Senior Experience

All English majors design and complete an individualized Senior Experience via one of four opportunities: participation in the Senior Seminar in Creative Writing (English 498), the Senior Seminar in English (English 499), a Humanities Senior Seminar (Humanities 497), or an Independent Study project (English 490). The Senior Seminar in English and the Senior Seminar in Creative Writing, both of which require student application and departmental approval, are venues in which students research and write individualliy designed theses. The Humanities Senior Seminar generally focuses on a single major work or author; students read contextualizing texts and secondary criticism, meet with visiting scholars, and compose and present a substantial paper or final project.

Recent Thesis Titles


  • "John the Savage as Subaltern Subject: Discourses of Empire in Huxley's Brave New World," by Courtney Balonek
  • "Yunior's Big Gay Crush: Queer Triangulation of Desire through Speculative Fiction in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," by Brynn Raymond
  • "Depths of Darkness," by Claudia Chavez (novel excerpt)
  • "There," by Spencer Clawson (novel excerpt)
  • "I Swore I'd Never Tell," by Caitlin Gibson (short fiction)
  • "What Happens If You Laugh? Humor in the Bowels of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," by Blanca Gutierrez
  • "Who Watches the Dictators: An Analysis of Narrative Roles, Heroes, and Villains," by Meredith Hayashi
  • "Textual and Historical Control: Yunior's Prosopopeia and Autobiography in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," by Rachel Hesterkamp
  • "Walt Whitman: A Pioneer of Alternative Education," by Katie Howland
  • "Quest of Ilio'ana," by Kit Kingstad (novel excerpt)
  • "Faster Than a Speeding Bullet," by Davin Lacksonen (screenplay)
  • "Yunior's Narrations as a Reconciliation of Failures: From Hereo to Zero to Salvaged Hero," by Sarah LoBue
  • "Women of Steel: Gendering the Twenty-First Century Superhero," by Natalie Lyman
  • "Revenge of the Nerds: How Nerd Language Challenges Narrative Authority in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," by Noah McKenzie
  • "The Reader's Body in Walt Whitman's Texts," by Eva Michalak
  • "Estranged Mythologies: Pandora in the Sci-Fi Universe of Gallifrey," by Jennie Miller
  • "Two Worlds," by Thomas Montgomery (novel excerpt)
  • "Untranslated Nerd: Code-Switching Language and Genre in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," by Dillon Peck
  • "Cause and Effect," by Elli Ross (novella)
  • "Camp Whitman: Inhabiting Queer Potentialities," by Tara Sherman
  • "Forked Tongue, Traitorous Tongue, Tangled Tongue: La Malinche and Translation," by Torah Skelton
  • "Estrangement and Multiplicity in Heterocosmic Fantasy: Clive Barker's Abarat as a Critique of Capitalism," by Emerald Smith
  • "Properly Paranoid," by Jennifer Smrz (teleplay)
  • "Male Intimacy and Erotic Possibility in Walt Whitman's Poetry and Prose," by Hannah Staller
  • "Queering Diaspora: White Hegemonic Masculinity and Nationa Belonging in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," by Chanel Sulc
  • "Water in Whitman," by Nathan Tolley
  • "Impossible Identity: An Analysis of Queer Existence within the Dominican Diaspora in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," by Matthew Tom
  • "Secondhand," by James Volz (poems)
  • "Dark Waters," by Alyssa Wilsey (novella excerpt)


  • "Rub Shoulders with a Jesus: The Religious Roles of Stephen and Bloom in Joyce's Ulysses," by Courtney Balonek
  • "Brandon Showers Has No Idea What's Going On," prose fiction by Brad Bourque
  • "'Full firm masculine feminine active hand': Deconstructing Gender in James Joyce's Ulysses," by Megan Callaghan
  • "The Ulyssean Failure of Leopold Bloom," by Lauren Cooney
  • "Joyce's Religion," by Kelsey Crist
  • "Every Man Contains Within Himself the Entire Human Condition. Especially Me.," creative nonfiction by Sean Dart
  • "The Autistic Dedalus: Reclaiming Stephen's Innocence through Pathology," by Rachel Dierken
  • "Another Shore," a play by Emily Golden
  • "An Unsustainable Paradise: The Anticipation of Poststructural Ideas about Gender Performativity in Paradise Lost," by Sarah Greiner
  • "Procreative Prescription in Paradise Lost," by Isabella Guida
  • "Paradise Lost as Epic Mistake and Mythic Episode," by Till Gwinn
  • "Accused Creator: Prosecuting Eternal Providence and the Incriminated God of Paradise Lost," by Bree Hall
  • "Construction of the Monstrous 'Other' in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein," by Erin Headly
  • "Take Two," prose fiction by David Hopper
  • "Resisting the Talented Tenth: How the Works of Nella Larsen and Langston Hughes Give Voice to Class Consciousness," by Kelsey Kinavey
  • "The Dissection of Light and the Diffusion of Truth: Constructing God in Paradise Lost," by Michelle Lashley
  • "'There's many a true word spoken in jest': The Irish Comedic Subversion in Ulysses," by John Lind
  • "Wombs, Tombs, and Immortality: the Quest for Metempsychosis in Joyce's Ulysses," by Katie Jade McCoy
  • "The Journey of Barken," prose fiction by Jacob Meza
  • "Overgrown," prose fiction by Shaleen Miller
  • "Molly, Bloom, and Family Live: The Driving Force behind the Events of Ulysses," by Emma Kyle-Milward
  • "Bloom as the Bi-Gendered Other: Joyce's Message," by Gregorie Morgan-Young
  • "Felix Lues: Shifting Cultural Narratives and the 'Fortunate Plague' of Paradise Lost," by Hannah Moser
  • "Blood Lines," a collection of poems by Emma Reagan
  • "'There I Fixed Mine Eyes': Eve's Enchantment with Her 'Self' in Paradise Lost," by Lauren Riggs
  • "Deconstruction of Narrative & Creation of Form: Experimentation in Joyce's Ulysses and Analytic Cubism," by Nick Seid
  • "'When He Hath Tried Me': The Metafictional Exploration of the Role of the Novel in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions," by Isaiah Swan
  • "(Re)Production: Race, Gender, and the Labor of Maternity in Nella Larsen's Quicksand and Passing," by Lauren Tompkins
  • "A Necessary Evil: Incest as Liberation in Paradise Lost," by Erica Waligore


  • “'The eyes had to tell what there was to tell': Challenging Dominant Discourse in Toni Morrison’s Beloved,” by Faith Avery
  • "Imprisonment in Invisible Man," by Kali Bonife
  • "Invisible Is as Invisible Does," by Angela Boston
  • "Never Stick Your Foot under a Peeing Dog and Other Lessons in Growing Up," creative nonfiction by Emily Bray
  • "Untitled: A Work of Biblical Fanfiction," prose fiction by Noah Church
  • "Louis Armstrong, Ralph Ellison, and Invisible Man," by Colin Cushman
  • "(Counterfeits)," creative nonfiction by Joe Donovan
  • "Methods of Invisibility in (The) Invisible Man," by John Ewbank
  • "Letters to My Brother: A Contemporary Gothic Novel," prose fiction by Rachel Frenzel
  • “Birds, Rape, and Red Hearts: Representations of Unspeakable Trauma in Toni Morrison’s Beloved," by Erin Hall
  • "The External Surface of Hierarchy and Memory: Portraits in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man," by Cameron Hill
  • "Traditional Blues and Black American Identity in Invisible Man," by Alex Holland
  • "Clandestine Measures," prose fiction by Collin Jones
  • “'Gimme Back My Shoes; Gimme Back My Hat': Paul D's Uncanny Home Resistance in Toni Morrison's Beloved, by Thomas Justman
  • “Amy Denver Planted a Jungle and Grew a Forest: How Nature Influences Agency and Selfhood in Toni Morrison’s Beloved,” by Mary-Gray Mahoney
  • “Breaking the Cycle: Sustaining Self in Toni Morrison’s Beloved,” by Shannon McDonell-Bryant
  • "The Decay of Language and Natural Religion: Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man," by Ross McKenzie
  • “‘I won’t rest till you are with me’: Hauntings, agency, and escaping the dominant discourse in Neo-Slave Narratives and Gothic Literature,” by Kathryn Miller
  • "Woman ≠ Garlic Clove," a collection of poems by Madison Niermeyer
  • "The Unlocatable Intersections of Racial and Sexual Difference: Fucking in Another Country," by Rory O'Brien
  • "Moving without Direction: The Relationship between Movement and Stillness in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man," by Johnathan Shivers
  • "Foes and Allies in Invisible Man," by Brent Turner
  • "I Shall Not Rise While Others Must Kneel: Portraits of the Struggle for Equality and Advancement in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man," by Aaron Widenor
  • “Sentimental Revisions: Beloved, Uncle Tom's Cabin, and the American Literary Canon,” by Brian Yee

Spring 2015 Humanities Seminar: Professor DeGooyer

Published in nine volumes between 1759 and 1766, Laurence Sterne's comic novel Tristram Shandy is one of the most influential—and disruptive—novels in English literature. The novel purports to be an autobiography, but Tristram elaborates on everything from buttons to noses to the point that he loses track of his own story. Sterne’s experimentation with voice and form was a radical departure from other eighteenth-century novelists of his day. As the comedian Steve Coogan puts it, “Sterne was post-modern before there was a modernity to be post about.”

This seminar will review the complicated legacy of Tristram Shandy as it relates to its time and our own. We will discuss the novel’s status as a precursor of the modernist aesthetics employed by writers such as James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. We will also investigate the extent to which Sterne’s satirical wit can be shown to derive from the influence of Rabelais and Cervantes as well as the tradition of Irish-Anglo writing. As we pursue questions about Sterne’s critical inheritance, larger questions about language and identity will unfurl: is it ever possible for writing to caputre the flow and complexity of life? Does writing fail to represent and account for individuality? Can we ever tell the truth of ourselves in language?

Other recent Humanities Seminars:

Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao; Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass; Toni Morrison, Beloved; Djuna Barnes, Nightwood; Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man; Shakespeare King Lear; Daniel Defoe Robinson Crusoe; James Joyce, Ulysses; Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre and Charles Dickens, Great Expectations; Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre and Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea; Alfred Hitchcock's films Vertigo and Psycho; Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice; William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury; John Milton, Paradise Lost.