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
  • "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)
  • "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)
  • "Women of Steel: Gendering the Twenty-First Century Superhero," by Natalie Lyman
  • "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)
  • "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
  • "Water in Whitman," by Nathan Tolley
  • "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 2014 Humanities Seminar: Professor Pérez

Since its release in 2007, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao has become not only the most visible literary work by a Latino author to date, but arguably one of the most popular and critically acclaimed American novels of the past decade. Junot Díaz’s talent for combining formal complexity with ordinary language and humor has set a new bar for Latino/a fiction writing and has opened new toolboxes for public discourse on U.S. race relations, immigrant experience, and Latino masculinity. Set in New Jersey and the Dominican Republic, and told from the perspective of a first-generation Dominican American teenaged science fiction nerd, Oscar Wao challenges the scope of the conventional coming of age story, presenting ways of being Latino that previously had no literary representation (the “ghettonerd,” the suburban, the ordinary), as well as challenging the cultural underpinnings of American fiction (blurring fiction and memoir, the coherence of an “American” character, the politics that subtend aesthetic form). Díaz’s promiscuous use of footnotes, historical references, and popular intertexts like comic books and classic science fiction cinema provide a syllabus unto themselves. This course will trace the novel’s many textual trails to explore some of the following questions: How does Díaz innovate on aesthetic form to accommodate the novel’s reach across national, cultural, and linguistic boundaries, from Latino folk to Anglo-American science fiction, from canon to subculture, theory to popular media, U.S. to D.R.? What does the novel’s dark and flippant sense of humor contribute to public discourse around race and immigration? What language does the novel give us for talking about the literary representation of race, immigration, and U.S. imperialism abroad? Students will create a reading list for the class, drawing on published scholarship on Díaz's work, and on their own careful reading of the novel's many intertextual avenues in high-, middle-, and lowbrow literature, film, history, and television.

Fall 2013 Humanities Seminar: Professor Chasar

This seminar will focus on Walt Whitman’s lifetime book project, Leaves of Grass, which is frequently cited as the first major work in American poetry to break from British literary influences and forge a new American poetic style imbued with the republic’s national spirit. Oftentimes described as the “great grey poet” (even the “great gay poet”) and the “father” of American poetry, Whitman’s centrality to the expression of American life and ideals is reflected in a history of poets influenced by, and writing back to him, but it is visible elsewhere in contemporary culture as well; his poem “Oh Captain! My Captain!” is the fulcrum of the movie Dead Poet’s Society; a character in the recent award-winning television show Breaking Bad recites Whitman’s poem “I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” in full (and in a meth lab); and President Clinton’s gift of a copy of Leaves of Grass to Monica Lewinsky made national headlines.

Because Whitman revised and expanded Leaves of Grass five times after its initial 1855 publication—eventually absorbing his entire poetic output into what is now known as the massive “deathbed” edition of 1892—it makes for a challenging and compelling study not just because of the sometimes scandalous content of individual poems (they were often censored for their sexual content), but also for how we can see the poems getting revised and reordered, incorporating new material over the course of nearly forty years. Leaves of Grass thus changes with time to reflect changes in the American economy, gender and sexual relations, race relations including the Civil War and the assassination of President Lincoln, and American philosophies of life including the transcendentalists and Quakerism. Seeking to include all of America into Leaves of Grass, the evolving book is thus a fascinating record of changing class relations, the effects of industrial and consumer capitalism, American slang, urban and rural life, and so on. His poems ask large and complex questions about American identity: What values does “America” represent (especially compared to Britain), and what are the nation’s responsibilities regarding those values? What is an authentic American voice, and how does that get expressed? What constitutes the American individual—psychologically, bodily, socially, sexually, spiritually? How does one balance the relationship between that individual and the national collective in order to make American democracy work? And how does the nation overcome the divisiveness of the Civil War and the country’s history of slavery?

Whitman was also a printer and bookmaker, and so the material formats of now-rare editions of Leaves offer intriguing possibilities for study made electronically possible via the superb Walt Whitman Archive online ( Indeed, perhaps no other literary text in history has so much archival background associated with it as does Leaves (material that includes Whitman's personal notebooks, photographs, audio recordings, correspondence, book reviews, and Whitman's own newspaper writings from when he was a journalist), and so this class will allow students to study not just the poems in isolation but also how interpretations of those poems are affected by printing, binding, other aspects of book design, the composition process, and so on.

Other recent Humanities Seminars:

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.