Honors English

linda  01Three Routes Toward Honors

The English Department offers three routes toward honors: a creative writing thesis, a critical thesis, and a critical specialization. Candidates for the program should have at least a 3.5 average in courses taken in English, but admission will not depend solely on course grades. Formal application to pursue honors must be made to the director of honors (Gage McWeeny) by April of the junior year.

All routes require students to take a minimum of ten regular-semester courses (rather than the nine otherwise required for the major), and to devote their senior year winter study course to their honors projects. All students writing a critical thesis or pursuing a critical specialization will be required to take the Honors Colloquium in the fall semester. Students doing a creative writing thesis must, by graduation, take at least nine regular semester courses, and, in addition, take English 497 (Honors Independent Study) and English W31 (Honors Thesis, winter study) during senior year. Students writing a critical thesis must, by graduation, take at least eight regular-semester courses, and, in addition, take English 493 and English 494 (fall Honors colloquium and spring Honors Independent Study) and English W31 (Senior Thesis, winter study) during senior year. Students pursuing a critical specialization must, by graduation, take at least eight regular-semester courses, and in addition, take English 493 and English 494 (fall Honors colloquium and spring Honors Independent Study) and English W30 (Honors Thesis: Specialization Route, winter study) during senior year.

Creative Writing Thesis

The creative writing thesis is a significant body of fiction or poetry completed during the fall semester and winter study of the senior year, and usually including revised writing done in earlier semesters. (With permission of the honors committee, the thesis may be undertaken during the winter study period and the spring semester of the senior year.) Requirements for admission include outstanding work in an introductory and an advanced workshop, a recommendation from one of the creative writing teachers (who will then act as thesis advisor), and the approval of the departmental honors committee. A creative thesis begun in the fall is due on the last day of winter study; one begun in winter study is due the third Monday after spring break. The methods of evaluation are identical to those for critical projects (but their page limits do not apply).

Critical Thesis

The critical thesis is a substantial critical essay written during both semesters as well as the winter study period of the senior year. It must consider critical and/or theoretical as well as literary texts. The thesis should be 15,000 words (45 pages); in no case should it be longer than 25,000 words. The proposal, a 3-page description of the thesis project, should indicate the subject to be investigated and the arguments to be considered, along with a bibliography. A draft of the entire thesis should be completed by the end of winter study; the finished thesis is due on the third Monday following spring break. After the critical thesis has been completed, the student publicly presents his or her work.

Critical Specialization

The critical specialization route is a series of forays into a broad area of interest related to work undertaken in at least two courses. At least one of these courses must be in the English Department, and both need to have been taken by the end of fall term in senior year. The specialization route entails: (1) a set of three 10 page essays which together advance a flexibly-related set of arguments; (2) an annotated bibliography (5 pages) of secondary sources, explaining their importance to the area of specialization; (3) a meeting with the three faculty evaluators (one of whom is the advisor) during the last two weeks in February to discuss the trio of essays and the annotated bibliography; (4) a fourth essay of 12 pages, considering matters that arose during the faculty-student meeting and reflecting on the outcome of the specialization. The 3-page proposal for the specialization should specify the area and range of the study, the issues likely to be explored, and the methods to be used for their investigation. It should also describe the relation between previous course work and the specialization, and include a brief bibliography of secondary works. The first two papers are due by the end of fall semester; the third paper is due at the end of winter study; the bibliography is due mid-February; and the final paper is due the third Monday after spring break.

Applying to the Honors Program

All students who wish to apply to the honors program are required to consult with a prospective faculty advisor, as well as with the director of honors before April of the junior year. Prior to preregistration in April, candidates for critical theses and specializations submit a 3-page proposal that includes an account of the proposed project and a bibliography. Students applying to creative writing honors submit a brief proposal describing the project they wish to pursue. Decisions regarding admission to the honors program will be made by the end of May. Admission to the honors program depends on the department’s assessment of the qualifications of the student and the feasibility of the project. When pre-registering for Fall 2008, students who are applying to critical honors should register for the Honors Colloquium as one of their four courses.

Progress and Evaluation of Honors

While grades for the fall and winter study terms are deferred until both the honors project and review process are completed, students must do the equivalent of at least B+ work to continue in the program. Should the student’s work in the fall semester not meet this standard, the course will convert to a standard independent study (English 397), and the student will register for a regular winter study project. A student engaged in a year- long project must likewise perform satisfactorily in winter study (English W30 or W31) to enroll in English 494 in the spring semester. When such is not the case, the winter study course will be converted to an independent study “99.”

Students are required to submit three final copies of their written work to the department on the dates applicable to the type of project pursued (see the above descriptions of each type of project for the due dates). All honors projects are evaluated by not only the advisor, but by two other faculty members. The advisor determines the student’s semester grades in honors, while the two external readers recommend to the department that the project receive Highest Honors, Honors, or no Honors. Honors of any kind are contingent upon satisfactory completion of courses in the major during the spring semester of the senior year. Highest Honors are normally awarded only to students whose performance in both the honors program and regular courses in the major has been exceptional.