Honors Research

Massachussetts Hall 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, students embark on an extensive research or writing project in the fall semester, completing a substantive essay or piece of creative writing in the spring. In this way, students 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.

Thesis Requirements

A student who maintains an A/B average or better in the courses offered in the English major may decide to become an honors candidate at the end of his or her junior year and prepare an honors thesis (at the 4000 level) under supervision during his or her senior year.

Honors candidates must present a definitive plan for the honors thesis to a member of the department within whose field the project falls. This should take place in the spring of the candidate's junior year so work can begin in the fall semester of his or her senior year. The honors advisor/project director signs the honors candidate's fall semester honors project/independent study form, and signs again for spring semester. The honors work is graded and may count (at the 4000 level) as one or two of the elective course units required for the major.

The honors thesis must be a thorough and sophisticated literary essay growing out of:

  1. a course paper, as an expansion of it (in which case it may do double duty only with the consent of the instructors involved)

  2. an English course

  3. an extension of an English course, or

  4. a fresh subject not explored in another connection.

Strict compliance with the directions for manuscript preparation specified by the library - where the original copy will be permanently filed - is required. Any candidate contemplating application to graduate school should be advised that honors, or even candidacy for honors, is a highly significant element of his or her record.

Honors Meetings and Deadlines 2016-17 

  • Prospectus due at noon, Thursday, October 13, 2016 (email to English department coordinator at lholland@bowdoin.edu for printing and distribution)

  • Honors meeting at 4:05 pm, Wednesday, October 19, 2016 - Massachusetts Hall Faculty Room 

  • First chapter or section of project due at 4:00 pm, Friday, December 9, 2016  (email to advisor and readers)

  • PLEASE NOTE DATE CHANGE: Rough drafts due at 5:00 pm, Monday, February 27, 2017 (email to advisor and readers)

  • Titles due to coordinator at noon on Friday, March 31, 2017

  • Final projects due at 4:00 pm, Friday, April 21, 2017 (email to advisor and readers, and cc to coordinator for printing and distribution)

  • Final discussion with project committee:  Thursday, May 11, 2017 -  room and times TBA

  • Honors theses due at the library by 5:00 pm, Friday, May 19, 2017


In the first two weeks of the fall semester, candidate and advisor will choose two additional readers to ensure collaboration throughout the process.

By early October, the candidate should have completed a thesis prospectus of three to four pages, single spaced, with an additional bilbiography of primary and secondary literature essential to the project.  In the first weeks of October, the candidate should revise and polish this prospectus with his or her advisor.  The prospectus must be emailed to the coordinator for printing and distribution.  In mid-October, all English faculty will meet each honors candidate in a colloquium to hear him or her speak briefly on the candidate's prospectus. (All English faculty will have read the prospectus prior to meeting with the candidates.)  During the colloquium, faculty will respond to the candidate with suggestions for improving or sharpening his or her approach to the subject. After the colloquium, each candidate will meet with his or her advisor to discuss faculty suggestions.  

November and December:
The candidate must email a draft of at least one chapter of his or her honors project to the advisor and readers by the Friday of the last week of classes. Before the winter break, the candidate should meet with his or her advisor to schedule deadlines for the first half of the coming spring semester. Candidates are expected to write at least one subsequent section of the project (for example, a second chapter) over the course of the winter break.

The candidate must email a draft of at least one new section of the project (for example, a second chapter) to his or her advisor in the first or second week of the spring semester, depending on the schedule the student and advisor have agreed upon.

The candidate must email a rough draft of the entire project (including, for example, an introduction, two or three chapters, and a conclusion) to his or her advisor and readers a week before the start of the spring break, along with a project title. This rough draft should incorporate feedback previously received from his or her advisor and readers. Failure to meet this deadline will disqualify the candidate for honors.

March and April:
After the spring break, the candidate has approximately four weeks across the months of March and April to prepare a final polished draft of the entire project, fully revised based on the most recent feedback from his or her advisor and readers.

A committee of English department faculty (the advisor, readers, and an additional fourth reader chosen by the department chair) will read and evaluate the final draft of the entire project. The candidate will meet with the committee in early May to discuss his or her project as a whole. After this meeting, the candidate will receive a summary of the evaluation from his or her advisor. The candidate's advisor will assign the final grade for the honors project in collaboration with the two additional readers. Note: The English department awards only one level of honors.

A Sampling of English Honors Projects

Katherine R. Churchill: Fashion Agency: Gender, Fiber Work, and Irony in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (with Professor Maggie Solberg)

Alexandra R. Glass-Katz: The Civil War Diet: A Novel (with Professor Brock Clarke)

Derek M. Hoyt: Salvation for a Preterite Crew: Determinism and the Hope of Freedom in Moby-Dick and Gravity's Rainbow (with Professor Morten Hansen)

Maria S. Kennedy: Earth, Borders, and Magic: A Study of Place in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (with Professor Maggie Solberg)

Jesse R. Ortiz: "One Never Knew": David Foster Wallace and the Aesthetics of Consumption (with Professor Marilyn Reizbaum)

Charlotte W. Rutty: Bad Eggs: Stories (with Professor Brock Clarke)

Hallie T. Schaeffer: "This people which I made": The Character of King Arthur as a Mechanism of Unification in Medieval Arthuriana and the Idylls of the King (with Professor Aaron Kitch)

Margaret R. Seymour: 15 Villainous Fools: A Two-Woman Clowning Adaptation of The Comedy of Errors (with Professor Aaron Kitch and Professor Davis Robinson)  

Molly MacVeagh: Where's the Boeuf?: Food and Empire in the Work of Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf (with Professor Marilyn Reizbaum)

Golden Owens: Producing "Reality": "Authentic" Representations of Black Women in Reality Television (with Professor Elizabeth Muther)

Elisabeth Strayer: Palimpsestuous London: Spatial and Temporal Layering in Fin-de-Siècle Victorian Fiction (with Professor Aviva Briefel) 

Emily Powers: People Who Press Play (with Professor Brock Clarke)

Amanda Minoff: Visions/Revisions (with Profesor Brock Clarke)

Monica Das: This is Postmodernism: A Legacy of Literary Autoreferentiality (with Professor Marilyn Reizbaum)

Linda E. Kinstler: Writing Grounds Zero (with Professor Marilyn Reizbaum)

Kailana E. Durnan: De-Composing London: Urban Gothic at the Fin de Siècle (with Professor Aviva Briefel)

Katherine B. Kinkel: Sleep of Reason (with Professor Anthony Walton)

Caitlin E. O’Keefe: Emerson’s Imprisoned Spirits: Freedom, Slavery, Liberalism (with Professor Peter Coviello)

Parker W. Towle: Projections at Midnight (with Professor Anthony Walton)

Lucia Cowles: Ada/m (with Professor Brock Clarke)

Samuel Hollingsworth Hanson: The Gift: A Collection of Short Stories (with Professor Brock Clarke)     

Northanger Abbey2010-2011
Lauren E. Wilwerding: The Anxieties of Common Life: Tracing the Gothic in Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice (with Professor Ann Kibbie) 

Jenna Breiter: Charting (with Professor Anthony Walton)

Kristina M. Goodwin: Reliquary: A Novella (with Professor William Watterson)

Samuel I. Smith: Terror and Possibility: Walt Whitman, Henry James and Democracy Unbound (with Professor David Collings)

Tara S. Rajiyah: Fragments are India and India is Fragments: The Feminine, Fragmentation and Nationalist Yearning in Emergency Literature (with Professor Hilary Thompson)    

Eleanor T. West: No Vacancy: Nabokov’s Use of Space in Lolita, Ada, and Pale Fire  (with Professor Marilyn Reizbaum)

Maude G. Taber-Thomas: Fairy Roads to Science Town: Fairies and the Enchantment of Science in Victorian Children’s Literature (with Professor Mary Edsall)

Jason E. Finkelstein: Beyond the Hoax: The Literary World of the False Witness in Kosinski’s The Painted Bird and Wilkomirski’s Fragments (with Professor Ann Kibbie)

Kristen E. Gunther: Mobtown   (with Professor Anthony Walton)

Katharine M. Sherman: Cassandra (with Professor Aaron Kitch)

Ikumi E. Crocoll: The Best Thing She Was: American Women Writing With and Against the Conventions of 19th Century Sentimental Motherhood (with Professor Tess Chakkalakal)

Genna Ruth-Louise Duplisea: Pseudonym-Function: Poaching Gender in Victorian Britain (with Professor Aviva Briefel)

Amy Ahearn: The Explosive Aftermath of Empire: Nuclear Weaponry in South Asian Diaspora Fiction (with Professor Belinda Kong)

J. Patrick Brown: Stress Fracture: The Israel Trope and the Holocaust in Modern Writing (with Professor Marilyn Reizbaum)

June Kyuha Lee: Model Gestures and Manly Butterflies: Chang-rae Lee’s and David H. Hwang’s Subversive Stangings of Asian American Emasculation (with Professor Belinda Kong)

Rogan C. McCally: And Mani Ther Beth of Faerie: Social Criticism and the Workings of Faerie in the Medieval Breton Lai (with Professor Mary Edsall)

Zachary J. Roberts: Will Polar Bears Be OK?: The Fate of the Text in the Postnuclear Era (with Professor Marilyn Reizbaum)

Deborah Anne Theodore: Politics, Puerility, and Personal Happiness:Trollope’s Version of the Female Bildungsroman (with Professor Aviva Briefel)

Xiao di Tong: Passing as an Interior Journey:Unintentional Acts on the Color Line in Toi Derricotte and Danzy Senna (with Professor Elizabeth Muther)    

Jamie E. Knight: The Science of Sympathy: Darwin and Community in George Eliot’s Middlemarch (with Professor Aviva Briefel)

Taylor C. White: One Piece at a Time (with Professor Anthony Walton)

Katherine H. Kirklin: Narrative Capability in the New Millenium (with Professor Marilyn Reizbaum)

Taneisha T. Wilson: Self-Sacrifice as Agency in George Eliot’s Middlemarch and the Mill on the Floss (with Professor David Collings)

2000 to 2005
"Daughter of God and Man: Reflection, Reality, and Free Will in Paradise Lost"
Claire Melissa Falck '05

"Constituents of Chaos: Land and Sea in Moby-Dick"
Rebecca Follansbee '05

"Reclaiming Onan: Masturbation and Imagination in Whitman's America"
Leah Rose Chernikoff '04

"Queering Intimacies: The Sexual Narrative in Hanif Kureishi's Fiction"
Paige Contreras-Gould '04

"Wing Anatomy"
Elaine Dorothy Johanson '04

"Performing the Artist: Stephen Dedalus and the Aesthetics of Betrayal"
Nicholas Sharpe Hiebert '03

"Sinister Revelations: The Asylum as a Critique of the Domestic Sphere"
Jennifer Rita Laraia '03

"Sentimental Violence: Re-reading the politics of sympathy in Uncle Tom's Cabin and John Brown's Raid"
Marshall R. Escamilla '02

"A Year's Absence"
Kelly Ann Kerney '02

"Civic Misreadership: Deformity, Isolation, and Prophesy in Melville's Moby-Dick"
Nathaniel Chase Vinton '01

"'Schelde vs fro schamesdede': Arthur's 'Worthiness' in the Alliterative Morte Arthure"
Curtis Roberts-Holt Jirsa '01

"Wordsworth's Social Ecology: A Poet's Vision of Sustainability and Stewardship"
Kristin Stewart Awsumb '00

"Opponents Entangled and 'Half in Love': A Reading of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby"
Dorsey Powell Lockhart '00