The Senior Essay

REQUIREMENTS AND GUIDELINES FOR THE SENIOR ESSAY:

In the English Department, as in other departments, the Senior Essay consists of an extended research and writing project (critical, not “creative”) undertaken with the guidance of a faculty advisor. The Senior Essay is not a requirement for completing the English major, nor is it required for receiving “distinction in the major.” It does, however, offer a satisfying way to fulfill one semester of the senior requirement. Writing an essay provides an opportunity for those who are eager to pursue a special interest, who like to write long papers, and who work well independently. Be warned that it entails inexorable deadlines and exacting effort; it can be thrilling to write a senior essay, but only if you are committed to the project. Procrastination has repeatedly proved a grave mistake. Given an essay of this magnitude, you cannot leave reading, writing, and ruminating until the last minute. If you have any doubts, take a Senior Seminar.

In addition to the prospectus and final draft, you will be asked to hand in, at the end of four weeks, five to ten pages of writing or, if appropriate, an annotated bibliography so that you, your advisor, and the department will know how your work is proceeding relatively early in the term.  By the end of the ninth week, a rough draft is due (to ensure the essay will be carefully thought through and receives feedback from your advisor before you revise). You will be expected to consult frequently with your advisor throughout the semester, both about your research and about the substance of your developing argument; we recommend at least four meetings, with bi-weekly meetings as the norm. Typically, finished senior essays range from 30-40 pages.  Some drafts are considerably longer (40-50 pages) and require cutting as well as revising; other drafts are shorter (25-30 pages) and require expansion as well as revision of the argument.

Specific requirements are as follows:

1. Typically, on the Thursday of the last week of classes in the term before you intend to write your essay (see application deadlines), you must hand in to the DUS office a completed application form for ENGL 490 or 491 and a prospectus, which includes the following information:

(a) a description of your topic (approximately 2 pages)

(b) a bibliography of the reading and research, both primary and secondary, you intend to undertake (If part of your project will consist in looking for sources, you must still indicate subjects that you will pursue in your research.)

(c) a list of the introductory and advanced courses you have taken that have prepared you to do independent work on your topic

(d) a schedule of meetings with your advisor

(e) your advisor’s signature

If you intend to pursue a two-semester essay (not commonly done, but a possibility for substantial research projects), please conceptualize your project in two parts so that you can submit an essay for evaluation at the end of the fall semester.

Within two weeks after you submit your prospectus, you will receive an email from the senior essay committee, via the Registrar in the DUS’s office, granting approval or asking for clarification. Approval is not automatic, and the Senior Essay committee may stipulate revisions to the project as a condition of approval.

2. By the end of the fourth week of classes, you must hand in five to ten pages of writing, or, if the project requires a substantial amount of research, an annotated bibliography of the works you have consulted together with an outline of the reading you have still to do. You may decide, in consultation with your advisor, which of these options is the more appropriate for you. This work should be turned in to your advisor.

3. By the end of the ninth week of classes, you must hand in your rough draft to your advisor.  If you fail to hand in on time either the draft or the preliminary work described above, your essay will not receive a grade higher than B+.

4. The final essay is due by noon on Friday of the last week of classes in the fall term, and the Friday before the last week of classes in the spring term (see Important Dates); it should include a bibliography of works consulted. Give both copies to the DUS office, LC 107, or submit electronically if the Registrar asks you to do so.

Your essay will be read, graded, and commented upon both by your advisor and by a second reader chosen by the Senior Essay committee. One copy of the essay, together with the two readers’ reports, will be available from the DUS office two to three weeks after you hand in the final draft. The department will keep the other copy so that students in the future can see what kinds of projects have been undertaken.

PREVIOUS SENIOR ESSAYS

2016-2017

Consuming Consummation: The Fatal Films of Cronenberg, Roszak, and Wallace

“So Strange an Adventure”: Geographies of Transgression and Generic Imperialism in Margaret Cavendish’s Blazing World

Emotional Cripples: Faulkner’s Journey from Physical to Psychic Disability

The Nearest Thing to Life: George Eliot and the Representation of Landscape in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Painting

2015-2016

E. E. Cummings and the Reinvention of Nature Poetry: The Influence of Early 20th Century Modern Art on Non-Representational Poetic Technique    

A Far and Bright Continent:  The Melding of Imaginative and Insidious in the African Space of Charlotte Brontë’s Angrian Saga

“For the benefit and use of life”: Speculative Fiction and the Two Culture Gap in Early Modern and Contemporary Literature

“He will carry this island home in his pocket”: Examining Power, Magic, and Structure in Shakespeare’s The Tempest

Crises Involving Cups of Tea: Redefining Femininity in Women’s Novels

Transcending the Immobility of the Mother: Characterizing Maternity and Sexuality in Victorian Medicine and Literature

“I took thee for thy better”: A Reexamination of the First Quarto of Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Across the Killing Field: Race and Aesthetics of Offense in the Poetry of Frederick Seidel

The Science of Decision-Making in George Eliot’s Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda

Under a Rhyming Planet: Reading Shakespeare’s Plays for Rhyme

Searching for Kerouac: The Development of His Style

Wild Growth, Vegetable Love: The Radical Liminality of Bessie Head, Octavia Butler, Chigozie Obioma, and Nnedi Okorafor

A Resurrection of the Old South: Conversion Journeys and Racial Violence in Flannery O’Connor’s Fiction

2014-2015

Postcolonial London: Migration and Metaphor in Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North and Zia Haider Rahman’s In the Light of What We Know

“Horror or Pleasure or Amazement”: Reading Absalom, Absalom! As An Event

At Eye Level: An Adaptive Vision of Parenthood in Matilda The Musical

“I Find People Confusing”: Adapatation Through the Lens of Autism in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Unseen Scene: Theatricality, Spectatorship, and Modernism in The Portrait of a Lady

“Do you take it I would astonish?”: Negative Responses to Leaves of Grass and their Influence

American Literature and the Advent of Germ Theory: Living Spaces, Women, and Immigrants at the Turn of the 20th Century

Fancy as Forbidden Fruit: The Redemption of the Shakespearean Imagination in Milton’s Paradise Lost

Henry James, George Eliot, and the Ethics of Attention

The Holographic Novel: Optical Physics in Infinite Jest

“Fain Give Succor”: Subversive Vocabularies and the Ethics of Belonging in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick

Anthologizing the Arab Spring: A Collection of Digital Anglophone Poems

Reading Milton: Paradise Lost in Dickens, Eliot, and James

“Love me, love me love, me…I’ll be anybody you want me to be”: Performance Narratives in Chuck Palahniuk’s Invisible Monsters and the Cry for Authenticity

“To What End Are All These Words?”: Adaptation as Restoration for The Taming of the Shrew

Dragging the Enemy Voices out into the Light: Feminist Dialectic and Self-Recognition in Joanna Russ’s The Female Man

“I Will Be Free…In Words”: Claiming Stage Power and Freeing the Female Actor in The Taming of the Shrew

Waste, Toxicity, and Pollution in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest and Don DeLillo’s Underworld

To Cure or to Kill?: William Wordsworth, J.M. Coetzee, and the Literary Dangers of Representing Disablities

“The Novel Can’t Just Leave the War Out”: Explicit and Implicit War Representation in Katherine Mansfield’s Fiction

“Our Curse and Mirror”: New Journalism, Experimental Form, and the Pursuit of Truth in Roberto Bolaño’s 2666

Hopeful Romantics: Modes of Romance in Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway

2013-2014

‘His object has been to present…pictures of life and manners as they really are’: Charles Dickens and Social Criticism

Three Organizing Metaphors in T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets

Eyre on the Side of Caution: Re-Imagining Jane Eyre in Modern Contexts

Just Rhetoric: The Poetry and Oratory of Black Arts and Black Power

Styles of Fact: The Reception Case of Poe’s Valdemar

Modernist Consciousness: Parallels of Character and Technique in Ulysses and Mrs. Dalloway

Subjectivity, Ambiguity, and Revelation in Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping

“Pity Should Begin at Home”: Elizabeth Bishop’s Object Relations

Inscribing Albion: Reading and Owning the Middle English Prose Brut in Late Medieval and Early Modern England, A Study of Takamiya MS 12

Cormac McCarthy’s The Counselor and Innocence on the Open Market

A Fight for Paradise: Exploring America’s Conflicted Relationship with Nature Through the Glen Canyon (Dam) Controversy

Reflective Tears: Anne Carson’s Tango with Tradition

Praying, and Paying, for Enlightenment: Examining the Commodification of South Asian Spirituality Through the Figure of the Guru in Eat, Pray, Love and The Buddha of Suburbia

The Ethics of Traumatic Narrative: Duong Thu Huong and the Literature of the Second Indochina War

Fictional Portraits of Victorian Women: George Eliot’s Middlemarch, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood’s Paintings, and the Problem of Realism

Finding a Place for White South Africa: A Postcolonial and Ecocritical Analysis of the Race Politics of Nadine Gordimer’s Fiction

An Epic Where Every Line is Erased: Adamic Poetics in Derek Walcott’s Omeros

The United States Poet Laureate and the Politics of Poetry

Imperial Bruises: Madness, Identity, and Alienation in Three Postcolonial Novels

Allusion as a Magnifier of Readerly Assumptions: The Case Study of Critical Discourse on T.S. Eliot’s Buddhist Allusions

2012-2013

“To Make the Line of Her Gown Perfitt”: Female Craft in the Writing of Mrs. Oliphant

Time and the Courtship Plot: Tracing Temporal Orientations of Elizabeth and Anne in Austen’s /Pride and Prejudice/ and /Persuasion/

Some White Whale: The Grammar of Ambiguity in Moby-Dick

Establishing Reality: A Search for Truth in the Work of Joan Didion

“We say”: The Poetics and Ethics of George Oppen’s “Of Being Numerous”

Two Tyrants: Gender Construction and Literary Form in the Writings of Virginia Woolf

Beyond Religion and Reason: How the Games of Metafiction Reflect the Human Quest for Meaning through Belief

Taking Back the Darkness: The Young Adult Science Fiction of Scott Westerfeld in the Larger Narrative of Dystopian Literature

Thick Symbolism in D.H. Lawrence’s Late Prose and Painting

Dream City and the Imagined “We”: Modern Publics in Zadie Smith’s London

Marilynne Robinson’s Theology of Indirection: The Quest for Intimacy in Her Novels and Letters

Frances Burney the “Scribbler”: Child Authorship as Reception Strategy

An American Duet: A Study of Cotter’s Third Poetry Collection

News Has a Kind of Mystery: CNN Opera

“The unities are smashed”: The Modern Totemism of Hope Mirrlees’ Paris

A Room with a View: Robert Browning as Artist and Art Historian in Florence

2011-2012

“Comedy, Anxiety, and Identity in the works of Woody Allen and Philip Roth”

“Visions of Tiresias: The Changing Face of a Blind, Transsexual Prophet”

“The Critical Cleopatra: Women and Art Museums in Villette and Middlemarch

“Staging Orpheus and Philomel: Silenced Voices in Early Modern English Drama”

“The Ideas of Wilderness in Four Old English Poems”

“Knowledge and Acknowledgment for Milton’s Satan”

“Child Friendly Atrocity: Introducing the Holocaust in Literature for Young People”

“The Trauma of Assimilation: Dysfunction in South Asian Identity and Narrative”

“The Shadow of Beowulf in Twentieth-Century and Contemporary Children’s Literature”

“The Enigmatical Beauty of Each Beautiful Enigma: Wallace Stevens and the Poetry of Seeing”

“The CNN Opera Movement: Contemporary English Opera Libretti”

“The Surprisingly Similar Works of Pop and Jay-Z”

“A Blog of One’s Own: Writing Femininity in the 21st Century”

“The Importance of Place: Charles Dickens’s Bleak House and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway as London Novels”

“ ‘Life Stand Still’: Moments of Vision in the Short Stories and Novels of Virginia Woolf”

“Flannery O’Connor and the Nationalizing of the South”

“The Lady’s Welsh Song: Music and History in 1 Henry IV

“Among Her Cloudy Trophies Hung: Fitzgerald’s Men and Keats’ Odes”

“The Cost of Celebrity: an analysis of the Zoё Wanamaker / Ranyevskaya dyad in the National Theatre’s 2011 production of The Cherry Orchard

“ ‘Physician to All Men’: John Keats and his Poetry of Earth”