee

The "Defective" Generation: Disability in Modernist Literature , Deborah Susan Mcleod

Science Fiction/Fantasy and the Representation of Ethnic Futurity , Joy Ann Sanchez-Taylor

Hermes, Technical Communicator of the Gods: The Theory, Design, and Creation of a Persuasive Game for Technical Communication , Eric Walsh

Theses/Dissertations from 2013 2013

Rhetorical Spirits: Spirituality as Rhetorical Device in New Age Womanist of Color Texts , Ronisha Witlee Browdy

Disciplinarity, Crisis, and Opportunity in Technical Communication , Jason Robert Carabelli

The Terror of Possibility: A Re-evaluation and Reconception of the Sublime Aesthetic , Kurt Fawver

Unbearable Weight, Unbearable Witness: The (Im)possibility of Witnessing Eating Disorders in Cyberspace , Kristen Nicole Gay

the post- 9/11 aesthetic: repositioning the zombie film in the horror genre , Alan Edward Green, Jr.

An(other) Rhetoric: Rhetoric, Ethics, and the Rhetorical Tradition , Kathleen Sandell Hardesty

Mapping Dissertation Genre Ecology , Kate Lisbeth Pantelides

Dead Man's Switch: Disaster Rhetorics in a Posthuman Age , Daniel Patrick Richards

"Of That Transfigured World" : Realism and Fantasy in Victorian Literature , Benjamin Jude Wright

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How to write an undergraduate university dissertation

Writing a dissertation is a daunting task, but these tips will help you prepare for all the common challenges students face before deadline day.

Grace McCabe's avatar

Grace McCabe

istock/woman writing

Writing a dissertation is one of the most challenging aspects of university. However, it is the chance for students to demonstrate what they have learned during their degree and to explore a topic in depth.

In this article, we look at 10 top tips for writing a successful dissertation and break down how to write each section of a dissertation in detail.

10 tips for writing an undergraduate dissertation

1. Select an engaging topic Choose a subject that aligns with your interests and allows you to showcase the skills and knowledge you have acquired through your degree.

2. Research your supervisor Undergraduate students will often be assigned a supervisor based on their research specialisms. Do some research on your supervisor and make sure that they align with your dissertation goals.

3. Understand the dissertation structure Familiarise yourself with the structure (introduction, review of existing research, methodology, findings, results and conclusion). This will vary based on your subject.

4. Write a schedule As soon as you have finalised your topic and looked over the deadline, create a rough plan of how much work you have to do and create mini-deadlines along the way to make sure don’t find yourself having to write your entire dissertation in the final few weeks.

5. Determine requirements Ensure that you know which format your dissertation should be presented in. Check the word count and the referencing style.

6. Organise references from the beginning Maintain an alphabetically arranged reference list or bibliography in the designated style as you do your reading. This will make it a lot easier to finalise your references at the end.

7. Create a detailed plan Once you have done your initial research and have an idea of the shape your dissertation will take, write a detailed essay plan outlining your research questions, SMART objectives and dissertation structure.

8. Keep a dissertation journal Track your progress, record your research and your reading, and document challenges. This will be helpful as you discuss your work with your supervisor and organise your notes.

9. Schedule regular check-ins with your supervisor Make sure you stay in touch with your supervisor throughout the process, scheduling regular meetings and keeping good notes so you can update them on your progress.

10. Employ effective proofreading techniques Ask friends and family to help you proofread your work or use different fonts to help make the text look different. This will help you check for missing sections, grammatical mistakes and typos.

What is a dissertation?

A dissertation is a long piece of academic writing or a research project that you have to write as part of your undergraduate university degree.

It’s usually a long essay in which you explore your chosen topic, present your ideas and show that you understand and can apply what you’ve learned during your studies. Informally, the terms “dissertation” and “thesis” are often used interchangeably.

How do I select a dissertation topic?

First, choose a topic that you find interesting. You will be working on your dissertation for several months, so finding a research topic that you are passionate about and that demonstrates your strength in your subject is best. You want your topic to show all the skills you have developed during your degree. It would be a bonus if you can link your work to your chosen career path, but it’s not necessary.

Second, begin by exploring relevant literature in your field, including academic journals, books and articles. This will help you identify gaps in existing knowledge and areas that may need further exploration. You may not be able to think of a truly original piece of research, but it’s always good to know what has already been written about your chosen topic.

Consider the practical aspects of your chosen topic, ensuring that it is possible within the time frame and available resources. Assess the availability of data, research materials and the overall practicality of conducting the research.

When picking a dissertation topic, you also want to try to choose something that adds new ideas or perspectives to what’s already known in your field. As you narrow your focus, remember that a more targeted approach usually leads to a dissertation that’s easier to manage and has a bigger impact. Be ready to change your plans based on feedback and new information you discover during your research.

How to work with your dissertation supervisor?

Your supervisor is there to provide guidance on your chosen topic, direct your research efforts, and offer assistance and suggestions when you have queries. It’s crucial to establish a comfortable and open line of communication with them throughout the process. Their knowledge can greatly benefit your work. Keep them informed about your progress, seek their advice, and don’t hesitate to ask questions.

1. Keep them updated Regularly tell your supervisor how your work is going and if you’re having any problems. You can do this through emails, meetings or progress reports.

2. Plan meetings Schedule regular meetings with your supervisor. These can be in person or online. These are your time to discuss your progress and ask for help.

3. Share your writing Give your supervisor parts of your writing or an outline. This helps them see what you’re thinking so they can advise you on how to develop it.

5. Ask specific questions When you need help, ask specific questions instead of general ones. This makes it easier for your supervisor to help you.

6. Listen to feedback Be open to what your supervisor says. If they suggest changes, try to make them. It makes your dissertation better and shows you can work together.

7. Talk about problems If something is hard or you’re worried, talk to your supervisor about it. They can give you advice or tell you where to find help.

8. Take charge Be responsible for your work. Let your supervisor know if your plans change, and don’t wait if you need help urgently.

Remember, talking openly with your supervisor helps you both understand each other better, improves your dissertation and ensures that you get the support you need.

How to write a successful research piece at university How to choose a topic for your dissertation Tips for writing a convincing thesis

How do I plan my dissertation?

It’s important to start with a detailed plan that will serve as your road map throughout the entire process of writing your dissertation. As Jumana Labib, a master’s student at the University of Manchester  studying digital media, culture and society, suggests: “Pace yourself – definitely don’t leave the entire thing for the last few days or weeks.”

Decide what your research question or questions will be for your chosen topic.

Break that down into smaller SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) objectives.

Speak to your supervisor about any overlooked areas.

Create a breakdown of chapters using the structure listed below (for example, a methodology chapter).

Define objectives, key points and evidence for each chapter.

Define your research approach (qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods).

Outline your research methods and analysis techniques.

Develop a timeline with regular moments for review and feedback.

Allocate time for revision, editing and breaks.

Consider any ethical considerations related to your research.

Stay organised and add to your references and bibliography throughout the process.

Remain flexible to possible reviews or changes as you go along.

A well thought-out plan not only makes the writing process more manageable but also increases the likelihood of producing a high-quality piece of research.

How to structure a dissertation?

The structure can depend on your field of study, but this is a rough outline for science and social science dissertations:

Introduce your topic.

Complete a source or literature review.

Describe your research methodology (including the methods for gathering and filtering information, analysis techniques, materials, tools or resources used, limitations of your method, and any considerations of reliability).

Summarise your findings.

Discuss the results and what they mean.

Conclude your point and explain how your work contributes to your field.

On the other hand, humanities and arts dissertations often take the form of an extended essay. This involves constructing an argument or exploring a particular theory or analysis through the analysis of primary and secondary sources. Your essay will be structured through chapters arranged around themes or case studies.

All dissertations include a title page, an abstract and a reference list. Some may also need a table of contents at the beginning. Always check with your university department for its dissertation guidelines, and check with your supervisor as you begin to plan your structure to ensure that you have the right layout.

How long is an undergraduate dissertation?

The length of an undergraduate dissertation can vary depending on the specific guidelines provided by your university and your subject department. However, in many cases, undergraduate dissertations are typically about 8,000 to 12,000 words in length.

“Eat away at it; try to write for at least 30 minutes every day, even if it feels relatively unproductive to you in the moment,” Jumana advises.

How do I add references to my dissertation?

References are the section of your dissertation where you acknowledge the sources you have quoted or referred to in your writing. It’s a way of supporting your ideas, evidencing what research you have used and avoiding plagiarism (claiming someone else’s work as your own), and giving credit to the original authors.

Referencing typically includes in-text citations and a reference list or bibliography with full source details. Different referencing styles exist, such as Harvard, APA and MLA, each favoured in specific fields. Your university will tell you the preferred style.

Using tools and guides provided by universities can make the referencing process more manageable, but be sure they are approved by your university before using any.

How do I write a bibliography or list my references for my dissertation?

The requirement of a bibliography depends on the style of referencing you need to use. Styles such as OSCOLA or Chicago may not require a separate bibliography. In these styles, full source information is often incorporated into footnotes throughout the piece, doing away with the need for a separate bibliography section.

Typically, reference lists or bibliographies are organised alphabetically based on the author’s last name. They usually include essential details about each source, providing a quick overview for readers who want more information. Some styles ask that you include references that you didn’t use in your final piece as they were still a part of the overall research.

It is important to maintain this list as soon as you start your research. As you complete your research, you can add more sources to your bibliography to ensure that you have a comprehensive list throughout the dissertation process.

How to proofread an undergraduate dissertation?

Throughout your dissertation writing, attention to detail will be your greatest asset. The best way to avoid making mistakes is to continuously proofread and edit your work.

Proofreading is a great way to catch any missing sections, grammatical errors or typos. There are many tips to help you proofread:

Ask someone to read your piece and highlight any mistakes they find.

Change the font so you notice any mistakes.

Format your piece as you go, headings and sections will make it easier to spot any problems.

Separate editing and proofreading. Editing is your chance to rewrite sections, add more detail or change any points. Proofreading should be where you get into the final touches, really polish what you have and make sure it’s ready to be submitted.

Stick to your citation style and make sure every resource listed in your dissertation is cited in the reference list or bibliography.

How to write a conclusion for my dissertation?

Writing a dissertation conclusion is your chance to leave the reader impressed by your work.

Start by summarising your findings, highlighting your key points and the outcome of your research. Refer back to the original research question or hypotheses to provide context to your conclusion.

You can then delve into whether you achieved the goals you set at the beginning and reflect on whether your research addressed the topic as expected. Make sure you link your findings to existing literature or sources you have included throughout your work and how your own research could contribute to your field.

Be honest about any limitations or issues you faced during your research and consider any questions that went unanswered that you would consider in the future. Make sure that your conclusion is clear and concise, and sum up the overall impact and importance of your work.

Remember, keep the tone confident and authoritative, avoiding the introduction of new information. This should simply be a summary of everything you have already said throughout the dissertation.

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As part of their final year undergraduate degree examination for MA or BSC, students submit a dissertation based on an original research project supervised by academic staff in the department. It was agreed that all PPLS Undergraduate students would be required to submit an electronic copy of their dissertation to the Library to be stored in the Edinburgh Research Archive. This was agreed in order to enable the University to preserve its academic record.

Please note that only the Title and Abstract is available to the general public. Full text is only available to the domain. Copyright and all rights therein are retained by authors or by other copyright holders. All persons copying this information are expected to adhere to the terms and constraints invoked by each author's copyright. In most cases, these works may not be reposted without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

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Thesis Submission Guidelines

An electronic copy of your thesis is due to the Office Coordinator by the posted deadline and should be sent as a PDF attachment to the honors program . In the body of that email, please indicate whether you give us permission to share your thesis online with prospective and future honors students.

Style Manual

Every thesis should follow the conventions of citation and style set forth in a style manual that has been approved by your mentor. (This is most important for critical theses, since creative theses may not have the sorts of citations or notes—except, perhaps, in the introduction—that make a style menu necessary.)  The most commonly-used style manual in English studies and related cultural studies is the MLA Style Manual , but you may want to check with your mentor to see which style would be most appropriate for your work. 

The text of the thesis must be double-spaced and the bibliography should be as well. Long quotations, footnotes, or endnotes may be single-spaced or double-spaced depending on your preference and the style manual that you are using.

Your thesis must have a margin of at least one and one-quarter inches on all four sides of every page. Everything, including illustrations, graphs, and text, must be printed inside this 1.25” margin.

The Title Page should include the title of your thesis, the submission statement (including the degree and the name of the department), your name, the name of your mentor, the location (“Washington, D.C.”), and the date.

The submission statement should be centered on your title page following the title and appear as follows:

A Thesis submitted to the Faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences of Georgetown University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Arts in English

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Home > Arts and Sciences > English > ENGLISHHONORS

English Undergraduate Honors Theses

Honors theses from 2024 2024.

Feminist Realizations of Assisted Reproductive Technology in Contemporary Science Fiction , Amanda Mullet

George Eliot’s Tragic Heroines: The Legacy of Antigone and Other Greek Tragedies in The Mill on the Floss and Middlemarch , Emily Faucett

Stretching the Hard-Boiled Detective: From Hammett and Chandler to Paretsky and Himes , Chloe Moore

The Catch Up , Katie Taguchi

There Is No Instruction Manual for This , Jenna Massey

THE WEIGHT OF US , Susannah Perry

To Memory Now I Can't Recall , Woojin Yoon

Trace , Abigail Clark

Honors Theses from 2023 2023

A Journal of Those Times , Alexander Wolff

A World Half Created: The Imaginative Power of Sound in the Poetry of William Wordsworth , Trinity Myers

Beyond a Partnership Ethic: Evolutions of Ecofeminism in the Post-Apocalyptic Landscapes of Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam trilogy and Jean Hegland's Into the Forest , Catherine Lashley

“Deforesting the ‘Princely Trunk:’ Deforestation and Invasion in Shakespeare’s Plays” , Sarah Richman

Goodbye, You: Stories of Loss and Life , Marissa Ho

Haunted Panes and Psychic Casements: Windows in Wuthering Heights and Villette , Mariana Kornreich

I Do: Historicizing Marriage and Courtship in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (1813) and Emma (1816) and Their Screen Adaptations , Olivia Little

Linda Brent’s Condition(s) in "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl": Medical, Physical, Emotional, and Authorial , Allyson Lowe

"My daughter, flee temptation!" "O, do go, dear mother!": Gender, Race, and Body Politics in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl , Harper McCall

Pastries and Plots: Food Rhetoric and Gender Struggles in Shakespeare’s Plays , Juliet Nierle

Thrice They Ring , Natalie Berner

Uncivilized Lullaby: Poems , Yalda Al-Ani

Visualizing the Liminal: Confrontations with Female Passivity in Edith Wharton's Gothic Short Stories , Mikeila Whitney

well/good , Azraf Khan

Honors Theses from 2022 2022

Afro-Diasporic (Dis)Illusionment: Perceptions of the American Dream in Americanah and Behold the Dreamers , Sabrien Abdelrahman

Ambitious Boys and Girls: Childhood Failure and Gender Norms in Little Women and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer , Ceci Hughes

"But a Contraband is a Free Man:" Civil War Literature and the Figure of the "Contraband" , Mary A. Kardos

'Carcern' and 'Wordcræft': Enclosure, Connection and Gender in Cynewulf's "Juliana" and "Elene" , Katherine Grotewiel

Feelings of Fallenness: Affect and Gender in Victorian Fallen Woman Novels , Kate Kowalski

Framing the Female Narrative: Male Audiences and Women's Storytelling Within Two Brontë Novels , Sammy Murphy

'Geomorlic' or 'Eorlic?' Uncovering Early English Emotional Communities in "The Wanderer," "Deor," and "The Wife’s Lament" , Hunter Phillips

Remystifying the Modern World: Magical Realism and the Reappropriation of the Christian Imaginary in Beloved and The Master and Margarita , William Brake

Honors Theses from 2021 2021

Flipping the Castle: Evolution of Gothic Spaces in the Domestic Sphere , Kate Lucas

“Garden-Magic”: Conceptions of Nature in Edith Wharton’s Fiction , Jonathan Malks

Laurence Sterne: A Different Way of Approaching the Notion of Life in the Early Novel , Robert Metaxatos

mo(u)rning person , Kate Dragonetti

Purple Magpie Terrace: A Story of His and Hers , Zheng Yu

The Humorous Tradition in Arthurian Grail Literature , Benjamin Woessner

Whole and Hybrid: Resisting Essentialism in The Satanic Verses and The Impressionist , Louise Strange

With Inviolable Voice, We Melt into Each Other with Phrases: The Construction and Deconstruction of Heteroglossia in T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land and Virginia Woolf's The Waves , Alexa Kelly

Honors Theses from 2020 2020

Blue Cathedral , Jessica Urgo

Charlotte Brontë's Victorian Women: A Psychological Analysis in Light of Jungian Theory , Virginia Elam

Confronting Toxicity from the Beehive: Ecofeminist Alternatives to Capitalism , Bianca Bowman

Emergency Contact , Sophia Shealy

Inherited Reproduction of Violence and Trauma in 1990’s Literary Immigrant Families: An Exploration of Lucy; Breath, Eyes, Memory; and Drown , Kelsey Vita

J.G. Ballard and the Anthropocene , Noah Terrell

Resurrecting the Women of The Waste Land , Angela Rose Granados West

Speaker into Specimen: The Representation of Dialect in Victorian Fiction , Hunter Hall

Tell Me What You Really Think (A Novel) , Marriya Schwarz

The Commodification of Helen: Tracing the Phallic Economy of Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida , Quinn Arnone

The Homoerotic Architectures of Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde , Samuel McIntyre

The Sun Sets on Chinchontepec: (Re)productions of Salvadoran Memory , Aida Campos

“You Only Have Time to Explode’”: Nathanael West’s Novels, Mass Media, and Illusory Dreams , Edward Millman

Honors Theses from 2019 2019

An Incongruous Present: Identifying the Absurd Aesthetic in William Faulkner’s "Requiem for a Nun" (1951) , Blake Hani

A Portrait of Women’s Property: An Analysis of Married Women’s Property Rights in The Portrait of a Lady, The Spoils of Poynton and Howards End , Kelsey Llewellyn

Billy's Burg: Investigating Colonial and Capitalist Constructions through Poetry , Ryan Onders

Creative Currencies: Circulation and Sovereignty in The Alchemist, Urania, and The Blazing World , Jacqueline Keshner

Haunted Housewives: Shirley Jackson’s Domestic Gothic , Caroline Kessler

(In)Human Anatomies: Constructions of Whiteness and Otherness in the Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft , Katherine Avery

'I walk pure before God!': Narrative Structure and Reimagined Negotiations in the Victorian Female Bildungsroman , Devon Boyers

Mine , Brooke Stephenson

Recovering Affiliates: Reclassifying Emily Dickinson's Variant Poems , Anna McAnnally

Sensational Investigations: Social decay and reform in the Victorian sensation novel , Colleen Wilson

The Sacred Touch of Hallowed Hands: Tracing the Holy through the Haptic in George Eliot’s Early Work , Katharine Isabel Williams

"This Great Theatre of Nature": Henry Fielding and the Ancient Comic Stage , Stephen Ryan

Thoughtful Books and Thoughtful Lives: Androgyny and Gender Dynamics in the Works of Sherwood Anderson , Rick Stevenson

Wordsworth's British Empire: Property, Liberty, and the Slave Question , Anna Wingfield

Honors Theses from 2018 2018

Education in the Novels of Thomas Hardy , Jiayue Jiang

"Glimmerings, Hints, and Secret Amazements": William Blake, Walt Whitman, and the Spiritual Incantations of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" , Elijah Levine

"O God Within My Breast": The Religion of Emily Brontë , Christina Danberg

“Reader, I Did Not Marry Him:” Marriage Proposals, Choice, and Female Desire in the Victorian Era , Elizabeth Rose Flood

Resistance and Women's Solidarity in The Handmaid's Tale, from 1985 to 2017 , Dana S. Florczak

Stripping the Paint: Uncovering the Self-Made Man in The Rise of Silas Lapham and The Great Gatsby , Emma Elena Johnson

The Forgotten Beauty of the Feminine: Elena Guro’s The Little Camels of the Sky, Virginia Woolf’s The Waves, and the Holy Grail of the “Woman’s Sentence” , Bailey Orr

Transparent Sketches: A Field Journal of Silence , Annabel McSpadden

Virginia Woolf and the 'Objective' Camera: The Relationship Between Text and Image in Three Guineas and Orlando , Meilan Solly

Winter's Bane: Part One , Jessica Molz

Honors Theses from 2017 2017

Aphra Behn, One of Churchill’s Top Girls?: Assessing Caryl Churchill’s Lack of Deference to Behn’s Legacy , Hayley A. Hahn

Defining Ambiguous: Lesbianism and the Vampire in “Christabel” and Carmilla , Holly E. Reynolds

"If there be such space:" Haunted Landscapes and Crises of Sonhood in Cormac McCarthy's Westerns , Kayla M. Armstrong

Love on a Blighted Star: Nature and Female Sexuality in the Novels of Thomas Hardy , Emily M. Armstrong

Patients, Prose, and Poetry: The Medical and Literary World of William Carlos Williams , Sarah Heins

Rites: Poems , Lydia G. Brown

Scattered Prizes: Colonial Fantasies and the Material Body in the English Renaissance Blazon , Aidan J. Selmer

The Northern Novel of Manners: Wuthering Heights & The Invention of a Genre , Cameron I. Menchel

The Subversion of Wagnerian Gender Dynamics in James Joyce’s Ulysses , Sophia S. Farion

Working the Garden: Women and Religion in Apocalyptic Fiction , Sarah C. Collier

Honors Theses from 2016 2016

Catharsis , Shannon Callahan

“Insane for the destination:” Disrupting the Teleological Impulses of Sylvia Plath’s Ariel and Adrienne Rich’s Diving into the Wreck , Noah Christopher Brooksher

Our Lady (a novel in progress) , Molly Earner

Renegotiating the Apocalypse: Mary Shelley’s "The Last Man" , Kathryn Joan Darling

Telling the Stories that Can't Be Told: Translating War in Hemingway, Vonnegut, and O'Brien , Emily A. Nye

The Ludic Life of Things: Explorations in the Vitality of the Ludic Object in Contemporary Narratives , Eamonn deLacy

The Revolutionary New Woman: Renegotiating her Social Contract through Sex , Nicole Walsh

Honors Theses from 2015 2015

“A Constant Unfolding of Far-Resonate Action”: George Eliot’s Middlemarch, Spinoza, and the Ethics of Power , Zachary J. Hardy

"A product of her body as well as soul": Narrative fullness and the feminine body in the work of Julia Ward Howe , Sarah J. Schuster

Bouts of Brain Fever: Female Rebellion and the Dubiety of Illness in Victorian Fiction , Stephanie R. Mason

Deconstructing Terror: The Political Theatre of Harold Pinter, Caryl Churchill, and Martin Crimp , Beatrice Loayza

Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides and Zuzak's The Book Thief: Impossible Narration in Millennial Fiction , Maria Dougherty

Girls without Faces & Other Stories , Molly E. Greer

He Do the Police in Different Voices: the Influence of Detection Fiction in T. S. Eliot's Works , Claire Weaver

"How Do I Know What I Think Till I See What I Say?" William James's and Carl Jung's Ideas on the Unconscious Mind As Applied to Stegner , Diana J. Floegel

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Honors Theses

What this handout is about.

Writing a senior honors thesis, or any major research essay, can seem daunting at first. A thesis requires a reflective, multi-stage writing process. This handout will walk you through those stages. It is targeted at students in the humanities and social sciences, since their theses tend to involve more writing than projects in the hard sciences. Yet all thesis writers may find the organizational strategies helpful.


What is an honors thesis.

That depends quite a bit on your field of study. However, all honors theses have at least two things in common:

  • They are based on students’ original research.
  • They take the form of a written manuscript, which presents the findings of that research. In the humanities, theses average 50-75 pages in length and consist of two or more chapters. In the social sciences, the manuscript may be shorter, depending on whether the project involves more quantitative than qualitative research. In the hard sciences, the manuscript may be shorter still, often taking the form of a sophisticated laboratory report.

Who can write an honors thesis?

In general, students who are at the end of their junior year, have an overall 3.2 GPA, and meet their departmental requirements can write a senior thesis. For information about your eligibility, contact:

  • UNC Honors Program
  • Your departmental administrators of undergraduate studies/honors

Why write an honors thesis?

Satisfy your intellectual curiosity This is the most compelling reason to write a thesis. Whether it’s the short stories of Flannery O’Connor or the challenges of urban poverty, you’ve studied topics in college that really piqued your interest. Now’s your chance to follow your passions, explore further, and contribute some original ideas and research in your field.

Develop transferable skills Whether you choose to stay in your field of study or not, the process of developing and crafting a feasible research project will hone skills that will serve you well in almost any future job. After all, most jobs require some form of problem solving and oral and written communication. Writing an honors thesis requires that you:

  • ask smart questions
  • acquire the investigative instincts needed to find answers
  • navigate libraries, laboratories, archives, databases, and other research venues
  • develop the flexibility to redirect your research if your initial plan flops
  • master the art of time management
  • hone your argumentation skills
  • organize a lengthy piece of writing
  • polish your oral communication skills by presenting and defending your project to faculty and peers

Work closely with faculty mentors At large research universities like Carolina, you’ve likely taken classes where you barely got to know your instructor. Writing a thesis offers the opportunity to work one-on-one with a with faculty adviser. Such mentors can enrich your intellectual development and later serve as invaluable references for graduate school and employment.

Open windows into future professions An honors thesis will give you a taste of what it’s like to do research in your field. Even if you’re a sociology major, you may not really know what it’s like to be a sociologist. Writing a sociology thesis would open a window into that world. It also might help you decide whether to pursue that field in graduate school or in your future career.

How do you write an honors thesis?

Get an idea of what’s expected.

It’s a good idea to review some of the honors theses other students have submitted to get a sense of what an honors thesis might look like and what kinds of things might be appropriate topics. Look for examples from the previous year in the Carolina Digital Repository. You may also be able to find past theses collected in your major department or at the North Carolina Collection in Wilson Library. Pay special attention to theses written by students who share your major.

Choose a topic

Ideally, you should start thinking about topics early in your junior year, so you can begin your research and writing quickly during your senior year. (Many departments require that you submit a proposal for an honors thesis project during the spring of your junior year.)

How should you choose a topic?

  • Read widely in the fields that interest you. Make a habit of browsing professional journals to survey the “hot” areas of research and to familiarize yourself with your field’s stylistic conventions. (You’ll find the most recent issues of the major professional journals in the periodicals reading room on the first floor of Davis Library).
  • Set up appointments to talk with faculty in your field. This is a good idea, since you’ll eventually need to select an advisor and a second reader. Faculty also can help you start narrowing down potential topics.
  • Look at honors theses from the past. The North Carolina Collection in Wilson Library holds UNC honors theses. To get a sense of the typical scope of a thesis, take a look at a sampling from your field.

What makes a good topic?

  • It’s fascinating. Above all, choose something that grips your imagination. If you don’t, the chances are good that you’ll struggle to finish.
  • It’s doable. Even if a topic interests you, it won’t work out unless you have access to the materials you need to research it. Also be sure that your topic is narrow enough. Let’s take an example: Say you’re interested in the efforts to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s and early 1980s. That’s a big topic that probably can’t be adequately covered in a single thesis. You need to find a case study within that larger topic. For example, maybe you’re particularly interested in the states that did not ratify the ERA. Of those states, perhaps you’ll select North Carolina, since you’ll have ready access to local research materials. And maybe you want to focus primarily on the ERA’s opponents. Beyond that, maybe you’re particularly interested in female opponents of the ERA. Now you’ve got a much more manageable topic: Women in North Carolina Who Opposed the ERA in the 1970s and 1980s.
  • It contains a question. There’s a big difference between having a topic and having a guiding research question. Taking the above topic, perhaps your main question is: Why did some women in North Carolina oppose the ERA? You will, of course, generate other questions: Who were the most outspoken opponents? White women? Middle-class women? How did they oppose the ERA? Public protests? Legislative petitions? etc. etc. Yet it’s good to start with a guiding question that will focus your research.

Goal-setting and time management

The senior year is an exceptionally busy time for college students. In addition to the usual load of courses and jobs, seniors have the daunting task of applying for jobs and/or graduate school. These demands are angst producing and time consuming If that scenario sounds familiar, don’t panic! Do start strategizing about how to make a time for your thesis. You may need to take a lighter course load or eliminate extracurricular activities. Even if the thesis is the only thing on your plate, you still need to make a systematic schedule for yourself. Most departments require that you take a class that guides you through the honors project, so deadlines likely will be set for you. Still, you should set your own goals for meeting those deadlines. Here are a few suggestions for goal setting and time management:

Start early. Keep in mind that many departments will require that you turn in your thesis sometime in early April, so don’t count on having the entire spring semester to finish your work. Ideally, you’ll start the research process the semester or summer before your senior year so that the writing process can begin early in the fall. Some goal-setting will be done for you if you are taking a required class that guides you through the honors project. But any substantive research project requires a clear timetable.

Set clear goals in making a timetable. Find out the final deadline for turning in your project to your department. Working backwards from that deadline, figure out how much time you can allow for the various stages of production.

Here is a sample timetable. Use it, however, with two caveats in mind:

  • The timetable for your thesis might look very different depending on your departmental requirements.
  • You may not wish to proceed through these stages in a linear fashion. You may want to revise chapter one before you write chapter two. Or you might want to write your introduction last, not first. This sample is designed simply to help you start thinking about how to customize your own schedule.

Sample timetable

Avoid falling into the trap of procrastination. Once you’ve set goals for yourself, stick to them! For some tips on how to do this, see our handout on procrastination .

Consistent production

It’s a good idea to try to squeeze in a bit of thesis work every day—even if it’s just fifteen minutes of journaling or brainstorming about your topic. Or maybe you’ll spend that fifteen minutes taking notes on a book. The important thing is to accomplish a bit of active production (i.e., putting words on paper) for your thesis every day. That way, you develop good writing habits that will help you keep your project moving forward.

Make yourself accountable to someone other than yourself

Since most of you will be taking a required thesis seminar, you will have deadlines. Yet you might want to form a writing group or enlist a peer reader, some person or people who can help you stick to your goals. Moreover, if your advisor encourages you to work mostly independently, don’t be afraid to ask them to set up periodic meetings at which you’ll turn in installments of your project.

Brainstorming and freewriting

One of the biggest challenges of a lengthy writing project is keeping the creative juices flowing. Here’s where freewriting can help. Try keeping a small notebook handy where you jot down stray ideas that pop into your head. Or schedule time to freewrite. You may find that such exercises “free” you up to articulate your argument and generate new ideas. Here are some questions to stimulate freewriting.

Questions for basic brainstorming at the beginning of your project:

  • What do I already know about this topic?
  • Why do I care about this topic?
  • Why is this topic important to people other than myself
  • What more do I want to learn about this topic?
  • What is the main question that I am trying to answer?
  • Where can I look for additional information?
  • Who is my audience and how can I reach them?
  • How will my work inform my larger field of study?
  • What’s the main goal of my research project?

Questions for reflection throughout your project:

  • What’s my main argument? How has it changed since I began the project?
  • What’s the most important evidence that I have in support of my “big point”?
  • What questions do my sources not answer?
  • How does my case study inform or challenge my field writ large?
  • Does my project reinforce or contradict noted scholars in my field? How?
  • What is the most surprising finding of my research?
  • What is the most frustrating part of this project?
  • What is the most rewarding part of this project?
  • What will be my work’s most important contribution?

Research and note-taking

In conducting research, you will need to find both primary sources (“firsthand” sources that come directly from the period/events/people you are studying) and secondary sources (“secondhand” sources that are filtered through the interpretations of experts in your field.) The nature of your research will vary tremendously, depending on what field you’re in. For some general suggestions on finding sources, consult the UNC Libraries tutorials . Whatever the exact nature of the research you’re conducting, you’ll be taking lots of notes and should reflect critically on how you do that. Too often it’s assumed that the research phase of a project involves very little substantive writing (i.e., writing that involves thinking). We sit down with our research materials and plunder them for basic facts and useful quotations. That mechanical type of information-recording is important. But a more thoughtful type of writing and analytical thinking is also essential at this stage. Some general guidelines for note-taking:

First of all, develop a research system. There are lots of ways to take and organize your notes. Whether you choose to use note cards, computer databases, or notebooks, follow two cardinal rules:

  • Make careful distinctions between direct quotations and your paraphrasing! This is critical if you want to be sure to avoid accidentally plagiarizing someone else’s work. For more on this, see our handout on plagiarism .
  • Record full citations for each source. Don’t get lazy here! It will be far more difficult to find the proper citation later than to write it down now.

Keeping those rules in mind, here’s a template for the types of information that your note cards/legal pad sheets/computer files should include for each of your sources:

Abbreviated subject heading: Include two or three words to remind you of what this sources is about (this shorthand categorization is essential for the later sorting of your sources).

Complete bibliographic citation:

  • author, title, publisher, copyright date, and page numbers for published works
  • box and folder numbers and document descriptions for archival sources
  • complete web page title, author, address, and date accessed for online sources

Notes on facts, quotations, and arguments: Depending on the type of source you’re using, the content of your notes will vary. If, for example, you’re using US Census data, then you’ll mainly be writing down statistics and numbers. If you’re looking at someone else’s diary, you might jot down a number of quotations that illustrate the subject’s feelings and perspectives. If you’re looking at a secondary source, you’ll want to make note not just of factual information provided by the author but also of their key arguments.

Your interpretation of the source: This is the most important part of note-taking. Don’t just record facts. Go ahead and take a stab at interpreting them. As historians Jacques Barzun and Henry F. Graff insist, “A note is a thought.” So what do these thoughts entail? Ask yourself questions about the context and significance of each source.

Interpreting the context of a source:

  • Who wrote/created the source?
  • When, and under what circumstances, was it written/created?
  • Why was it written/created? What was the agenda behind the source?
  • How was it written/created?
  • If using a secondary source: How does it speak to other scholarship in the field?

Interpreting the significance of a source:

  • How does this source answer (or complicate) my guiding research questions?
  • Does it pose new questions for my project? What are they?
  • Does it challenge my fundamental argument? If so, how?
  • Given the source’s context, how reliable is it?

You don’t need to answer all of these questions for each source, but you should set a goal of engaging in at least one or two sentences of thoughtful, interpretative writing for each source. If you do so, you’ll make much easier the next task that awaits you: drafting.

The dread of drafting

Why do we often dread drafting? We dread drafting because it requires synthesis, one of the more difficult forms of thinking and interpretation. If you’ve been free-writing and taking thoughtful notes during the research phase of your project, then the drafting should be far less painful. Here are some tips on how to get started:

Sort your “evidence” or research into analytical categories:

  • Some people file note cards into categories.
  • The technologically-oriented among us take notes using computer database programs that have built-in sorting mechanisms.
  • Others cut and paste evidence into detailed outlines on their computer.
  • Still others stack books, notes, and photocopies into topically-arranged piles.There is not a single right way, but this step—in some form or fashion—is essential!

If you’ve been forcing yourself to put subject headings on your notes as you go along, you’ll have generated a number of important analytical categories. Now, you need to refine those categories and sort your evidence. Everyone has a different “sorting style.”

Formulate working arguments for your entire thesis and individual chapters. Once you’ve sorted your evidence, you need to spend some time thinking about your project’s “big picture.” You need to be able to answer two questions in specific terms:

  • What is the overall argument of my thesis?
  • What are the sub-arguments of each chapter and how do they relate to my main argument?

Keep in mind that “working arguments” may change after you start writing. But a senior thesis is big and potentially unwieldy. If you leave this business of argument to chance, you may end up with a tangle of ideas. See our handout on arguments and handout on thesis statements for some general advice on formulating arguments.

Divide your thesis into manageable chunks. The surest road to frustration at this stage is getting obsessed with the big picture. What? Didn’t we just say that you needed to focus on the big picture? Yes, by all means, yes. You do need to focus on the big picture in order to get a conceptual handle on your project, but you also need to break your thesis down into manageable chunks of writing. For example, take a small stack of note cards and flesh them out on paper. Or write through one point on a chapter outline. Those small bits of prose will add up quickly.

Just start! Even if it’s not at the beginning. Are you having trouble writing those first few pages of your chapter? Sometimes the introduction is the toughest place to start. You should have a rough idea of your overall argument before you begin writing one of the main chapters, but you might find it easier to start writing in the middle of a chapter of somewhere other than word one. Grab hold where you evidence is strongest and your ideas are clearest.

Keep up the momentum! Assuming the first draft won’t be your last draft, try to get your thoughts on paper without spending too much time fussing over minor stylistic concerns. At the drafting stage, it’s all about getting those ideas on paper. Once that task is done, you can turn your attention to revising.

Peter Elbow, in Writing With Power, suggests that writing is difficult because it requires two conflicting tasks: creating and criticizing. While these two tasks are intimately intertwined, the drafting stage focuses on creating, while revising requires criticizing. If you leave your revising to the last minute, then you’ve left out a crucial stage of the writing process. See our handout for some general tips on revising . The challenges of revising an honors thesis may include:

Juggling feedback from multiple readers

A senior thesis may mark the first time that you have had to juggle feedback from a wide range of readers:

  • your adviser
  • a second (and sometimes third) faculty reader
  • the professor and students in your honors thesis seminar

You may feel overwhelmed by the prospect of incorporating all this advice. Keep in mind that some advice is better than others. You will probably want to take most seriously the advice of your adviser since they carry the most weight in giving your project a stamp of approval. But sometimes your adviser may give you more advice than you can digest. If so, don’t be afraid to approach them—in a polite and cooperative spirit, of course—and ask for some help in prioritizing that advice. See our handout for some tips on getting and receiving feedback .

Refining your argument

It’s especially easy in writing a lengthy work to lose sight of your main ideas. So spend some time after you’ve drafted to go back and clarify your overall argument and the individual chapter arguments and make sure they match the evidence you present.

Organizing and reorganizing

Again, in writing a 50-75 page thesis, things can get jumbled. You may find it particularly helpful to make a “reverse outline” of each of your chapters. That will help you to see the big sections in your work and move things around so there’s a logical flow of ideas. See our handout on  organization  for more organizational suggestions and tips on making a reverse outline

Plugging in holes in your evidence

It’s unlikely that you anticipated everything you needed to look up before you drafted your thesis. Save some time at the revising stage to plug in the holes in your research. Make sure that you have both primary and secondary evidence to support and contextualize your main ideas.

Saving time for the small stuff

Even though your argument, evidence, and organization are most important, leave plenty of time to polish your prose. At this point, you’ve spent a very long time on your thesis. Don’t let minor blemishes (misspellings and incorrect grammar) distract your readers!

Formatting and final touches

You’re almost done! You’ve researched, drafted, and revised your thesis; now you need to take care of those pesky little formatting matters. An honors thesis should replicate—on a smaller scale—the appearance of a dissertation or master’s thesis. So, you need to include the “trappings” of a formal piece of academic work. For specific questions on formatting matters, check with your department to see if it has a style guide that you should use. For general formatting guidelines, consult the Graduate School’s Guide to Dissertations and Theses . Keeping in mind the caveat that you should always check with your department first about its stylistic guidelines, here’s a brief overview of the final “finishing touches” that you’ll need to put on your honors thesis:

  • Honors Thesis
  • Name of Department
  • University of North Carolina
  • These parts of the thesis will vary in format depending on whether your discipline uses MLA, APA, CBE, or Chicago (also known in its shortened version as Turabian) style. Whichever style you’re using, stick to the rules and be consistent. It might be helpful to buy an appropriate style guide. Or consult the UNC LibrariesYear Citations/footnotes and works cited/reference pages  citation tutorial
  • In addition, in the bottom left corner, you need to leave space for your adviser and faculty readers to sign their names. For example:

Approved by: _____________________

Adviser: Prof. Jane Doe

  • This is not a required component of an honors thesis. However, if you want to thank particular librarians, archivists, interviewees, and advisers, here’s the place to do it. You should include an acknowledgments page if you received a grant from the university or an outside agency that supported your research. It’s a good idea to acknowledge folks who helped you with a major project, but do not feel the need to go overboard with copious and flowery expressions of gratitude. You can—and should—always write additional thank-you notes to people who gave you assistance.
  • Formatted much like the table of contents.
  • You’ll need to save this until the end, because it needs to reflect your final pagination. Once you’ve made all changes to the body of the thesis, then type up your table of contents with the titles of each section aligned on the left and the page numbers on which those sections begin flush right.
  • Each page of your thesis needs a number, although not all page numbers are displayed. All pages that precede the first page of the main text (i.e., your introduction or chapter one) are numbered with small roman numerals (i, ii, iii, iv, v, etc.). All pages thereafter use Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.).
  • Your text should be double spaced (except, in some cases, long excerpts of quoted material), in a 12 point font and a standard font style (e.g., Times New Roman). An honors thesis isn’t the place to experiment with funky fonts—they won’t enhance your work, they’ll only distract your readers.
  • In general, leave a one-inch inch margin on all sides. However, for the copy of your thesis that will be bound by the library, you need to leave a 1.25-inch margin on the left.

How do I defend my honors thesis?

Graciously, enthusiastically, and confidently. The term defense is scary and misleading—it conjures up images of a military exercise or an athletic maneuver. An academic defense ideally shouldn’t be a combative scene but a congenial conversation about the work’s merits and weaknesses. That said, the defense probably won’t be like the average conversation that you have with your friends. You’ll be the center of attention. And you may get some challenging questions. Thus, it’s a good idea to spend some time preparing yourself. First of all, you’ll want to prepare 5-10 minutes of opening comments. Here’s a good time to preempt some criticisms by frankly acknowledging what you think your work’s greatest strengths and weaknesses are. Then you may be asked some typical questions:

  • What is the main argument of your thesis?
  • How does it fit in with the work of Ms. Famous Scholar?
  • Have you read the work of Mr. Important Author?

NOTE: Don’t get too flustered if you haven’t! Most scholars have their favorite authors and books and may bring one or more of them up, even if the person or book is only tangentially related to the topic at hand. Should you get this question, answer honestly and simply jot down the title or the author’s name for future reference. No one expects you to have read everything that’s out there.

  • Why did you choose this particular case study to explore your topic?
  • If you were to expand this project in graduate school, how would you do so?

Should you get some biting criticism of your work, try not to get defensive. Yes, this is a defense, but you’ll probably only fan the flames if you lose your cool. Keep in mind that all academic work has flaws or weaknesses, and you can be sure that your professors have received criticisms of their own work. It’s part of the academic enterprise. Accept criticism graciously and learn from it. If you receive criticism that is unfair, stand up for yourself confidently, but in a good spirit. Above all, try to have fun! A defense is a rare opportunity to have eminent scholars in your field focus on YOU and your ideas and work. And the defense marks the end of a long and arduous journey. You have every right to be proud of your accomplishments!

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Atchity, Kenneth. 1986. A Writer’s Time: A Guide to the Creative Process from Vision Through Revision . New York: W.W. Norton.

Barzun, Jacques, and Henry F. Graff. 2012. The Modern Researcher , 6th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Elbow, Peter. 1998. Writing With Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process . New York: Oxford University Press.

Graff, Gerald, and Cathy Birkenstein. 2014. “They Say/I Say”: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing , 3rd ed. New York: W.W. Norton and Company.

Lamott, Anne. 1994. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life . New York: Pantheon.

Lasch, Christopher. 2002. Plain Style: A Guide to Written English. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Turabian, Kate. 2018. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, Dissertations , 9th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Theses and Creative Projects 2

The Department of English strongly encourages all undergraduates to consider completing a senior thesis under the direction of a faculty advisor(s). Undergraduate theses may involve:

  • The drafting of a scholarly research paper.
  • The production of a novel, set of short stories, or collection of poems.
  • The analysis of narratives and/or other qualitative data collected from a particular cultural or regional community.
  • The creation of a digital media artifact.

Indeed, because of the wide variety of creative and scholarly work undertaken by our 100+ faculty members, our undergraduates have the opportunity to compose theses on a seemingly endless array of topics, in a seemingly endless array of forms. 

The thesis acts as a capstone experience for our undergraduates: it allows them to explore issues of personal, scholarly, cultural, historical and/or creative importance; to solve complex problems using the knowledge and skills they have gained throughout their undergraduate careers, and to produce new knowledge and new solutions that reflect their unique perspectives, talents and abilities. Students who complete a thesis graduate either "with research distinction" or "with honors research distinction;" while the latter phrasing is used for students who are members of the Arts and Sciences Honors Program, all students are encouraged to complete a thesis regardless of their honors status.      

For some students, the process of developing and completing a thesis project may seem a bit daunting at first; however, the following steps are designed to make this process manageable and to outline how students typically proceed. In addition to reading the information below, students interested in completing a thesis are encouraged to make an appointment and advisor. We can help students think through possible thesis topics, locate potential faculty advisors, and complete the appropriate thesis paperwork


English Department

English Theses and Dissertations

This collection contains theses and dissertations from the Department of English, collected from the Scholarship@Western Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Theses/Dissertations from 2024 2024

Listening to "Silence": Alternative Modes of Communication in Korean and Korean American Women's Literature , Judy Joo-Ae Bae

The Ecology of American Noir , Katrina Younes

Theses/Dissertations from 2023 2023

Poetics in Transit: Indigenous, Diasporic, and Settler Women’s Contemporary Writing in Canada , Christine Campana

Bodies of Silence and Space: Victimhood, Complicity, and Resistance in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale , Sana H. Mufti

Capacious Feminism: Intimacy and Otherness in Mina Loy's Poetry , Elise Ottavino

Romantic Citation and the Receding Future , Andrew Sargent

Theses/Dissertations from 2022 2022

Love-Worlds: Performance of Love as Decolonial Worldmaking in India and in Indigenous Theatre on Northern Turtle Island , Sheetala Bhat

Diaspora and Abjection of a Nowhere in Particular: Theorizing the Hyphen in Iranian-Canadian Narratives , Mahdiyeh Ezzatikarami

Nostalgic Metafiction: The Adventure Fiction of Stevenson, Kipling, and Conrad , Hanji Lee

Men under Microscopes: “Medical Gaze” and Homeostasis in Victorian Realist Literature , Nida Rashid

The Time Helix: Nonlinear Narrative Structures and the Paradox of Delayed Simultaneity , Jaclyn A. Reed

Representing Women and the 1947 Partition in Hindi Cinema and Television (1948-Present) , Nidhi Shrivastava

Buried Feelings, Standing Stones: Secularity, Animism, and Late-Victorian Pagan Revivalism , Jeff Swim

Speaking Chastity: Female Speech, Silence, and the Strategic Performance of Chaste Identity in Early Modern Drama and Women's Writing , Lisa Templin

Theses/Dissertations from 2021 2021

Unsettling Sympathy: Indigenous and Settler Conversations from the Great Lakes Region, 1820-1860 , Erin Akerman

Unmade and Unmanned Men: Reading Traumatized Masculinity in Late Nineteenth-Century British Adventure Fiction through the Lens of the Indian “Mutiny” of 1857 , Madison A. Bettle

Artificial Frontiers, Simulated Indigeneity: Western Big-Budget Open World Games and the Settler Colonial Imaginary , Adam Bowes

Bible Translations And Literary Responses: Re-reading Missionary Interventions In Africa Through Local Perspectives , Chinelo Ezenwa

Capital Distress: Productive Citizenship and Mental Health in Adolescent Literature , Jeremy TL Johnston

Refusing Interpretation: Waste Ecologies in Victorian Fiction and Prose , Nahmi Lee

Resonances: An Examination of Republication Through Four Case Studies , F S. Nakhaie

“The seal set on our nationhood”: Canadian Literary Responses to the South African War (1899-1902) , Alicia C. Robinet

Theses/Dissertations from 2020 2020

Exquisite Corpses: Markedness, Gender, and Death in Video Games , Meghan Blythe Adams

Critiquing Psychiatry, Narrating Trauma: Madness in Twentieth-Century North American Literature and Film , Sarah Blanchette

Duration and Depravity: Religious and Secular Temporality in Puritanism and the American Gothic , Taylor Kraayenbrink

Sacred Mnemonics in Late Medieval England: ars memoria in the Hagiography of Osbern Bokenham , Erica C. Leighton

Malory, Chivalric Medievalism, and New Imperialist Masculinity , Andrew LiVecchi

Land, Water, and Stars: Relationality in Anishinaabe and Diasporic Literature , Maral Moradipour

Atmosphere and Religious Experience in American Transcendentalism , Thomas Sorensen

Material Witness: Occult Affects in the Mystery Fiction of the Fin de Siècle , Thomas Matthew Stuart

Theses/Dissertations from 2019 2019

Semantic Shift in Old English and Old Saxon Identity Terms , David A. Carlton

Financial Frictions: Money and Materiality in American Literary Naturalism, 1890-1925 , Patricia Luedecke

Criminal Masculinities and the Newgate Novel , Taylor R. Richardson

Everywhere, Animals Appear: Species, Race, and the State in Literature from the Raj to Global India , Jason Sandhar

Antichrist in the Shadows: Biblical Allusion in Richard III and Macbeth , Curtis J. Simpson

Georgic Political Economy: Emergent Forms of Order and Liberal Statecraft in Eighteenth-Century British Poetry , Jonathan Stillman

Theses/Dissertations from 2018 2018

Agnotologies of Modernism: Knowing the Unknown in Lewis, Woolf, Pound, and Joyce , Jeremy Colangelo

Species Panic: Interspecies Erotics in Post-1900 American Literature , David Huebert

Unread: The (Un)published Texts of Romanticism , Marc D. Mazur

Narrative Immunities: The Logic of Infection and Defense in American Speculative Fiction , Riley R. McDonald

Buddhism in Progress: Ecstasy, Eternity, and Zen Sickness in the English Romantics , Logan M. Rohde

Theses/Dissertations from 2017 2017

Romantic Metasubjectivity: Rethinking the Romantic Subject Through Schelling and Jung , Gord Barentsen

The Hermetic Enigma of a Protean Poet: Gnosis and the Puritanical Error in Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis , Luke Jennings

Literary Language Revitalization: nêhiyawêwin, Indigenous Poetics, and Indigenous Languages in Canada , Emily L. Kring

The Unknown Soldier in the 21st Century: War Commemoration in Contemporary Canadian Cultural Production , Andrew Edward Lubowitz

Islam's Low Mutterings at High Tide: Enslaved African Muslims in American Literature , Zeinab McHeimech

Appearing Live: Spectatorship, Affect, and Liveness in Contemporary British Performance , Meghan O'Hara

Spaces of Collapse: Psychological Deterioration, Subjectivity, and Spatiality in American Narratives , Andrew Papaspyrou

No Delicate Flower: Victorian Floral Symbolism’s Mediation of Social Issues in Selected Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Alfred Tennyson, John Ruskin, and Isabella Bird Bishop , Christine Penhale

Waiting for God: John Milton’s Millenarianism Reconsidered , Rainerio George Ramos

Terrorism, Islamization, and Human Rights: How Post 9/11 Pakistani English Literature Speaks to the World , Shazia Sadaf

Crossing the Line: Censorship, Borders, and the Queer Poetics of Disclosure in English-Canadian Writing, 1967-2000 , Kevin T. Shaw

Imagining the Unimagined Metropolis: Privilege, Liminality, and Peripheral Communities in the Contemporary Urban Situation , Colton R. Sherman

Theses/Dissertations from 2016 2016

Rhetorical Ductus in Chaucerian Ekphrasis , Emily Laura Pez

"The Sense of An Ending": The Destabilizing Effect of Performance Closure in Shakespeare's Plays , Megan Lynn Selinger

Of the Last Verses in the Book: Old Age, Caregiving, and Early Modern Literature , Emily M. Sugerman

Theses/Dissertations from 2015 2015

Reading the Canadian Battlefield at Quebec, Queenston, Batoche, and Vimy , Rebecca Campbell

Turning to Food: Religious Contact and Conversion in Early Modern Drama , Fatima F. Ebrahim

Reading Boredom in Tennyson, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris, and Christina Rossetti , Rebekah Ann Lamb

Creating Difference: The Legal Production of Race in American Slavery , Shaun N. Ramdin

About Telling: Ghosts and Hauntings in Contemporary Drama and Poetry , Leif Erik Schenstead-Harris

The Aesthetics of Romantic Hellenism , Derek Shank

Theses/Dissertations from 2014 2014

The Luminous Detail: The Evolution of Ezra Pound's Linguistic and Aesthetic Theories from 1910-1915 , John J. Allaster

"Rank Corpuscles": Soil and Identity in Eighteenth-Century Representations , Nina Patricia Budabin McQuown

The Romantic Posthuman and Posthumanities , Elizabeth Effinger

Transnational Conversations: The New Yorker and Canadian Short Story Writers , Nadine Fladd

The Book Beautiful: Aestheticism, Materiality, and Queer Books , Frederick D. King

Graphic Drama: Reading Shakespeare in the Comics Medium , Russell H. McConnell

Diffuse Connections: Making Sense of Smell in Canadian Diasporic Women's Writing , Stephanie Oliver

“Companions of the Flame”: Concealment and Revelation in H.D.’s Trilogy , Cam Riddell

Dirty Modernism: Ecological Objects in American Poetry , Michael D. Sloane

EECOLOGY: (pata)physical taoism in e. e. cummings’s poetry , Nathan B. TeBokkel

Fatal Attraction: The Fetishized Image of the Fatal Woman as Gothic Double , Margaret Anne Young

Theses/Dissertations from 2013 2013

Storied Truths: Contemporary Canadian and Indigenous Childhood Trauma Narratives , Michelle Coupal

Feeling With Imagination: Sympathy and Postwar American Poetry , Timothy A. DeJong

After Dark: Reading Canadian Literature in a Light-Polluted Age , David S. Hickey

Dark Sympathy: Desiring the Other in Godwin, Coleridge, and Shelley , Jeffrey T. King

Strata, Soma, Psyche: Narrative and the Imagination in the Nineteenth-Century Science of Lyell, Darwin, and Freud , Pascale M. Manning

Uncommon Ecology: Reading the Romantic Oikos , Shalon Noble

"Radiant Imperfection": The Interconnected Writing Lives of Robert Bringhurst, Dennis Lee, Tim Lilburn, Don McKay, and Jan Zwicky , Kostantina Northrup

Preposterous America: The Language of Inversion in Thoreau, Melville, and Hawthorne , Rasmus R. Simonsen

Metaphor and Metanoia: Linguistic Transfer and Cognitive Transformation in British and Irish Modernism , Andrew C. Wenaus

Theses/Dissertations from 2012 2012

Hazardous Experiments: The Elusive Prefaces of William Godwin, Mary Hays, William Wordsworth and Percy Bysshe Shelley , Jeffrey W. Miles

Architectures of the Veil: The Representation of the Veil and Zenanas in Pakistani Feminists' Texts , Amber Fatima Riaz

Miscegenation in the Marvelous: Race and Hybridity in the Fantasy Novels of Neil Gaiman and China Miéville , Nikolai Rodrigues

Broken Passages and Broken Promises: Reconstructing the Komagata Maru and Air India Cases , Alia Rehana Somani

Theses/Dissertations from 2011 2011

Residues of the Cold War: Emergent Waste Consciousness in Postwar American Culture and Fiction , Thomas J. Barnes

Biological Inheritance and the Social Order in Late-Victorian Fiction and Science , Sherrin Berezowsky

Life Among the Machines: James Joyce's Ulysses and Early Twentieth-Century Technology , Patrick Casey

Social Money: Literary Engagements with Economics in Early Modern English Drama , Myungjin Choi

States of Insurgency: Dismemberment and Citizenship in the American 1848 , David J. Drysdale

Re-forging the smith: an interdisciplinary study of smithing motifs in Völuspá and Völundarkviða , Leif Einarson

Touching Bodies/Bodies Touching: The Ethics of Touch in Victorian Literature (1860-1900) , Ann M.C. Gagne

Feeling Better: The Therapeutic Drug in Modernism , Philip Glennie

Corporeal Returns: Theatrical Embodiment and Spectator Response in Early Modern Drama , Caroline R. Lamb

Seeking the Self in Pigment and Pixels: Postmodernism, Art, and the Subject , Selma Purac

Total Men!: Literature, Nationalism, and Mascuilinity in Early Canada , Aaron J. Schneider

Alternative Be/longing: Modernity and Material Culture in Bengali Cinema, 1947-1975 , Suvadip Sinha

Theses/Dissertations from 2010 2010

Graphomania: Composing Subjects in Late-Victorian Gothic Fiction and Technology , Gregory D. Brophy

The Burdens of Body's Beauty: Pre-Raphaelite Representations of the Body in William Morris's the Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems (1858) and Algernon Swinburne's Poems , Thomas A. Steffler

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©1878 - 2016 Western University

Harvard University Theses, Dissertations, and Prize Papers

The Harvard University Archives ’ collection of theses, dissertations, and prize papers document the wide range of academic research undertaken by Harvard students over the course of the University’s history.

Beyond their value as pieces of original research, these collections document the history of American higher education, chronicling both the growth of Harvard as a major research institution as well as the development of numerous academic fields. They are also an important source of biographical information, offering insight into the academic careers of the authors.

Printed list of works awarded the Bowdoin prize in 1889-1890.

Spanning from the ‘theses and quaestiones’ of the 17th and 18th centuries to the current yearly output of student research, they include both the first Harvard Ph.D. dissertation (by William Byerly, Ph.D . 1873) and the dissertation of the first woman to earn a doctorate from Harvard ( Lorna Myrtle Hodgkinson , Ed.D. 1922).

Other highlights include:

  • The collection of Mathematical theses, 1782-1839
  • The 1895 Ph.D. dissertation of W.E.B. Du Bois, The suppression of the African slave trade in the United States, 1638-1871
  • Ph.D. dissertations of astronomer Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin (Ph.D. 1925) and physicist John Hasbrouck Van Vleck (Ph.D. 1922)
  • Undergraduate honors theses of novelist John Updike (A.B. 1954), filmmaker Terrence Malick (A.B. 1966),  and U.S. poet laureate Tracy Smith (A.B. 1994)
  • Undergraduate prize papers and dissertations of philosophers Ralph Waldo Emerson (A.B. 1821), George Santayana (Ph.D. 1889), and W.V. Quine (Ph.D. 1932)
  • Undergraduate honors theses of U.S. President John F. Kennedy (A.B. 1940) and Chief Justice John Roberts (A.B. 1976)

What does a prize-winning thesis look like?

If you're a Harvard undergraduate writing your own thesis, it can be helpful to review recent prize-winning theses. The Harvard University Archives has made available for digital lending all of the Thomas Hoopes Prize winners from the 2019-2021 academic years.

Accessing These Materials

How to access materials at the Harvard University Archives

How to find and request dissertations, in person or virtually

How to find and request undergraduate honors theses

How to find and request Thomas Temple Hoopes Prize papers

How to find and request Bowdoin Prize papers

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  • Phone number 617-495-2461

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Harvard faculty personal and professional archives, harvard student life collections: arts, sports, politics and social life, access materials at the harvard university archives.


Home > ARTSSCI > English > dissertations

English Dissertations and Theses

The English Department Dissertations and Theses Series is comprised of dissertations and thesis authored by Marquette University's English Department doctoral and master's students.

Theses/Dissertations from 2023 2023

Lifting the Postmodern Veil: Cosmopolitanism, Humanism, and Decolonization in Global Fictions of the 21st Century , Matthew Burchanoski

Gothic Transformations and Remediations in Cheap Nineteenth-Century Fiction , Wendy Fall

Milton’s Learning: Complementarity and Difference in Paradise Lost , Peter Spaulding

“The Development of the Conceptive Plot Through Early 19th-Century English Novels” , Jannea R. Thomason

Theses/Dissertations from 2022 2022

Gonzo Eternal , John Francis Brick

Intertextuality and Sociopolitical Engagement in Contemporary Anglophone Women’s Writing , Jackielee Derks

Innovation, Genre, and Authenticity in the Nineteenth-Century Irish Novel , David Aiden Kenney II

Reluctant Sons: The Irish Matrilineal Tradition of Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, and Flann O’Brien , Jessie Wirkus Haynes

Britain's Extraterrestrial Empire: Colonial Ambition, Anxiety, and Ambivalence in Early Modern Literature , Mark Edward Wisniewski

Theses/Dissertations from 2021 2021

Re-Reading the “Culture Clash”: Alternative Ways of Reading in Indian Horse , Hailey Whetten

Theses/Dissertations from 2020 2020

When the Foreign Became Familiar: Modernism, Expatriation, and Spatial Identities in the Twentieth Century , Danielle Kristene Clapham

Reforming Victorian Sense/Abilities: Disabilities in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Social Problem Novels , Hunter Nicole Duncan

Genre and Loss: The Impossibility of Restoration in 20th Century Detective Fiction , Kathryn Hendrickson

A Productive Failure: Existentialism in Fin de Siècle England , Maxwell Patchet

Inquiry and Provocation: The Use of Ambiguity in Sixteenth-Century English Political Satire , Jason James Zirbel

Theses/Dissertations from 2019 2019

No Home but the World: Forced Migration and Transnational Identity , Justice Hagan

The City As a Trap: 20th and 21st Century American Literature and the American Myth of Mobility , Andrew Joseph Hoffmann

The Fantastic and the First World War , Brian Kenna

Insane in the Brain, Blood, and Lungs: Gender-Specific Manifestations of Hysteria, Chlorosis, & Consumption in 19th-Century Literature , Anna P. Scanlon

Reading Multicultural Novels Melancholically: Racial Grief and Grievance in the Joy Luck Club, Beloved, and Anil's Ghost , Jennifer Arias Sweeney

Theses/Dissertations from 2018 2018

The Ethos of Dissent: Epideictic Rhetoric and the Democratic Function of American Protest and Countercultural Literature , Jeffrey Lorino Jr

Literary Cosmopolitanisms of Salman Rushdie, Amitav Ghosh, and Arundhati Roy , Sunil Samuel Macwan

The View from Here: Toward a Sissy Critique , Tyler Monson

The Forbidden Zone Writers: Femininity and Anglophone Women War Writers of the Great War , Sareene Proodian

Theatrical Weddings and Pious Frauds: Performance and Law in Victorian Marriage Plots , Adrianne A. Wojcik

Theses/Dissertations from 2016 2016

Changing the Victorian Habit Loop: The Body in the Poetry and Painting of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Morris , Bryan Gast

Gendering Scientific Discourse from 1790-1830: Erasmus Darwin, Thomas Beddoes, Maria Edgeworth, and Jane Marcet , Bridget E. Kapler

Discarding Dreams and Legends: The Short Fiction of Elizabeth Madox Roberts, Flannery O’Connor, Katherine Anne Porter, and Eudora Welty , Katy L. Leedy

Theses/Dissertations from 2015 2015

Saving the Grotesque: The Grotesque System of Liberation in British Modernism (1922-1932) , Matthew Henningsen

The Pulpit's Muse: Conversive Poetics in the American Renaissance , Michael William Keller

A Single Man of Good Fortune: Postmodern Identities and Consumerism in the New Novel of Manners , Bonnie McLean

Julian of Norwich: Voicing the Vernacular , Therese Elaine Novotny

Theses/Dissertations from 2014 2014

Homecomings: Victorian British Women Travel Writers And Revisions Of Domesticity , Emily Paige Blaser

From Pastorals to Paterson: Ecology in the Poetry and Poetics of William Carlos WIlliams , Daniel Edmund Burke

Argument in Poetry: (Re)Defining the Middle English Debate in Academic, Popular, and Physical Contexts , Kathleen R. Burt

Apocalyptic Mentalities in Late-Medieval England , Steven A. Hackbarth

The Creation of Heaven in the Middle Ages , William Storm

(re)making The Gentleman: Genteel Masculinities And The Country Estate In The Novels Of Charlotte Smith, Jane Austen, And Elizabeth Gaskell , Shaunna Kay Wilkinson

Theses/Dissertations from 2013 2013

Brides, Department Stores, Westerns, and Scrapbooks--The Everyday Lives of Teenage Girls in the 1940s , Carly Anger

Placed People: Rootedness in G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, and Wendell Berry , David Harden

Rhetorics Of Girlhood Trauma In Writing By Holly Goddard Jones, Joyce Carol Oates, Sandra Cisneros, And Jamaica Kincaid , Stephanie Marie Stella

Theses/Dissertations from 2012 2012

A Victorian Christmas in Hell: Yuletide Ghosts and Necessary Pleasures in the Age of Capital , Brandon Chitwood

"Be-Holde the First Acte of this Tragedy" : Generic Symbiosis and Cross-Pollination in Jacobean Drama and the Early Modern Prose Novella , Karen Ann Zyck Galbraith

Pamela: Or, Virtue Reworded: The Texts, Paratexts, and Revisions that Redefine Samuel Richardson's Pamela , Jarrod Hurlbert

Violence and Masculinity in American Fiction, 1950-1975 , Magdalen McKinley

Gender Politics in the Novels of Eliza Haywood , Susan Muse

Destabilizing Tradition: Gender, Sexuality, and Postnational Identity in Four Novels by Irish Women, 1960-2000 , Sarah Nestor

Truth Telling: Testimony and Evidence in the Novels of Elizabeth Gaskell , Rebecca Parker Fedewa

Spirit of the Psyche: Carl Jung's and Victor White's Influence on Flannery O'Connor's Fiction , Paul Wakeman

Theses/Dissertations from 2011 2011

Performing the Audience: Constructing Playgoing in Early Modern Drama , Eric Dunnum

Paule Marshall's Critique of Contemporary Neo-Imperialisms Through the Trope of Travel , Michelle Miesen Felix

Hermeneutics, Poetry, and Spenser: Augustinian Exegesis and the Renaissance Epic , Denna Iammarino-Falhamer

Encompassing the Intolerable: Laughter, Memory, and Inscription in the Fiction of John McGahern , John Keegan Malloy

Regional Consciousness in American Literature, 1860-1930 , Kelsey Louise Squire

The Ethics of Ekphrasis: The Turn to Responsible Rhetoric in Mid-Twentieth Century American Poetry , Joshua Scott Steffey

Theses/Dissertations from 2010 2010

Cognitive Architectures: Structures of Passion in Joanna Baillie's Dramas , Daniel James Bergen

On Trial: Restorative Justice in the Godwin-Wollstonecraft-Shelley Family Fictions , Colleen M. Fenno

Theses/Dissertations from 2009 2009

What's the point to eschatology : multiple religions and terminality in James Joyce's Finnegans wake , Martin R. Brick

Economizing Characters: Harriet Martineau and the Problems of Poverty in Victorian Literature, Culture and Law , Mary Colleen Willenbring

Submissions from 2008 2008

"An improbable fiction": The marriage of history and romance in Shakespeare's Henriad , Marcia Eppich-Harris

Bearing the Mark of the Social: Notes Towards a Cosmopolitan Bildungsroman , Megan M. Muthupandiyan

The Gothic Novel and the Invention of the Middle-Class Reader: Northanger Abbey As Case Study , Tenille Nowak

Not Just a Novel of Epic Proportions: Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man As Modern American Epic , Dana Edwards Prodoehl

Recovering the Radicals: Women Writers, Reform, and Nationalist Modes of Revolutionary Discourse , Mark J. Zunac

Theses/Dissertations from 2007 2007

"The Sweet and the Bitter": Death and Dying in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings , Amy M. Amendt-Raduege

The Games Men Play: Madness and Masculinity in Post-World War II American Fiction, 1946-1964 , Thomas P. Durkin

Denise Levertov: Through An Ecofeminist Lens , Katherine A. Hanson

The Wit of Wrestling: Devotional-Aesthetic Tradition in Christina Rossetti's Poetry , Maria M.E. Keaton

Genderless Bodies: Stigma and the Myth of Womanhood , Ellen M. Letizia

Envy and Jealousy in the Novels of the Brontës: A Synoptic Discernment , Margaret Ann McCann

Technologies of the Late Medieval Self: Ineffability, Distance, and Subjectivity in the Book of Margery Kempe , Crystal L. Mueller

"Finding-- a Map-- to That Place Called Home": The Journey from Silence to Recovery in Patrick McCabe's Carn and Breakfast on Pluto , Valerie A. Murrenus Pilmaier

Emily Dickinson's Ecocentric Pastoralism , Moon-ju Shin

The American Jeremiad in Civil War Literature , Jacob Hadley Stratman

Theses/Dissertations from 2006 2006

Literary Art in Times of Crisis: The Proto-Totalitarian Anxiety of Melville, James, and Twain , Matthew J. Darling

(Re) Writing Genre: Narrative Conventions and Race in the Novels of Toni Morrison , Jennifer Lee Jordan Heinert

"Amsolookly Kersse": Clothing in Finnegan's Wake , Catherine Simpson Kalish

"Do Your Will": Shakespeare's Use of the Rhetoric of Seduction in Four Plays , Jason James Nado

Woman in Emblem: Locating Authority in the Work and Identity of Katherine Philips (1632-1664) , Susan L. Stafinbil

When the Bough Breaks: Poetry on Abortion , Wendy A. Weaver

Theses/Dissertations from 2005 2005

Heroic Destruction: Shame and Guilt Cultures in Medieval Heroic Poetry , Karl E. Boehler

Poe and Early (Un)American Drama , Amy C. Branam

Grammars of Assent: Constructing Poetic Authority in An Age of Science , William Myles Carroll III

This Place is Not a Place: The Constructed Scene in the Works of Sir Walter Scott , Colin J. Marlaire

Cognitive Narratology: A Practical Approach to the Reader-Writer Relationship , Debra Ann Ripley

Theses/Dissertations from 2004 2004

Defoe and the Pirates: Function of Genre Conventions in Raiding Narratives , William J. Dezoma

Creative Discourse in the Eighteenth-Century Courtship Novel , Michelle Ruggaber Dougherty

Exclusionary Politics: Mourning and Modernism in the Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Amy Levy, and Charlotte Mew , Donna Decker Schuster

Theses/Dissertations from 2003 2003

Toward a Re-Formed Confession: Johann Gerhard's Sacred Meditations and "Repining Restlessnesse" in the Poetry of George Herbert , Erik P. Ankerberg

Idiographic Spaces: Representation, Ideology and Realism in the Postmodern British Novel , Gordon B. McConnell

Theses/Dissertations from 2002 2002

Reading into It: Wallace Stegner's Novelistic Sense of Time and Place , Colin C. Irvine

Brisbane and Beyond: Revising Social Capitalism in Mid-Nineteenth-Century America , Michael C. Mattek

Theses/Dissertations from 2001 2001

Christians and Mimics in W. B. Yeats' Collected Poems , Patrick Mulrooney

Renaissance Roles and the Process of Social Change , John Wieland

'Straunge Disguize': Allegory and Its Discontents in Spenser's Faerie Queene , Galina Ivanovna Yermolenko

Theses/Dissertations from 2000 2000

Reading American Women's Autobiography: Spheres of Identity, Spheres of Influence , Amy C. Getty

"Making Strange": The Art and Science of Selfhood in the Works of John Banville , Heather Maureen Moran

Writing Guadalupe: Mediacion and (mis)translation in borderland text(o)s , Jenny T Olin-Shanahan

Writing Guadalupe: Mediacion and (Mis)Translation in Borderland Text(o)s , Jenny T. Olin-Shanahan

Theses/Dissertations from 1999 1999

Setting the Word Against the Word: The Search for Self-Understanding in Richard II , Richard J. Erable

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  • Thesis & Distinction

Students who demonstrate excellence in their major area of study may qualify for admission to the department’s or programs honors program. By successfully completing a senior honors thesis/project, the candidate will graduate with distinction in the major. Each academic department and program offering a major, as well as Program II, has established procedures and standards for determining Graduation with Distinction. 

The English department offers its majors two options for earning distinction:

  • Critical Thesis option
  • Creative Writing option
  • Spring-to-Fall theses are due by  December 1.
  • Fall-to-Spring theses are due by  March 30.

Either two Independent Studies or a "home seminar" and one Independent Study. (Fall/Spring or Spring/Fall.) Under most circumstances, a completed length of 35-70 pages. Home seminars entail enrolling in a course taught by your thesis adviser closely associated with your topic. You should first get your instructor's permission, and arrange to do extra reading and writing assignments for the class that translate the course work into the terms of your thesis. The home seminar option is only available the first semester you are working on your distinction project.

Distinction courses count toward the major. Students must complete 11 total courses to graduate with distinction in the major instead of the standard 10.

Independent Study Numbers for Thesis:

  • Creative Writing Option : ENGLISH 495 and 496 Distinction Creative Writing Independent Study
  • Critical Option : ENGLISH 497 and 498 Distinction Critical Research Independent Study


Eligible students must have completed (no later than the beginning of their senior year) at least five 200-level English courses (old 100 level) and must have a GPA of at least 3.5 in English courses.

Eligible students must submit:

  • Critical and creative writing thesis application
  • one writing sample of approximately 10 pages from an English course
  • one letter of recommendation from an English faculty member
  • a project description 
  • basic bibliography (critical applications only; one page single-spaced)

Applications must be submitted to the Director of Undergraduate Studies Offices (303AA). Applications are due November 15 for a spring-to-fall option and March 15  for a fall-to-spring option.

Evaluation Procedure

Upon approval by the instructor, the completed thesis is submitted to the Director of Undergraduate Studies Office (303AA) by December 1 (for a spring-to-fall honors project) or March 30 (for a fall-to-spring honors project) of the senior year for evaluation by a member of the DUS committee, the thesis adviser, and one other faculty member.  

Please submit an electronic .pdf of your completed thesis via email to  [email protected] .

See samples for help formatting and binding your thesis before submission: ​

Levels of Distinction

Three levels: Distinction, High Distinction, or Highest Distinction. Levels of distinction are based on the quality of the completed work. Students who have done satisfactory work in the seminar or independent study but whose theses are denied distinction will simply receive graded credit for their seminars and/or independent studies. Whereas the standard major in English asks for a total of ten courses, students pursuing honors in English will take nine courses plus either two independent studies or a home seminar to be followed by an independent study.

Class of 2023

  • “Ellegua,” Nicholas Bryce Bayer
  • "Bastards & Butterflies: Theorizing the Hip-Hop epic During the Woke Era,” Kyle Brandon Denis 
  • "I Sailed On/Our Ocean,” Dylan Charles Haston
  • “Jaywalking,” Mina Jang
  • "Ceramics After Sundown: My Family’s Jewish Diaspora Grief and Resilience,” Lily Eliana Levin
  • "Undoing Disneyland: Using the Judaic Cynical Hope Storytelling to Reconnect to Tradition,” Alison Rachel Rothberg
  • "A Quiet Between Bombardments,” Rebecca Paige Schneid
  • "Writing to Heal: The Expulsion of Intergenerational Trauma in Vietnamese American Literature,” Katelyn Amy Tsai
  • "The Great Blue American Novel: A Story of the Crossroads,” Akshaj Raghu Turebylu
  • "Reimagining Reality: The Intersection of Black Science Fiction, Structural Violence, and Trauma on the Body and Environment,” Aiyana Villanueva

Class of 2022

  • "bright force: poems,” Margot Armbruster
  • “The Psychologization of Reading the Nineteenth-Century British Novel,” Sullivan Brem
  • "Weaving Together Women’s Narratives, Composing a Room of My Own,” Margaret Gaw
  • "Reforming Retribution: Class Systems, Capital Punishment, and Criminal Justice in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist,” Kari Larsen
  • “Tracking Simulacra: Baudrillard, Morrison, Mehretu"
  • “Paradise Retold: Changing Cosmologies of the Western Frontier,” Taylor Plett

Class of 2021

  • "The Sky is Surely Open," James Benjamin
  • "The Way Back Up: Narratives of Downfall and Restoration in Fiction of the American South," Genevieve Beske
  • "Bridge and Other Stories," Anthony Cardellini
  • "How Does Sciences Communication Vary Among Genres?:  Science Through the Pens of Journalists, Creative Writers, and Researchers," Lydia Goff
  • "Stuck on the Spectrum:  A Queer Analysis of Male Heterosexuality in Mid-Twentieth Century American Literature," Clifford Haley
  • "Noumenal Word," Joseph Haston
  • "The Secret War/A New Life," Jared Junkin
  • "Postcolonial Environmental Justice and the Novels of Kiran Desai," Anna Kasradze
  • "Tianya Haijiao," Julie Peng
  • "I Know the End," Charlotte Sununu
  • "The Convergence of Nature and Culture:  Illegitimacy in Adam Bede and Daniel Deronda," Charlotte Tellefsen

Class of 2020

  • "Witnessing in African and Diaspora Narratives of Illness," Dorothy Oye Adu-Amankwah
  • "Protein Binds: Decoding Factory-Farmed Meat in the American South," Arujun Arora
  • "Need is Not Quite Belief:" Spritural Yearning in the Poetry of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton," Bailey Bogle
  • "Patriarchl Physicians and Dismembered Dames: Edgar Allan Poe and Nineteeth-Century Representation of Gender," Dahlia Chacon
  • "Long Way Home," Alice Dai
  • "Denizens of Summer," James Flynn
  • "I Would Rather Be a Man Than a God': Myth and Modern Humanity in the Einstein Intersection and American Gods," Grace Francese
  • "Embodied History: An Analysis of Trauma Inflicted on Female Bodies in the Fiction of Isabelle Allende and Herta Muller," Savita Gupta
  • "Bullets in the Dining Room Table': Reckoning with the South and Its Burdens in Faulkner, O'Connor, and Morrison," Megison Hancock
  • "Still Life with Fruit," Rachel Hsu
  • "Narrative as Search:  Computational Forms of Knowledge in the Novels of Tom McCarthy," Joel Mire
  • "The Roadkill Club," Valerie Muensterman
  • Conceits of Imagined Silence: Reconciling Recognition and Acknowledgment in Fiction" Brennen Neeley
  • "The Eye of Arctos," Emily Otero
  • "Welcome to WackoWorld," Kristen Siegel
  • "As a Pidgin: A Brief Memoir on Surviving Between Worlds" Ailing Zhou

Class of 2019

  • "The Art of Corporate Takeover," Glenn Huang
  • "Language Matters: Exploring Language Politics in Native Speaker and Dictee," Hyun Ji Jin
  • "Where's My Family," Hannah Kelly
  • "If the Sutures Hold," Nadia Kimani
  • The Machinations of Sensation: Stimulus, Response and the Irresistible Heroines of the Nineteenth-Century Novel," Christine Kuesel
  • "Paradise in America?" Utopia and Ideology in the Godfather," Madison V. Laton
  • "The Treatment Plan," Sarah Perrin
  • "Historical Visions: Reinventing Historical Narrative Through Word and Image," Alexander Sim
  • "Grandmotherhood: A Memoir," Nichole Trofatter Keegan
  • "Lines of Crisis: William Carlos Williams, Robert Creeley and Denise Levertov," Aaron Christopher Van Steinberg 
  • "Global Hybridities: Rethinking the "Woman Warrior" and the Third Space of Culture," Zhongyu Wang

Class of 2018

  • "Syllabic Heirlooms" Chloe Hooks
  • "In waves, tilted" Manda Hufstedler
  • "Seattle: A Summer Memoir" Emily Waples
  • "Litany (based on Crush, a collection of poems by Richard Siken)" Maria Carrasco
  • "The Work of Being Worked (For): Intimacy, Knowledge, and Emotional Labor in the Works of Henry James" Lauren Bunce
  • "Something on the Cusp of Hope: The Convent as imaginative Practice" Carolina Fernelius
  • "Full of Grace and Grandeur: Theological Mystery in the Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins" Luke Duchemin
  • "Repositioning Home: Performing and Reconstructing Identity in the Migration Narrative"  Catherine Ward
  • "Within a Jail, My Mind is Still Free': The Language of Resistance from Plantation to Prison in the Works of Frederick Douglass, George Jackson, and Yasin Bey" Jackson Skeen
  • "Arrowsmith as Medical and Scientific Microcosm: The Implications of Shifting Belief Systems During the Scientization of Medicine" Emery Jenson

Class of 2017

  • "Full and by the Wind" Louis Garza
  • "The Resurrectionist" Ryan Eichenwald
  • "Delusions of Controls: The V-2 in Gravity's Rainbow" Sean McCroskey
  • "Surface and Symbol: Epigram and Genre in the Works of Oscar Wilde" Sarah Atkinson
  • "Woman, Nature, and Observer in Tess of the D'Urbervilles and To the Lighthouses: An Ecofeminist Approach" Elizabeth George
  • "Creative Impulse in the Modern Age: The Embodiment of Anxiety in the Early Poetry of T.S. Eliot (1910-1917)" Anna Mukamal
  • "Inventions of the Human: Othering Caliban and the Ethic of Recognition" Issac Rubin
  • "F. Scott Fitzgerald's Women: Independence, Class, and the Superior Male" Margaret Booz

Class of 2016

  • "Upon the Face of the Deep: The Voyage of the Sparkling Wave" Gwen Hawkes
  • "Lelén: A Memoir for My Mother" Megan Pearson
  • "The Car Wreck Album" Josephine Ramseyer
  • "Bury Me at the Body Farm" Gabriel Sneed
  • "Push, momentum" Isabella Kwai
  • "A Cicada's Sorrow" Madeline Pron
  • "He Filled the Darkness with Fantasies" Dimeji Abidoye
  • "The Anamorphic ‘Figure in the Carpet’: James, Kafka, Morrison and Mitchell " Jacqueline Chipkin
  • "Politics and Poetics of the Novel: Using Domesticity to Create the Nation" Katherine Coric
  • "Modern Poetry: A Single Genre" JP Lucaci

Class of 2015

  • "How to Run Away Without Moving" Mary Hoch 
  • "The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: The Dangers of Metaphorizing Ebola as War in the United States" Roshini Jain
  • "Dear Master: A Screenplay" Jamie Kessler
  • "A Hawk from a Handsaw:  "How Historical Perceptions of Madness Dictated Portrayals of Insanity in British Literature, 1300-1900" Danielle Muoio
  • "Every Dram of Woman’s Flesh: "Paulina’s Role and Remedy in The Winter’s Tale" Bailey Sincox
  • "The Violence of Alienation in Morrison and Faulkner: A Study in Family, Religion, and Class" Meredith Stabe

Class of 2014

  • “Breaking and Entering” Audrey Adu-Appiah 
  • “Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenberg, Siegfried Sassoon, and the Birth of Modernism” Christopher Broderick Honorable Mention:  Bascom Palmer Literary Prize
  • “Forms of Femininity: A Modernist Approach to Female Psychology” Grace Chandler
  • “This is the Hour of Lead: Emily Dickinson in 1862" Shibani Das
  • “Presidential Persuasiveness in Justifying Use of Force In the Post 9/11-Era” Maureen Dolan
  • “A Harvard Man” Amanda Egan
  • “A Light in the Stairwell” Sarah Elsakr
  • “Women in Medicine: What Medical Narratives Reveal About Patriarchy in the Medical System” Jennifer Hong 
  • “In Your Own Bosom You Bear Your Heaven and Earth Interiority and Imagination in William Blake’s Jerusalem: The Emanation of Giant Albion” Emmie Le Marchand
  • “A Shakespearean Ecology: Interconnected Nature In A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Winter’s Tale” Paige Meier
  • “It is I you Hold and Who Holds You: The Persuasive Grip of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass in the Age of Slam Poetry” Haley Millner
  • “Bright Grey:  an Unfinished Novel” Lindsey Osteen
  • “Once Upon Our Time: Five Fairy Tale Retellings” Nicholas William Prey
  • “Crumbling” Emily Schon
  • “Fashion Cues: Visual Politics of Liminality in Quicksand and Quartet” Allison Shen
  • “The Search for Transcendence: W.B. Yeats and His Dance Plays” Caitlin Tutterow
  • “Soul Power: The Psychology and Politics of Asian American Melancholia” Katherine Zhang

Independent Study Courses

  • ENGLISH 491 Independent Study - Independent projects in creative writing, under the supervision of a faculty member. Open to juniors and seniors. Consent of both the instructor and the director of undergraduate studies required.
  • ENGLISH 493 Research Independent Study - Individual research in a field of special interest under the supervision of a faculty member, the central goal of which is a substantive paper or written report containing significant analysis and interpretation of a previously approved topic. Open to juniors and seniors. Consent of both the instructor and the director of undergraduate studies required.

You must apply for approval to register for independent study. The procedure, approval process and application form are posted on the Trinity College of Arts & Sciences website.

Completed applications must be submitted to the Director of Undergraduate Studies by one week prior to drop/add. Please bring to 303AA Allen. The Undergraduate Assistant will give a permission number to students whose applications have been approved by both the professor and the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Departmental Guidelines

The Faculty of the English Department have agreed on these desiderata: tutorial and independent study must not duplicate available course offerings the subject of study must be in the instructor's general field of professional competence the amount of work required must be approximately equivalent to that required in a regular course the student must have had 200-level course work in the general field of the proposal or otherwise have made acceptable preparation to study independently in that area. 

To maintain a high quality of independent study, the faculty member directing the study must have sufficient time to give the course careful attention. The Department has therefore decided that no faculty member shall direct more than three independent study courses in any semester. No student with an incomplete (I) in a course in independent study will be permitted to enroll in a second course. The application (one page only) must include the following information:

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Creative Impulse in the Modern Age: The Embodiment of Anxiety in the Early Poetry of T. S. Eliot (1910-1917) – Anna Mukamal (2017)

My principal concern in this work is to investigate whether, and if so, how anxiety may be worthwhile or particularly constructive for poetic production in the modern context. I have approached this question from a variety of epistemological perspectives, including but not limited to 19 th and 20 th century philosophical theories of anxiety, formalist readings of poetry and fiction from the late Victorian and early modernist periods, and contemporary scholarship engaging with principal figures representing the “inward turn” of modernist literature. At stake is the salient and complex concept of the mental and physical state most conducive to the production of timeless art.

Evoking the fundamental tension between individual desire, predilection, and emotion and universal truth, my work “worries” over what Eliot intends to accomplish by writing worried poetry. I have chosen to focus on the verse written and published between 1910 and 1917 in part because it coincides with Eliot’s most direct engagement with the tormented, self-plagued persona whose persistent self-questioning leads to no future remedial action. In this sense, Eliot’s early verse objectifies—by its very rhetorical embodiment—a crippling array of symptoms of the physical, moral, and spiritual devolution that he observes in European society and in which he takes an ambivalent part.

Limiting my textual analysis to this early period is also a way of treading humbly in the domain of ultimate questions and taking Eliot’s own advice, since “it is easier for a young poet to understand and to profit by the work of another young poet, when it is good, than from the work of a mature poet” (MTP 217). While varying in self-proclaimed literary quality and critical reception, the poems with which I engage consistently probe the question of whether the modern person—facing rapid and seemingly irrevocable political polarization, a materially-oriented consumerist culture, and an increasing distrust of God, among other prevalent and distressing modern developments—must necessarily be sick, miserable, anxious, intellectually stunted, and spiritually vide .

Remarkably, in the first phase of his poetic enterprise Eliot creates personae embodying and refracting the ambient anxieties of an era simultaneously increasing in empirical knowledge and declining in certitude. To provide the historical context of these issues, the first chapter, “Global and Individual Anxiety pre- Waste Land ,” traces 19 th century philosophical inquiry with which Eliot would have been familiar and by which he was likely influenced. Kierkegaard’s concept of global anxiety and Nietzsche’s “man of resentment” constitute two central theories of the modern person’s intellectual and physical predicament. The transition between a faith-based and empirical proof-based society in part explains the pervasive global anxiety, as does the broader spiritual uncertainty engendered by a fomenting distrust of truths subjective, and hence necessarily objectively unverifiable. I argue that the state of mind in which Eliot writes The Waste Land in 1922 cannot be fully understood without tracing the spiritual and moral concerns pervasive in the poet’s early poetic enterprise. Is pain a prerequisite for the modernist artist’s creative impetus?

The first and second chapters demonstrate through close textual analysis that Eliot’s early verse is both generative and remedial of anxiety. The second chapter, “The Rhetorical Embodiment of Anxiety,” further explores the connection between pain and artistic production by analyzing the presence of skepticism, inaction, solipsism, and despair in Eliot’s self-lacerating and overly conscious personae. In poems such as “The Burnt Dancer” and the well-known “Portrait of a Lady,” I analyze the rhetorical means by which Eliot conveys disembodied agency, stunted volition, and seemingly irredeemable self-possession. His evocation of repetitive thought processes—mirroring self-paralysis as actions are dissociated from agents—coincides with his search for an overarching morality to transcend the banal propriety of his sociocultural milieu. Eliot writes, in other words, to discover an authentic communicative mode even while acutely aware of the inherent ineffability of subjective truth and the linguistic limitations of an arbitrary, imperfect system of language. Eliot’s self-locating within the modern petit-bourgeois cultural sensibility renders even more convincing his poetic evocation of the Faustian myth of human love and high artistry. The resonance between his ultimate questions and those of both Nietzsche and Mann indicates that aggression may be a necessary effect of persistent inner doubt and self- loathing. This helps to explain why the age’s pervasive sexual anxiety may correspond with a general decadence of communicability in the context of a transactional consumerist culture in which actions are increasingly devoid of deeper meaning.

Chapter 3, “The Anxiety of Artistic Production,” poses the question of how the modernist artist may presume , to employ an idiom germane to Eliot, to produce art in the modern world. Is it even possible in such a chaotic environment to create ordered art, and must art necessarily denote order or must it instead evolve to fulfill another function more compatible with modern sensibilities? Preceding Chapter 4’s delineation of the physical and psychological health effects once the artist has committed himself to the actual generative process, this chapter traces anxieties with a dilatory function before the art’s conception, relying in part on Bloom’s The Anxiety of Influence . Public reception of the work, the elusiveness of finding a cohesive voice, and the near-impossibility of justifying a poetic enterprise as meaningful in the face of national instability and even tragedy: these are just a few of the anxieties plaguing the modernist artist, perhaps preventing him from even attempting to reflect the neuroses of his time. Even if the artist determines that there is something new to be said , he must overcome the metaphysical reality of death—which, for Eliot, represents the ultimate inability to connect with others— believing that timeless art lends meaning to the vast expanse of time beyond his own death.

The fourth chapter extends fluidly into the relationship between sickness and poetic productivity, interrogating the physical and psychological health effects once the poet has sacrificed himself to active artistic production. Does attained artistic sublimity necessarily presuppose perverse health? In this chapter I examine Eliot’s concept of the sacrifice of the self to art, offering a reading of Mann’s Death in Venice (1912), concomitant with Eliot’s early verse, to demonstrate that the artist’s ambivalently divided self—between a bourgeois and bohemian sensibility—manifests at the level of aesthetic form. Both Eliot and Mann create personae representing the “delicate heroism suited to the times” and thus epitomizing the man of the era, for better or for worse (DV 46). I have chosen to incorporate early Mann because both writers subtly lament the modern age’s lost telos of beauty, evoking the tension between the finite body and the (perhaps) immortal mind through a tangible anxiety about mortality and a notable coupling of spiritual sublimation and physical deterioration. I argue that the artists’ depiction of sickness is a commentary on the moral, physical, and psychological downturn of Europe at the turn of the 20 th century. The feckless and sick Herr Spinell of Mann’s “Tristan” and Emma Bovary of Flaubert’s classic novel epitomize, in turn, the potential for a tragically scripted consciousness to devolve into aggression and violence as well as the loss of action and spiritual, rather than material comfort, as meaningful categories of existence.

The final chapter, “Anxiety and the Bourgeois Sensibility,” investigates the purpose or objective of interrogating anxiety through poetry, determining the “work,” in a non-material but rather intellectual and spiritual sense, that Eliot’s early verse accomplishes for his age. What is at stake in Eliot’s poetic unveiling of the volatile psychological state hidden by the placid surface of bourgeois propriety, and how may he address its unsavory effects from within that very culture? Probing the ambivalence of the bourgeois sociocultural marker, I argue that Eliot’s early verse reveals the inauthenticity of scripted communicative modes. Preventing modern people from engaging with eternal truths, moral conformism supplants independence of thought—while material success in a consumerist culture obscures the normative good—and these developments are not only detrimental for social discourse, but also for literature. The modernist artist more broadly, and Eliot in particular, aims to combat the general societal ignorance of the insidious social tyranny that engenders a widespread dissolution of the causative link between feelings and agency. Communication in the modern world, Eliot’s early verse contests, is a parody of authentic interpersonal communion. Yet ever-present in the poetry are glimpses of hope resisting the tempting idea that subjectivity of experience implies the fundamental incommunicability of human souls.

As a developing artist, Eliot relies on the poetic medium to probe the essential question— later adumbrated in Heidegger’s 1927 Being and Time— of whether boredom and anxiety are more authentic affective ways of being in the world than happiness. As a whole, my work continues and honors this question’s seeming insolubility. I hope to show that anxiety—Eliot’s individual anxiety, the ambient anxiety of his era, the accrual of global anxiety over time— constitutes an underexplored and undeniable creative impetus for Eliot and his contemporaries.

Not in the clinical sense, but rather as a quotidian force with which the thoughtful individual necessarily grapples, modern anxiety is paradoxically both inhibitive and generative. This work, in addition to demonstrating the young Eliot’s engagement with profound existential questions of meaning, affirms that anxiety is a valuable framework for analyzing the conditions of timeless artistic production in the modern world.

The Anamorphic “Figure in the Carpet”: James, Kafka, Morrison and Mitchell – Jackie Chipkin (2016)

How does fiction challenge readers to expand their definitions of human life? For my honors thesis, I want to investigate forms of fiction that approach this question from an eccentric angle. At first, these texts’ unconventional vantage points seem to defy what the reader considers “realism,” aligning his or her view with what Giorgio Agamben says of the contemporary author: those who truly “belong to their time” neither “coincide with it nor adjust themselves to its demands” (Agamben 40). Just so, rather than ignore the reality of their moment, the novels I consider in this thesis question the conventional way of looking at it. The characters whose experiences will shape my study are neither confined to the human body nor limited to its natural abilities and traditional habits of mind; they elude normative notions of form and cognitive faculty. At the same time, the reader cannot dismiss the palpable plasticity of these characters as primitive or fantastic. Alongside their parents, siblings and lovers, these characters inhabit familiar worlds shaped by the same everyday practices and socio-economic force fields that shape the human figure under realism. They exist in relation to, rather than outside of, the world as it is depicted in novels more squarely in the tradition of European realism. These characters push the envelope of realism farther than any traditional work of realism from a position within it.

My love of reading and analysis has been motivated by a desire to understand the world around me. Since childhood, I have been drawn to works that push me to examine and reimagine my environment. The characters I meet are my guides and the fulcrum of my literary experience. My world and a protagonist’s world are components of a reality I imaginatively share with that character and other readers. These characters’ thoughts, emotions, conversations, relationships and actions embody the ebb and flow of human experience across time and space. Through them I inhabit alternative worlds and, in turn, better understand my own.

As I immersed myself in the novels of Hemingway, Melville, Dickens, Austen, James, Woolf and others, I discovered how different novels produced the cultural boundaries within which readers have to live in order to imaginatively inhabit the worlds of fictional characters. Working to reconstruct the essential differences that distinguish culture from nature, I came to understand how the novel contributed to the concept of the modern individual. Once the novel had created this figure, readers understood themselves in terms of a narrative that produced a self-governing subject (Armstrong 25). For me, the novel became the paramount literary form through which I could explore fiction’s varying, shifting definitions of human life. I first encountered and was drawn into this project in a survey course of gothic fiction. From Shelley’s Frankenstein to Wilde’s Dorian Gray , gothic works drove me to question the parameters that define human life and reality.

Similarly, as an aspiring physician, I strive to make sense of my environment through the stories of those who occupy perspectives different than my own. As an avid reader and writer, I have chosen to approach medicine through narratives of illness. From Bolivia to North Carolina, from pediatric hospitals to hospice centers, I have asked the patients I have met to share their medical experiences with me. As they have entrusted me with their memories and emotions, I have strived to honor their stories with my words. Just as a character’s world is not my world, I must recognize that a patient’s experience is not my experience. As a doctor interacting with patients—like a reader interacting with characters—I must understand the “literary” rules governing the patient’s world in order to understand how the patient feels and what his or her “normal” condition is. These narratives drive me to pursue a career in medicine—to partner with patients to write stories shaped by their notions of health and recovery.

Though in strikingly different ways, all of the eccentric novels I will analyze in my thesis make the same formal variation on traditional realism; namely, they bind together two absolutely incompatible views of the same literary world. These works challenge readers to confront incompatible perspectives—that expected of the normative reality and reader and that of the eccentric character—simultaneously. These novels consequently make us see the same world as two worlds that cannot be synthesized. Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw , presenting two incompatible perspectives, models this phenomenon. From one perspective, the novella is a traditional British ghost tale, a chilling account of an unnamed governess’ fantastic delusions and psychotic demise. But from another—that of the governess—the story is factual recount of a lived experience that defies scientific explanation. James begins to layer these perspectives within the novella’s first pages. The Turn of the Screw is a story thrice told: first from the governess to Douglas, then from Douglas to the narrator, and finally from the narrator to the reader. The narrator describes these types of stories as a form of entertainment, intending to “hold” an audience and render listeners “breathless” (James 1).

James warns us that storytellers do not necessarily adhere to fact, but rather strive to elicit emotional reactions. The governess’ tale, however, is a “written” document (3), a permanent record that lays claim to archival credibility. While the narrator assures readers that “this narrative” is an “exact transcript” of that evening (3), James does not clarify whether the original story—rather than merely its repetition—is the product of empirical observation or bad affect. Holding the governess’ perspective beside that of the story’s narration, James’ novella is simultaneously a ghost tale and a “manuscript” documenting the preternatural events at the country estate where she was the chief guardian of two privileged but orphaned children (3). The author’s cues do not indicate whether we are to regard this tale as true to the facts to which it testifies, true to what the governess feels, or both.

As the novella unfolds, James’ irreconcilable perspectives continue to clash. The governess asks how she will “retrace…the strange steps of [her] obsession” (80). She frequently mentions her vivid imagination and the emotions that she allows to actively control her thoughts, admitting that she is “rather easily carried away” (31). If the spirits that once inhabit Bly can still be detected there, self-doubt and mania are reasonable responses for these extenuating circumstances. Under these conditions, readers can justify why the governess tries to discredit these apparitions by invoking “obsession” and “imagination” (80). If we take the governess’s descriptions of herself as true, then the ghosts are creations of her imagination. But can we trust the words of a woman who claims that her own words are untrustworthy? James’ protagonist is not inherently an unreliable narrator; rather, she is only unreliable in that readers cannot assess whether she is reliable or not. Thus, James’ text neither supports nor refutes the governess’s judgment by indicating what is actually there to be seen; rather, he embeds her story within a landscape of normative reality so that it not only calls the governess’ view into question but calls the normative view into question as well.

Most criticism from 1921-1970 approaches James’s text psychoanalytically. Overall, these theorists argue that the ghosts and attendant horrors are figments of the governess’ neurotic imagination. The reasoning goes that because “there is never any evidence that anybody but the governess sees the ghosts” (James, Esch and Warren 172), the ghosts must be delusional, arising from factors implied but not established by her tale. A number of readers in this tradition, such as Edna Kenton, bring Freudian analysis to bear on this account, transforming it into a case history. Kenton state that the governess is “trying to harmonize her own disharmonies by creating discords outside herself” (169). The literary critic argues that the governess’ story stems from the trauma of unrequited love; the ghosts represent the governess’ repressed sexual passion for her master. Alternatively, Harold Goddard accredits the governess’s psychosis to an unwholesome childhood, as “the young woman’s home and early environment…point to its stifling narrowness” (161).

While there is no evidence that anyone besides the governess sees the ghosts, neither is there any evidence that the children she supervises do not see or communicate with the ghosts of their former governess and groundskeeper. Given the lack of evidence to show that the governess is insane, and thus the ghosts imaginary, these critics almost uniformly begin by declaring that the ghosts are imaginary in order to classify the governess as psychotic. On the assumption that the ghosts cannot be real, they lace their arguments with diagnostic diction. They label the governess a “victim of insomnia” (161). They declare that her “overwrought condition” leads to “insanity,” “hallucinations” and “mania” (163-64). These terms and the conditions they label (for example, a manic episode) are all clearly defined by bodies of medical literature. In this context, however, criticism uses these terms rhetorically; they are technical terms that, albeit persuasive, are not substantiated by the text. Because James does not provide textual evidence for the governess’ psychosis, we cannot establish her insanity; indeed, we cannot even prove that the ghosts are “exquisite dramatizations of her little personal mystery” (170). The critics succeed in normalizing one view of the world by delegitimizing another. They apply psychoanalysis to a fictional character in order to establish the authority of modern secular realism as if to insist that there can only be one reading of reality. Any reality that resists that reading is consequently reduced to the status of ignorance or pathology, if not unreliability. This interpretive imperialism refuses to acknowledge that at any point in time, the same world may be an entirely different world for a different person bearing different cultural baggage. Through the interpolation of discrete perspectives within one another, James’ novel form works to equip readers with more flexible, critical cultural tools.

In order to develop such an approach, I use the figure of anamorphosis as a way of explaining how novels such as The Turn of the Screw employ eccentric characters to revise the novel form. Anamorphosis is an image that appears distorted when viewed from a normative perspective, requiring specific viewpoints or tools to reconstitute its true form. This true form is not one of a single, stable reality. Rather, it is a composition of multiple frameworks and embedded perspectives—the artist’s interpolative machinery. Hanneke Grootenboer, art historian and author of The Rhetoric of Perspective, stresses the paradoxical etymology of anamorphosis. In classical Greek, anamorphosis literally translates as “distortion,” while in Modern Greek, ana- functions both as the English prefixes dis - , as in “distortion,” and re- , as in “reformation” (Grootenboer 101). Anamorphosis can thus be understood as “that which lacks a proper shape” and the “restoring of that which has been out of shape” (101). Its meaning refers to the actual image in addition to the process of its reshaping—that is, the viewer’s search for the right point of view.

Anamorphism began as a series of perspective experiments in the 1500s and 1600s (Castillo), and its appearance as a consciously applied technique in art history corresponds to the invention of linear perspective (Collins). As Renaissance artists began to master traditional methods of perspective, they also learned to manipulate those methods and distort the object they produced accordingly. The geometry of anamorphic images was considered revolutionary in the sense that it did not strictly conform to the Cartesian coordinate system, which localizes points in space through their relative distances from perpendicular intersecting lines (Collins). It is easy to see how the Cartesian system alone is inadequate to capture the multiple perspectives that simultaneously occupy a common reality. In anamorphic art, artists interpolate an image that is not oriented according to the normatively positioned spectator within an image that is indeed oriented according toward the ideal spectator in a Cartesian system. Undermining the orthodox principles of perspective upon which it depends, anamorphic art can be considered a counterpart of both Cartesian rationalism and doubt. By challenging the Cartesian system from within it, artists who produce anamorphic art challenge the notion of a single, normative reality. I will demonstrate that novelists as well as visual artists think in terms of the figure of anamorphosis when they embed an eccentric perspective within a normative one. These writers strive to honor multiple, legitimate perspectives that coexist at any moment within a shared reality.

Anamorphic art pushes readers to linger in the uncomfortable intersection of incompatible perspectives. Donald Preziosi, art historian, states that in anamorphic art, “relationships among units in the archive are visible (that is, legible) only from certain prefabricated stances, positions, or attitudes toward the system” (119). Anamorphic images are the product of carefully calculated angles; their forms and desired effects are rooted in the experimentation of mathematics as well as art. Typically, in drawings and paintings, viewers would be required to physically shift their positions in order to see an alternate image within the portrait or scene, usually rendered along an alternate geometrical plane. In addition to anamorphic images created on two-dimensional surfaces, artists also employ tools such as mirrors and conical surfaces to guide viewers to the desired images. Regardless of the medium, an artist’s craftsmanship and ingenuity stem from his or her ability to engineer the interpolation of conflicting perspectives.

The perceptual doubling of anamorphosis produces a rupture in the viewer’s gaze, as Hans Holbein’s painting The Ambassadors famously demonstrates. As viewers move to the right, glancing back at the portrait, they glimpse not the iconic representation of the two ambassadors they saw from the front view, but rather, a skull (Holbein). Holbein’s painting appears to look back at the viewer, to demand that the spectator actively engage the artwork’s virtual affects. Viewers must move from the center of the image to the margins in order to understand the image in front of them. The gymnastics necessary for the successful apprehension of the anamorphic image casts observers in active roles. A crucial aspect of the anamorphic experience in art, therefore, is the way in which it requires that the experience be performed by the body. Unmoored from its perceptual anchors, the body must practice a form of spectatorship beyond that of the normative perspective. Stephen Greenblatt, American scholar of Renaissance and Shakespearean studies, argues that in demanding this movement, Holbein’s portrait threatens to undermine “the very concept of locatable reality upon which we conventionally rely in our mappings of the world, to subordinate the sign systems we so confidently use to a larger doubt” (20-21). How does literature accomplish this same subordination of the sign systems on which we conventionally rely as readers of “a larger doubt” (20-21)?

Ernest Gilman first applied the concept of anamorphosis to literature. In his book on seventeenth-century English literature, Gilman proposes that displays of wit in poetry are like displays of “visual wit in what the seventeenth century called the 'curious perspective,' pictures or devices which manipulate the conventions of linear perspective to achieve ingenious effects” (248). In Shakespeare’s Richard II , Gilman interprets Bushy's witty speech of comfort to the queen (qtd. in Gilman 248), which plays on terms of perspective vision, and by analogy with Holbein's double portrait, The Ambassadors . Gilman argues that the play must be interpreted from two places, “one facing straight, the other oblique,” and states that anamorphic texts challenge “multiple conceptual and perspective registers at once” (249). Gilman finds, in conclusion, that

Two modes of explanation in the same historical event…The play neither endorses nor denies the Tudor myth but builds on its premises to show that the providential theory of the king's double nature necessarily requires a complex kind of doublethink for which the curious perspective is the visual model. (249)

Beyond Gilman’s Shakespearean criticisms, anamorphosis is rarely referenced in literary analysis.

However, as I researched this project, I became convinced that anamorphosis should be applied to literary analysis. Indeed, I discovered that principles of anamorphosis resonated with the very novels featuring eccentric perspectives that I have always found compelling. I asked myself: what form does anamorphosis assume in prose? How does literature examine two conflicting realities? Wielding words in place of paintbrushes, authors, too, interpolate one viewpoint within a normative framework with which it is incompatible. Through the voices of their characters, novels produce readings that can challenge readers to stand at the crossroads of two conflicting perspectives and consider an order of things and events that is off-center in relation to their own. Most interpretive systems attempt to produce a unity which subordinates the minority point of view, such as critics who aim to silence the governess’ perspective through diagnoses of insanity. These systems aim to render culturally variant views of the world illegitimate by classifying them as either delusional or merely fictional. Novels that have been so marginalized, for whatever reason, actually belong to a tradition that deliberately inserts eccentric viewpoints within a normative world so as to naturalize the abnormal and broaden the conceptual boundaries of realism. These works require readers to struggle with conflicting definitions of human life. To argue that anamorphosis identifies an important tradition of fiction, I will show how select novels use what we dismiss as “magic,” if not “delusion,” to challenge us to redefine boundaries of realism, our capacity for sympathetic identification and parameters of human life itself.

To test this hypothesis, I will investigate Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis , Toni Morrison’s Beloved and David Mitchell’s Ghostwritten. Kafka’s novella insists that Gregor Samsa is physiologically—not allegorically, metaphorically, or symbolically—transformed into an insect. Yet despite his revolting antennae and cravings for rotten food, Gregor maintains the cognitive and intellectual depth he possessed in typical human form. In Morrison’s novel, Beloved is neither an intangible memory nor a translucent ghost; she is a corporeal figure waiting on the steps of 124. Finally, in Mitchell’s Ghostwritten , a disembodied character called the noncorpum transmigrates from one specifically located host to another, crossing the span of humanity from a psychotic terrorist in Tokyo to a late-night DJ in New York. Gregor is typically human in cognitive faculty but not in biological form.

Beloved possesses a typical human form but an extra-human cognitive faculty. The noncorpum remaps the brain’s codification as it moves from body to body. By looking closely at these novels—which feature a broad range of character forms and cognitive abilities—in relation to one another, my purpose is to show how each novel remodels the formula of one mind to one body that defines the modern individual.

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    english undergraduate thesis

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  1. Prize-Winning Thesis and Dissertation Examples

    Award-winning undergraduate theses. University: University of Pennsylvania Faculty: History Author: Suchait Kahlon Award: 2021 Hilary Conroy Prize for Best Honors Thesis in World History Title: "Abolition, Africans, and Abstraction: the Influence of the "Noble Savage" on British and French Antislavery Thought, 1787-1807". University: Columbia University

  2. Developing A Thesis

    A good thesis has two parts. It should tell what you plan to argue, and it should "telegraph" how you plan to argue—that is, what particular support for your claim is going where in your essay. Steps in Constructing a Thesis. First, analyze your primary sources. Look for tension, interest, ambiguity, controversy, and/or complication.

  3. English Department Dissertations Collection

    Dissertations from 2022. Writing the Aftermath: Uncanny Spaces of the Postcolonial, Sohini Banerjee, English. Science Fiction's Enactment of the Encouragement, Process, and End Result of Revolutionary Transformation, Katharine Blanchard, English. LITERARY NEGATION AND MATERIALISM IN CHAUCER, Michelle Brooks, English.

  4. Thesis Topics

    During the actual writing of the thesis, of course, you will work closely with a faculty mentor. Here is a partial list of the kinds of literary and interdisciplinary topics that Honors students have pursued over the past few years: Polyphony in the novels of Cormac McCarthy. Women in post-Stonewall gay male literature.

  5. Thesis

    Your thesis is the central claim in your essay—your main insight or idea about your source or topic.Your thesis should appear early in an academic essay, followed by a logically constructed argument that supports this central claim. A strong thesis is arguable, which means a thoughtful reader could disagree with it and therefore needs your careful analysis of the evidence to understand how ...

  6. English Theses and Dissertations

    Theses/Dissertations from 2018. Beauty and the Beasts: Making Places with Literary Animals of Florida, Haili A. Alcorn. The Medievalizing Process: Religious Medievalism in Romantic and Victorian Literature, Timothy M. Curran. Seeing Trauma: The Known and the Hidden in Nineteenth-Century Literature, Alisa M. DeBorde.

  7. How to write an undergraduate university dissertation

    10 tips for writing an undergraduate dissertation. 1. Select an engaging topic. Choose a subject that aligns with your interests and allows you to showcase the skills and knowledge you have acquired through your degree. 2. Research your supervisor. Undergraduate students will often be assigned a supervisor based on their research specialisms.

  8. Stanford University, Department of English, Undergraduate Honors Theses

    This thesis exploration will examine how Chanel Miller's literary choices in Know My Name allow her to stitch together the pieces of her identity that were brutally ripped apart during and following her assault.

  9. How to Write a Thesis or Dissertation Introduction

    To help guide your reader, end your introduction with an outline of the structure of the thesis or dissertation to follow. Share a brief summary of each chapter, clearly showing how each contributes to your central aims. However, be careful to keep this overview concise: 1-2 sentences should be enough. Note.

  10. Linguistics and English Language undergraduate thesis collection

    Search within this Collection: As part of their final year undergraduate degree examination for MA or BSC, students submit a dissertation based on an original research project supervised by academic staff in the department. It was agreed that all PPLS Undergraduate students would be required to submit an electronic copy of their dissertation to ...

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    Thesis Submission Guidelines. An electronic copy of your thesis is due to the Office Coordinator by the posted deadline and should be sent as a PDF attachment to the honors program. In the body of that email, please indicate whether you give us permission to share your thesis online with prospective and future honors students.

  12. Steps for Completing a Thesis

    Thesis projects frequently grow out of a paper or project that a student completed as part of an undergraduate course in English. For instance, you might decide to expand the original paper/project from a course that you've taken with your faculty advisor. ... To enroll in thesis coursework, email the Undergraduate Program Manager Elizabeth ...

  13. English Undergraduate Honors Theses

    Honors Theses from 2019. An Incongruous Present: Identifying the Absurd Aesthetic in William Faulkner's "Requiem for a Nun" (1951), Blake Hani. A Portrait of Women's Property: An Analysis of Married Women's Property Rights in The Portrait of a Lady, The Spoils of Poynton and Howards End, Kelsey Llewellyn.

  14. Honors Theses

    What this handout is about. Writing a senior honors thesis, or any major research essay, can seem daunting at first. A thesis requires a reflective, multi-stage writing process. This handout will walk you through those stages. It is targeted at students in the humanities and social sciences, since their theses tend to involve more writing than ...

  15. Dissertation & Thesis Outline

    Dissertation & Thesis Outline | Example & Free Templates. Published on June 7, 2022 by Tegan George.Revised on November 21, 2023. A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical early steps in your writing process.It helps you to lay out and organize your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding the specifics of your dissertation topic and showcasing its relevance to ...

  16. Theses and Creative Projects 2

    Theses and Creative Projects 2. The Department of English strongly encourages all undergraduates to consider completing a senior thesis under the direction of a faculty advisor (s). Undergraduate theses may involve: The drafting of a scholarly research paper. The production of a novel, set of short stories, or collection of poems. The analysis ...

  17. English Theses and Dissertations

    Theses/Dissertations from 2019. PDF. Semantic Shift in Old English and Old Saxon Identity Terms, David A. Carlton. PDF. Financial Frictions: Money and Materiality in American Literary Naturalism, 1890-1925, Patricia Luedecke. PDF. Criminal Masculinities and the Newgate Novel, Taylor R. Richardson. PDF.

  18. Guidelines: Thesis Style Sheet

    Thesis Due Date: April 16, 2024, at 12:00 p.m. EST Submission: For AY 2023-2024, the department is requiring a hardcover bound copy and an electronic copy of your thesis. Both the hardcover bound copy must be dropped off to the English Department office (22 McCosh Hall) and an electronic submission is due to the Senior Thesis Drop Box Folder by ...

  19. Harvard University Theses, Dissertations, and Prize Papers

    The Harvard University Archives' collection of theses, dissertations, and prize papers document the wide range of academic research undertaken by Harvard students over the course of the University's history.. Beyond their value as pieces of original research, these collections document the history of American higher education, chronicling both the growth of Harvard as a major research ...

  20. How to Write a Dissertation or Thesis Proposal

    When starting your thesis or dissertation process, one of the first requirements is a research proposal or a prospectus. It describes what or who you want to examine, delving into why, when, where, and how you will do so, stemming from your research question and a relevant topic. The proposal or prospectus stage is crucial for the development ...

  21. English Dissertations and Theses

    Theses/Dissertations from 2019. PDF. No Home but the World: Forced Migration and Transnational Identity, Justice Hagan. PDF. The City As a Trap: 20th and 21st Century American Literature and the American Myth of Mobility, Andrew Joseph Hoffmann. PDF. The Fantastic and the First World War, Brian Kenna. PDF.

  22. How to Write a Thesis Statement

    Step 2: Write your initial answer. After some initial research, you can formulate a tentative answer to this question. At this stage it can be simple, and it should guide the research process and writing process. The internet has had more of a positive than a negative effect on education.

  23. Thesis & Distinction

    Thesis & Distinction. Students who demonstrate excellence in their major area of study may qualify for admission to the department's or programs honors program. By successfully completing a senior honors thesis/project, the candidate will graduate with distinction in the major. Each academic department and program offering a major, as well as ...