The Senior Essay

I. The Senior Essay Handbook (pdf)

II. 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 tenth 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. In the term before you intend to write your essay (see Deadlines and Forms), you must hand in to the DUS office a completed proposal 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 tenth 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 spring (see Deadlines and Forms); it should include a bibliography of works consulted. Submit the essay to the DUS office electronically (pdf preferred) by emailing it to the departmental registrar.

Your essay will be read, graded, and commented upon both by your advisor and by a second reader chosen by the Senior Essay Committee. 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 a copy on file so that students in the future can see what kinds of projects have been undertaken.

III. Senior Essays


The Legend of St. Eustace and Tangible Manifestations of Christian Faith

The Intimate Book in Jane Austen and George Eliot

“By Powere Femynyne” Lydagate’s Life of Saint Margaret and Ending the Devonshire Canterbury Tales

The University of Chicago Can Take A Flying Fuck At The Moooooooooooooooon: Kurt Vonnegut’s Social Anthropology in Cat’s Cradle

Kanye West as the Shakespeare in the Flesh: A Shared Excess of Language Between Two Cultural Icons

Mourning Objects & Disrupted Pilgrimages in Virginia Woolf’s Novels and Essays

Inherited Ghosts: Indigenous Kinship and Supernatural Storytelling

House Keeping: Claims to Property and Architecture in Toni Morrison’s Ohio Novels

Topographies of Intimate Being House and Home with Elizabeth Bishop

“I lived and breathed and learnt by rote”: Literary Accounts of Order and Reading in the Colonial Girls’ School

Reremembering Oklahoma: Lynn Riggs and Identity Formation in Two Plays

Stomaching the Postcolonial Bildungsroman: Reading Nervous Conditions through the Alimentary Tract


Photographic Kinships & (Anti-) Imperial Intimacies in Contemporary Vietnamese American Cultural Productions

The Right to Freedom: Human Rights and the North Korean Defector Testimony

“Tending to Wild”: Wilderness and the Trouble with Ecology in Paradise Lost

HOW TO SWALLOW THE WORLD: Magical Realism and Historical Narratives in Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children

“How cleverly she’s arranged her drawing room”: Edith Wharton’s Interior Design and Fiction

Your “Other” Stands Between Us: The Feminine Foundations of the Imperial Gothic

The Embedded Epistle, The Embodied Epistle: Letters, Truth and Desire in Women’s Fiction, from Jane Austen to Sally Rooney

“I DO NOT LIKE ‘THEM,’ SAM-I-AM”: The Progression of Racist Stereotypes in Political and Children’s Works of THeodor Seuss Geisel

Narrative and Identity in Joyce’s “Circe”

All We Know is Ears: Diacritics, Dialect and Voicing in John Berryman’s The Dream Songs

William Blake and the Limits of Limit

The Matrix of the Heart Destruction in the Love Poems of Hart Crane

“The Perfect Appearance of Reality”: locating Symbiosis Between Romance and Realism in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, and Persuasion

“Silence” in James and Woolf

Active Witnessing and Tetual Intimacy: Engaging with Traumatic and Reparative Sight in Toni Morrison’s Text

Prevent With Thy Humble Ode: Reevaluating Shakespeare’s Influence on Milton

It Began with a Story: How Indigneous Literatures Incorporate Traditional Practices and Look Toward a Brighter Future

“New consciousness of interdependence”: Pip, Fred, and the Bildungsroman in Middlemarch

The Gangster We Are All Looking For & On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous: Reimagining the Running Refugee

History’s Vise: The Tenacity of Trauma in Absalom, Absalom!

The Monster of Masculine Anxiety in Much Ado About Nothing, The Winter’s Tale and Othello

Patrilineal Performance in Shakespeare’s Second Tetralogy

“Render me more equal”: The Paradoxes of Equality in Milton’s Paradise Lost

“We bought the book, took it home and read it:” A Kid of Color Looks Back on 2009 Scholastic Book Club Flyers with 2020 Vision

Eliza Haywood’s Experiments in Persona: Constructing the Eighteenth-Century Woman Reader and Writer


The Power of Translation in 20th Century Jewish-American Literature

Women’s Coming of Age: Between Housekeeping and Painting

“Where she, where she”: Evaluating Ecriture Feminine and Womenhood in Postcolonial Women’s Poetry

The Red Herring

A Time to Love: Toward a Dialectical Reading of Paradise Lost

Boundaries and Excess in Her Body and Other Parties

“Understood by no white”: Black Illegibility in Gendolyn Brooks’ The Bean Eaters   

No Place for Black People: The Challenge of Race in English Republicanism

Becoming British: Transatlantic Cosmopolitanism in T.S. Eliot’s Early Poetry

“Live Greek female torso sitting still at a ‘cello”: Race as Perception in Nam June Paik & Charlotte Moorman’s Opera Sextronique (1967)

“A Singular Coincidence”: The Influence of Paradise Lost on Moby-Dick


Re-envisioning Health: The Creative Force of Illness for Virginia Woolf’s Women

The Last Island: Lafcadio Hearn’s New Orleans and the American Mythos

Untranslatable: Towards an Understanding of the Caine Prize for African Writing and its Mediation of Cultural and Economic Capital

Zombies, Ambiguity & Folklore: Neil Gaiman Goes Back to the Garden

Talking about Trauma: Failure of Cartharsis in Moby Dick

The Complication of the Medieval Queen in Medieval and Modern Literature: An exploration of endearment through internal narrative, public and private roles, and homosocial relationships in Emma of Normandy, Empress Matilda, Elizabeth Woodville, and Elizabeth of York

“My Natural Form”: The Construction of Authenticity in the Essays of Charles  D’Ambrosio, Brian Blanchfield, and Leslie Jamison

Linguistic Estrangement on the Contemporary Stage: The Alienating Potential of Dialect and Verse in Theater, 1987-2014

“I’m Inside a Self-Assembling Hyper Story”: Magic, Metafiction, and Grant Morrison’s Post-modern reconstruction of the Comic Book Superhero

Expanding Tradition and Exploring Transitions: Modern Fairy Tales for Young Adults

Asking Better Questions: A Literary Critique of International Development in South Africa

“Popular Tales of Peasants and Savages”: Hierarchical Social Structures and the Fairy Tales of Andrew Lang

Shared Vulnerabilities: Reconceiving Mental Disability Through the Nonhuman

Tethering Orlando: A Reading of Material and Place in Virginia Woolf’s Novel

Olympia in Gettysburg: The Living Doll in Baker, Nelson, and Hoffmann

“Truth Dragged to Light”: Empirical Mysteries, Biopolitics, and Racialized Bodies in Maria Edgeworth

“A Trading Post, A Garden”: Transcending the Law in Disgrace’s and Life & Times of Michael K’s Fictional South Africas

Synesthesia of Sound: How Phonesthemes Shape Literary Perception

Fun Home in Performance: Image Analysis, Musical Adaptation, and Queer Theory in Alison Bechdel’s Graphic Novel

Monody Wakes the Mariner: The American Revival of Hawthorne and Melville

“The Maturing Sun”: Poetic Anxiety in Keats’s 1819 Odes


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

“To Double Business Bound”: Shakespeare’s Theatrical Doubling

The Editorial Influence on Punctuation in Emily Dickinson’s Texts

The Temporality of Peace: Experiencing time in Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Fifth Book of Peace

Pretending to Read: Humanist Culture and the Anxieties of Abridgement

“Never two ladies loved as they do”: An Examination of Female Friendship in Shakespeare’s As You Like It

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

Shakespeare and the Making of Lincoln

“Thumbing My Nose at You Know Who”: Bergsonian Humor, Moral Vision, and Religious Conversion in Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood and Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle

“Th’unsearchable dispose of highest wisdom”: John Milton’s Samson Agonistes and the History of Sacred Violence, 1671-2008

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

“More Terror Than Delight”: Racial Anxiety and Exogamous Relations in Trans-Atlantic Poetry of the Long Eighteenth Century

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

“Do not judge her too harshly”: Maternal Inheritance and Progeny Morality in the Potterverse


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


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


‘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


“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


“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”