Honors Program Guidelines
Amy Boesky, Director
Stokes Hall S437
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In order to be considered for admission into the English Department Honors Program, an applicant to the program normally will have a 3.6 grade point average (in English courses, excluding core) at the end of the first semester of the junior year. Normally an applicant will have completed at least three EN courses, at least one of which should be Studies in Poetry or Narrative and Interpretation.
In order to undertake a Creative honors project, a student must in addition have completed (by the end of junior year) two college-level creative writing workshops, with a grade of A- or higher. At least one of the workshops should include writing in the genre of the proposed project. The expectation is that at least one workshop be taken at BC and that at least one (usually both) workshops be completed by the time of application.
Finding an Honors Advisor
The program offers two options for a written project in senior year: a critical honors thesis, and a creative honors project. In both cases, it is the responsibility of the student to seek out a qualified faculty member who will agree to supervise the project. The earlier in junior year that students set about this task, the better their chances of engaging a thesis advisor. It is especially important that students who plan to study off campus during the second semester should make arrangements for an advisor during the fall semester of their junior year. Normally thesis advising is done only by full-time faculty of the English department.
The process of finding an advisor can be protracted and should begin at the start of the spring semester junior year. Do not assume that a given faculty member will be available; faculty who are on leave normally do not direct Honors theses, for instance. Many students approach a faculty member with whom they have already studied, although this is not required. The Honors Director may assist you in the process.
In cases where a faculty member is on leave for one semester, co-chair arrangements can sometimes be made at the discretion of the Honors Committee.
Creative Project advisors are full-time faculty members of the English department. You should approach an advisor who regularly teaches workshops in the genre in which you wish to write. As of 2010 these faculty members include:
- John Anderson - poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction
- Amy Boesky - supervises creative theses in Creative Nonfiction
- Christopher Boucher - fiction, poetry
- Robert Chibka - fiction
- Eileen Donovan-Kranz - fiction and creative nonfiction
- Elizabeth Graver - fiction and creative nonfiction
- Thomas Kaplan-Maxfield - fiction, creative nonfiction
- Paul Lewis - creative nonfiction
- Paul Mariani - poetry
- Paula Mathieu - creative nonfiction
- Suzanne Matson - fiction and poetry
- James Najarian - poetry
- George O’Har - fiction and creative nonfiction
- Susana Roberts - fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction
- Carlo Rotella - creative nonfiction
- Bonnie Rudner - creative nonfiction
- Andrew Sofer - poetry
- Lad Tobin - creative nonfiction
An updated list of creative writing faculty is available from the program director.
Please contact a potential Creative Project advisor by e-mail first. Include your GPA in EN courses (excluding core); a list of workshops you have taken at BC, along with the instructor(s) and grade(s) you have received in those workshops; and a (brief) description of the Honors project you envision ("a collection of poems" or "a collection of linked short-stories" is sufficient at this preliminary stage). Please attach (in Word) a short writing sample, preferably in the genre you wish to write.
Application to the Program
The application materials consist of an application form and four separate items that the applicant will supply. Please supply three identical copies of your packet.
Because applications must be photocopied in their entirety, application packets should be single-sided, non-stapled, and bound with a binder clip only.
This must be signed by your advisor prior to submission.
Students who propose to undertake a Critical honors thesis will submit a two to three page prospectus that states the proposed topic and outlines its goals and scope, as well as indicating the courses (if any), Readings & Research (if any), and prior reading that have prepared you for the project. The Honors Committee recognizes that a student's thinking about goals and scope will be at a preliminary stage, but will still be looking to see the prospectus examine with some care the issues connected with the topic and some probable directions the inquiry might take.
Students who propose to undertake a Creative honors project will submit a two to three page prospectus that states the proposed project and outlines its goals and scope. The prospectus should include an expository statement that reflects on the applicant's own creative work and experience in his or her proposed genre. This self-reflection might include a discussion of methods and aims, as well as a tracing of stylistic kinship with other writers and the literary contexts they represent.
Annotated Reading List
You may include both works you have read and those you intend to read, as long as you indicate which is which. For a Critical honors thesis, these might be works by the author(s) studied as well as biographies of and literary criticism on that author. For a Creative project, these might be works that are important to the student's own growth as a poet or writer of fiction or drama—works that have excited the student, works representing a tradition which the student would like to investigate or respond to, etc. For each entry, include a sentence or two summarizing the work and why it is relevant to your thesis. Sample annotated reading list
Students proposing to write a Critical honors thesis will submit a 10 to 15 page critical paper, normally one previously submitted in a course. (A student may wish to ask a professor for help in expanding a shorter paper.) The critical paper submitted need not be on the same topic as the proposed thesis, although the Honors Committee will be looking for evidence that the student can undertake the type of work proposed in the prospectus.
Students proposing to write a Creative honors project will submit a writing sample of 10 to 12 poems, or two or three short stories, or two chapters of a novel. These works may have been written either for an English course or independently. The Honors Committee recommends that the sample match the genre of the proposed project.
Transcripts should include course name (not just course number) alongside each grade and must include grades for courses taken during the first semester of junior year. The Honors Committee may, at its discretion, request a transcript showing courses for the spring semester of junior year before making its decision.
Students wishing more guidance regarding the application materials and process are encouraged to contact the Honors Program Director.
For 2013-14 theses: application materials must be submitted to the Departmental Honors Committee by Thursday, March 25, 2013. For students who will be spending their spring semester off campus (e.g., Junior Year Abroad) that deadline is September 5, 2013.
Students who spend their junior year abroad may apply before the September date. In all cases though, it is expected that they will have found and corresponded with their advisors well in advance of September. It is recommended that students secure a thesis advisor before leaving campus, so that correspondence may take place while they are abroad. Prospective applicants should feel free to speak with the Honors Program Director about seeking an advisor.
Late proposals will not be considered.
Acceptance to the Program
The application will be read by members of the Honors Advisory Committee. Notification of the decisions of this committee will be communicated to applicants so that accepted students may register for EN 600.01. Registration for EN 600 is by departmental permission, and only accepted students will be allowed to register. Students should have an alternative three-credit course in mind in case they are not accepted to the Honors Program.
Students will meet as a group with the Honors Program Director periodically during both semesters. Accepted students will receive a schedule of meetings early in fall semester.
Writing the Thesis
During the first semester of senior year students will be expected to meet with their advisors weekly and by the end of November to have shown sufficient progress to be allowed to continue for a second semester. Each advisor will make this decision and will inform the Honors Committee regarding the student's progress. If a project has not developed in a timely way by the end of the first semester, the student will receive credit for a fall Readings and Research course and will substitute another course for EN 600.01 for the spring semester. Students continuing in the Program will enroll in EN 600.01 for the spring semester.
Guidelines for Critical Honors Thesis
- Appropriate length for an honors thesis is 60-70 pages. It would be very unusual for a thesis of fewer than 40 pages or more than 150 pages to be considered acceptable.
- Each critical thesis should provide an adequate bibliography of the relevant secondary sources. References to these sources should be sufficient to place this work in relation to other work on the subject.
- The criteria for evaluation are: originality, scope, significance, strength and clarity of thesis and argument, organization, use of primary evidence, use of secondary sources, prose style, and care in presentation (spelling, proofreading, etc.).
Guidelines for Creative Honors Project
- Appropriate length for the creative writing project is typically 30 poems or 75-125 pages of fiction.
- The criteria for evaluation are: originality, imaginative strength and clarity of vision, awareness and uses of craft, and care in presentation (spelling, punctuation, sentence construction, etc.)
Sample Critical Theses Submitted for EN Honors
“A Truth Universally Acknowledged? Jane Austen and Critical Theory”
“Imperfect Herald: The Potent Silences of Shakespeare’s Comedies”
“The Legible Child: Innocence, Shame, Ambiguity and Desire in Henry James”
“Penetrating Silence: Theatre and the Politics of Speaking in South Africa”
“Inherited Trauma in Second Generation Holocaust Literature”
“Re-Imagining the Philippines: Historical Fiction and the Filipino-American Identity Crisis”
“Telling Freud’s Story: The Fictionalization of Freud”
“Coming of Age in America: The Contemporary Bildungsroman”
“National Fiction: British Identity in the Novels of Sir Walter Scott”
“Brick City Renaissance? The Decline of the City of Newark in the Novels of Philip Roth”
“Reporting from ‘Arabia’: Orientalism, Location, and Time in Journalists’ News Memoirs”
“Intimate Material: An Anatomy of Alice Munro’s Short Fiction”
“‘The Limits of Mystery’: The Grotesque in the Fiction of Flannery O’Connor”
“Dark Night’s Passage: Rainer Maria Rilke's Duino Elegies and Eliot’s The Waste Land”
“Dickens and Collins: The Role of the Detective in Victorian England’s Public and Private Worlds”
“Shell Shock and the Craiglockhart Poetic Circle of the First World War”
“Sisters or Strangers? The Relationship between Maternal and Artistic Creativity in the Life and Writing of Virginia Woolf”
“Heaven on Earth: Jack Kerouac and the Death of American Transcendentalism”
The thesis or project is to be completed well before the end of the second semester. The thesis advisor should receive a full copy for final oversight early in April, so that bound copies can be submitted to the advisor and to the Honors Program director. Any work not handed in by that date will not be considered for Honors; instead, the writer will receive credit and a grade for Readings and Research.
The advisor and one member of the English faculty will read the thesis, assign it a letter grade, and write an evaluation of it. A thesis receiving a grade of A- or higher from both readers will be deemed worthy of English Department Honors. Readers' decisions will normally be available to the student within two weeks after submission of the written project. Students in the College of Arts and Sciences Honors Program who are writing a thesis as part of the requirements for that Program may also receive EN Honors credit for that work by following the departmental process described on these pages.
Please contact the Honors Program Director if you have additional questions.
- 2013 Senior Theses are due April 12, 2013.
- 2013-2014 applications must be submitted by Thursday April 25, 2013, at 4p.m. to EN Honors Director.