English Literature Capstone

Synthesizing the range of soft and hard skills developed in programs offered by the Department of English is the senior capstone or thesis.

Students create a final artifact as both a testament to their accrued body of knowledge that also provides a portfolio of transferable skills bridging them into professional lives as writers, artists, scholars, editors, and content creators. We welcome conventional and multi-modal theses, as well as interdisciplinary projects facilitating double-majors.

The following offers a general guide for the scale and scope of a project a student might expect to complete. Ultimately, the expectations of projects are the purview of individual faculty mentors as is appropriate for the student’s field, area, or genre. Completion of the thesis project consists of three elements.

First, students need to complete the following course sequence in order to prepare, revise, and complete their project, earning a C- or better in all:

  • In the spring of junior year, ENGW 305: Research Methods in English (4 credits)
  • In the fall of senior year, ENGL 495: Senior Seminar in English Literature (2 credits)
  • In the spring of senior year, ENGL 496: Senior Seminar in English Literature (2 credits)

Second, students develop, compose, and revise a project appropriate to their discipline under the mentorship of one or more faculty members in the English department. The structures of mentorship vary by instructor and from year-to-year, depending on the number of students and faculty available. Please consult with the Department Chair.

Finally, students exhibit their work as part of a formal twenty-minute presentation to take place during the campus-wide Senior Projects Day, typically held the third week in April. Note that some projects may include performances or other elements disseminated in other venues and time in the academic calendar. Students are evaluated in this presentation by their mentor as well as by an outside faculty member.

Capstone Options

There are two general models by which majors in English Literature pursue their capstone projects. It is recommended that students complete their History course major requirement, as well as ENGL 343 and ENGL 323 before starting work on their capstone.

Literary critical article

Compose an academic article of approximately 25 to 35 pages supporting an original argument which intervenes in a specific genre, region, theory, and/or region. These projects typically include, but are not limited to, the following elements:

  • Engages an archive of two primary works of similar period or other principle of inclusion.
  • Reviews the scholarship relevant to a specific sub-discipline or area.
  • Applies a specific methodology, theory, or critical framework.
  • Argues a thesis that intervenes in a specific and ongoing critical debate, typically developed through a sequence of interrelated close-readings.

Scholarly critical edition

Create a critical edition of a complete literary work of 40 or more pages. Multiple extant editions and variants should be consulted, and a critical edition of the work may not already exist. These projects typically include, but are not limited to, the following elements:

  • Applies a specific school of textual criticism to a hitherto unedited work.
  • Fill a lacuna of a specific tradition, period, genre, translation, or school of thought.
  • Identifies and provides commentary on textual cruxes throughout the edition, citing a representative body of scholarship engaging these textual problems.
  • Disseminates the edition in a relevant format—digital, print, or otherwise—to be publicly accessed by scholars in the field, including any necessary variants and appendices.

Like the creative writing projects, a critical edition needs be accompanied by an interpretive introduction of approximately 10 pages including, but not limited to, the following elements:

  • Historical background on the production and dissemination of the original work.
  • Plot of the narrative and/or central thematic concerns.
  • Description of the extant versions available and consulted. 
  • Justification for selection of the hypo-text and discussion of textual cruxes.
  • Discussion of textual editing theory and aims underlying the edition.