Students who have excelled in their English courses are encouraged to write an Honors thesis over the course of their senior year, typically on an area or author familiar to them from their previous coursework. Under the direction of a faculty member who has expertise in their chosen subject, they embark on an extensive research or writing program in the fall semester and complete a substantive essay or piece of creative writing in the spring. Students are then required to defend their work before the department late in the semester. In this way, they become adept in an area of particular interest to them and experience the joys and tribulations of producing a serious, extensive, and original piece of writing.
A student who has and will maintain an A/B average or better in the courses offered in the English major may at the end of the junior year decide to become an Honors candidate and as such will during the senior year prepare an Honors Thesis (at the 400 level) under tutorial supervision.
A definitive plan for the Honors Thesis must be presented by the student to the member of the department within whose field the project falls, preferably in the spring of the candidate's junior year so that the work can begin in the fall semester of his/her senior year. Honors candidates should obtain the signature of the project director directly on their registration card for fall semester, and again for spring semester. The honors work shall be graded and may count (at the 400 level) as one or two of the elective course units required for the major.
The Honors Thesis shall in general be a thorough and sophisticated literary essay growing out of
Strict compliance with the directions for manuscript preparation as specified by the library, where the original copy will be permanently filed, is required. Any student contemplating application to graduate school should be advised that honors, or even candidacy for honors, is a highly significant element of his/her record.
Each honors student will work with the advisor and two additional readers, who will be chosen by the advisor in conjunction with the student. In late October, all English faculty and all Honors candidates will meet to hear each candidate speak briefly about a three-page thesis prospectus that will have been distributed prior to the meeting. Members of the department will respond with suggestions for ways of improving or sharpening the student's approach to the subject. Advisors will meet with students after the colloquium to discuss the department's suggestions, and in the remaining months of the semester the student will revise the project accordingly and begin drafting the thesis.
The student should submit draft portions of the project to the advisor and additional readers when they are available, ideally beginning in the early weeks of the spring semester, but no later than one week before spring vacation begins, when a rough draft of the project is due. Final versions are due approximately ten days before the last day of classes for spring semester.
The student will then defend the thesis in an oral examination with the department, to be held soon after the last day of classes. (An announcement giving the specific due date for the final project and a schedule for the oral exam will be mailed to each candidate early in April.) After the oral examination, the candidate will receive an oral summary of the department's evaluation from his or her project director. The supervising instructor, with advice from the additional readers, will assign the final grade for Honors. The English department awards only one level of Honors. Honors will be decided in each case after the oral exam.