The English Department Honors Program gives our majors scope, during their senior year, for especially intense and independent work in English literature and language. The program begins in the fall semester with an Honors Seminar, limited to about fifteen students; all honors students are required to enroll in this seminar. In the spring semester, each student completes an honors thesis, a text written on a topic of their own choosing. The thesis is ordinarily an extended scholarly or critical essay, but majors in creative writing can submit extended work in prose or poetry as their thesis. While the fall seminar is intended to prepare and focus students for the in-depth work of writing an honors thesis, the possible topics for theses need in no way be bound to the seminar topic. Theses and creative manuscripts in the past have included "Seventeenth-Century Religious Poetry," "Star Wars," "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," "Angela Carter," "Ralph Waldo Emerson and Cultural Critique," "Motion: A Collection of Short Stories," and "Twelve Angry Wimmin: A One-Act Play" that was produced. All junior English majors are invited to apply.
Application forms are available in the English Department office, Morey 426. You may also download the application here or complete the application online. Completed applications must be returned to the English Department no later than Thursday February 20. If you have any questions whatsoever about the seminar, please contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies.
Instructor: Tawil, E.
What is literary criticism? What does it mean to “criticize” or “analyze” a literary text, an author’s oeuvre, a tradition? This course models a deliberately broad range of answers to that question by looking at a diverse group of critical works, focused on different periods and genres within literary history, and representing various approaches to literary analysis. By reading a different work of criticism each week, we will be able to assess their comparative strengths and weaknesses, their potential for insight or their particular blind spots. But we will also be able to think about criticism itself as a form of writing, and to experience its unique powers and pleasures. Along the way we will read some undisputed classics of criticism from the past fifty years or so and some important or striking recent works (including perhaps some “future classics”). The course is organized into three units, each targeting a large theme: first, the question of genre in literary study (beginning with Northrop Frye’s classic statement, followed by recent examples focused on narrative and poetry respectively); second, the place of history in literary study, and several examples of what “historicist criticism” might look like; third, the figure of the poet or novelist as critic, and a few examples of critical works by authors more famous for practicing “literature” than literary criticism.