All English majors must complete a Senior Experience, for which they have three options: participation in the Senior Seminar in English (English 499) or a Humanities Senior Seminar (Humanities 497), or completion of an Independent Study project (English 490). The Senior Seminar in English, which requires departmental approval, is a venue for students to research and write a thesis. Humanities Senior Seminars generally focus 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. Independent Study, which requires departmental approval, is primarily for creative projects.
Senior Seminar in English and Independent Study: Recent Thesis Titles
- "Individuality and Community in Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire" (David Davidson, 2010)
- "Hybridization of Home: the Development of Diasporic Domesticity in the Contemporary Literature of Britain's Bangladeshi Diaspora" (Emily Donaldson, 2010)
- "Sounds of Silence: Sonnets from the Portuguese and Monna Innominata" (Maureen Eichner, 2010)
- "Queering Gender and then Some: An Intersectional Look at Stone Butch Blues" (Heather Gallegos, 2010)
- "The Undead and the Living God: How 19th Century Vampire Literature Participates in the Epistemological Discourse of the Victorian Era" (Lynsey Harrison, 2010)
- "Quite a Three Pipe Problem: Sherlock Holmes' Motivation and Plot" (Colleen Martin, 2010)
- "The Mirror Cracked from Side to Side: The Imaginary, the Symbolic, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as a Critique of the Form" (Alison McCartan, 2010)
- "'Do Not Trust Too Much to Your Eyes': Female Epistemologies in Robin McKinley's Rose Daughter" (Barratt Miller, 2010)
- "The Secret Shall Be Told: Failures of Friendship in E.M. Forster's A Passage to India and Where Angels Fear to Tread" (Kelsey Scott, 2010)
- "The 'Intriguing Little Slut': The Discursive Construction of Pleasure in Samuel Richardson's Pamela" (Gabriel Tallent, 2010)
- Tortuga Heights (Carrie Tirrell, 2010)
Fall 2011 Humanities Seminar: Professor Michel
Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man (1952) has been described as the great American novel of the twentieth century. This complex, comic, and surreal picaresque traces the journey of its unnamed narrator from south to north, from innocence to experience, and from paradox to paradox. Drawing on folklore and preaching, blues and jazz, the novel explores the tropes and traps of American history and literature, of mechanistic modernity, of sight, insight, and subjectivity.
Invisible Man's symbolic and social resonances make it particularly suited to in-depth study in a Humanities Seminar. Critical interest in the book has only grown in recent years, and it repays reading from a variety of theoretical perspectives, including feminist, queer, materialist, narratological, and postcolonial lenses, as well as critical race studies, border studies, and cultural studies. The novel's indebtedness to (and commentary on) structures of call and response within African-American spiritual and church traditions will be of interest to students of religion. Its engagement with questions of political action raised by such central figures as Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois, as well as with the legacies of slavery, the impact of segregation, and the effects of capitalism and urbanization, merits the attention of students of history. Moreover, in its reflections on the nature of history and historiography, it invites consideration of the processes of discovering and writing history. Philosophers may be interested in exploring not only the book's political philosophy but also its concern with epistemology, ethics, and recognition. Students of comparative literature may wish to explore the text's debts to European novelists or theorists such as Fyodor Dostoevsky, Andre Malraux, or Sigmund Freud. Those interested in literary history might consider its relation to works by writers including Herman Melville, H.G. Wells, or Toni Morrison.
Spring 2012 Humanities Seminar: Professor Makau
Beloved (1987), the fourth novel of Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison has garnered international praise for its imaginative account of Margaret Garner, a fugitive bondwoman who committed infanticide rather than permit her children's re-enslavement. Morrison's novel and Garner's story have inspired musical, film and operatic adaptations that contribute to ongoing analyses of fugitive experience leading up to and during the decades following Emancipation. The hundred-year distance between Beloved's publication and its historical setting saw categorical legal shifts in civil rights for African Americans, Native Americans, and women, yet the novel's several adaptations and imitations suggest that the scars of race-based slavery and the yearings for enfranchisement remain palpable in U.S. culture.
Extensive scholarship, spanning the breadth of literary theory and cultural studies--including postmodern, feminist, psychoanalytic, postcolonial, narratological, economic, humanist, and other philosophical interpretations--has attempted to address Morrison's complex representation of imagined history and its "true" antecedent. This scholarship will accompany our own readings of Beloved, and help us discuss, among other topics, Morrison's reinterpretation of Garner's story, appropriation, adaptation, oppositional identity, "motherlove," and Native- and African-American collaborations in the late 19th-century. These analyses will allow us to consider how Beloved models the necessity for art that confronts and (attempts to) heal personal and national trauma. This seminar will urge students to think energetically about the challenges of representation, particularly within historical fiction, and the "writerly" process that Morrison brings to her craft. It will therefore appeal to scholars of history, philosohy, women's and gender studies, American ethnic studies, art history, literature, and creative writing.
Other recent Humanities Seminars:
Djuna Barnes, Nightwood; Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man; Shakespeare King Lear; Daniel Defoe Robinson Crusoe; Wallace Stevens' poetry; T.S. Eliot's poetry; 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 Vertico and Psycho; Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice; William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury; John Milton, Paradise Lost.