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Honors Program Guidelines

english department

James Wallace, Director
Stokes Hall S443


In order to be admitted into the English department Honors Program, an applicant should have at least a 3.6 grade point average (in English courses, excluding Core) at the end of the first semester of junior year. An applicant should have completed at least three EN courses, at least one of which should be Studies in Poetry or Studies in Narrative.

The program offers two options for a written project in senior year: a critical honors thesis, and a creative honors project.

Applicants on the critical track in the class of 2016 are strongly encouraged to take at least one Advanced Topic Seminar, preferably in the junior year. For critical applicants in the class of 2017, one ATS in the junior year will be required.

Students proposing a Creative honors project must have completed (by the end of junior year) two creative writing workshops, with a grade of A- or higher in both. At least one should include writing in the proposed genre. At least one must be taken at BC, and at least one (usually both) should be completed by the time of application.

Finding an Honors Advisor

The applicant needs to find a qualified faculty member who will agree to supervise the project. The earlier in junior year this process begins, the better the chance of engaging a thesis advisor. It is especially important that students planning to study abroad in the spring should make arrangements for an advisor during the fall semester of junior year. Normally, thesis advising is done only by full-time English department faculty.

Try to begin by approaching a professor you know well from a past or current class. Keep in mind, however, that faculty usually only direct one project each year, and those on leave do not (ordinarily) direct theses. If you need guidance, a meeting with the Honors Director is a good way to start.

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. These include:

  • John Anderson - poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction
  • Amy Boesky - memoir; creative nonfiction
  • Christopher Boucher - fiction, poetry
  • Eileen Donovan-Kranz - fiction and creative nonfiction
  • Elizabeth Graver - fiction and creative nonfiction
  • Thomas Kaplan-Maxfield - fiction, creative nonfiction
  • Paul Lewis - creative nonfiction
  • 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.

Application to the Program

The application includes 5 pieces: a signed application form, a prospectus, an annotated reading list, a writing sample, and a transcript. Please supply three identical copies of your packet. Students applying from abroad should email all parts of the application by pdf to the Honors Director.

Application Form

This must be signed by your advisor prior to submission. Students who are abroad should email a pdf of the form; ask theiradvisor to sign and submit it on their behalf.


Students applying to write a Critical honors thesis should submit a two to three page prospectus that lays out the proposed topic and outlines its goals and scope, as well as indicating the courses (if any), Readings and 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.

Sample of a recent critical prospectus:

Students planning to write a Creative honors project should submit a two to three page prospectus that states the proposed project and outlines its goals and scope. Some writers find it helpful to open the prospectus with a scene from the planned work. In addition, the prospectus should reflect on the applicant’s goals and experience in the proposed genre. Writers usually include a discussion of methods and aims, as well as stylistic kinship with other writers and the literary contexts they represent.

Recent proposals in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction:

Annotated Reading List

Include both works you have read and those you intend to read, but 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 your own growth as a poet or writer of fiction or drama—works that have been inspiring or that represent an admired tradition. For each entry, include a sentence or two summarizing the work and why it is relevant to your thesis. Sample annotated reading list

Writing Sample

Students proposing to write a Critical honors thesis should submit a 10-15 page critical paper, normally one previously submitted in a course. (You 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 should submit a writing sample of 10-15 pages in the genre in which they plan to write.


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.


For 2016-17 theses: application materials must be submitted to the Departmental Honors Committee by Monday, May 2, 2016.

We are unable to consider late proposals.

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 by mid-May. Accepted students may register for ENGL 6600.01 during drop-add period in the first days of the fall semester.


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 ENGL 6600.01 for the spring semester. Students continuing in the Program will enroll in ENGL 6600.01 for the spring semester.

Guidelines for Critical Honors Thesis

Appropriate length for a critical honors thesis is about 50 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 70-125 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”

Evaluation Process

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.

Upcoming Deadlines

Senior Theses are due Thursday, April 7, 2016.

Applications for 2016-2017 must be submitted by Monday, May 2 by 5:00 p.m. to the English Honors Director.

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