Honors Program in English
- How to apply to the Honors Program;
- Guidelines for critical and creative projects;
- Potential topics and sample proposals;
- and Submission guidelines
Overview of Honors in English
The Honors Program in English provides students the opportunity to work closely with other Honors students and individually with a faculty member on an independent project that can function as a capstone for the major and a culmination of a student's undergraduate experience in the field. The English Department encourages English majors to apply, whether they are considering graduate work in English or simply wish to enrich their college experience through an honors thesis project.
Because the Honors thesis represents an important achievement in a particular genre of writing (whether critical or creative), students should apply to do Honors work in a field in which they already have significant experience, usually from classes taken during the first three years of the undergraduate curriculum in English. In most cases, the Honors thesis should be viewed as the culmination of a sustained interest in a set of critical or creative questions and issues.
The Program begins with the application process in the spring of a student's junior year (see below). Following a successful application process, honors students will begin preliminary reading and writing over the summer. Candidates will take a Proseminar (3 credits) in the fall of their senior year and begin work on their theses--work which continues into the spring. Students will complete a substantial portion of the thesis by the end of the fall Proseminar. At the completion of the proseminar, the thesis mentor and the proseminar director will evaluate the student's work and determine whether the student should proceed to the completion of the thesis. In a case of discrepancy between the mentor and the proseminar director, the Honors Committee will read the student's work on the thesis to that point and consult with both faculty members in order to make a final decision.
Work done on the thesis during the spring term constitutes a required 1-credit course, which represents the completion of the thesis in coordination with the mentor. The final draft of the thesis is due to the faculty mentor by mid-March. Theses differ in length depending on their topics and genres, but most are about 40-60 pages long.
At the beginning of April in their Senior year, successful candidates (those receiving a minimum of an "A-" in the judgment of the student's faculty mentor and a second anonymous faculty reader chosen by the Honors Committee) will make brief presentations of their thesis projects at an open meeting of the Thesis Colloquium, to which all faculty and students are invited.
In May, at the graduation ceremonies held by the department, successful candidates will be presented to the department.
All Honors work - including the Proseminar, the Thesis Colloquium, and the writing of the thesis itself - is done in addition to completing the requirements for the English major.
To apply to the Honors program, you must complete the following:
- A departmental application form [click to dowload]
- A thesis proposal. Note that critical and creative theses require different proposals. Scroll down to see the guidelines
- An 8-10 page writing sample demonstrating your proficiency in the genre of the proposed thesis
- Two letters of recommendation, one of which should be from an English Department faculty member who is willing to mentor your project. You are responsible for requesting these letters and getting them submitted on time. Letters should be sent, by email or in hard copy, to Patrick O'Malley.
- An unofficial transcript. Prospective candidates should have at least an "A-" average in their English courses; any exceptions will be considered on the merits of individual cases.
Please email the following four items to email@example.com by the deadline:
1. The honors program application.
2. An unofficial transcript.
3. Your thesis proposal, including annotated bibliography.
4. A writing sample of at least 8-10 pages. (In the case of film and/or video proposals, a videotape of ten minutes or less should accompany your proposal.)
*Please note that although the Honors Committee requests that one of the recommenders be someone who is willing to mentor the thesis, it cannot guarantee that that faculty mentor will in fact be the mentor.
The Honors Committee -- in consultation with the Proseminar Director -- will determine mentors based on a number of factors including student interest, faculty availability, and relevance of a faculty member's field of expertise to the topic of the thesis.
Students wishing to write a critical honors thesis should submit (a) a proposal of approximately three double-spaced pages and (b) a preliminary bibliography of at least ten to fifteen items. These two documents together should outline, as specifically as possible, a focused project with an appropriate research agenda.
The proposal should:
- set out clearly the subject of the thesis, including references to the major texts you anticipate using;
- comment on the significance of the subject;
- define the specific question or questions that will guide your research on the subject (in general, the fewer questions the better);
- comment on the principal methodology to be used;
- indicate which courses have contributed to your knowledge of this subject and your interest in pursuing it.
The bibliography should:
- include both primary and secondary texts;
- provide brief annotations for at least eight of the secondary sources.
Students interested in pursuing a senior thesis project in creative writing should create a proposal according to the guidelines below. They must also show evidence of substantial and successful course work in the specific genre in which they wish to pursue a project (i.e. if the student is interested in a poetry project, he or she should have already taken at least one poetry writing class, received an outstanding grade in that class, and have plans to take more classes or tutorials in poetry writing and/or to take full advantage of other poetry offerings sponsored by the University, including those sponsored by the Lannan Center).
The proposal should include the following:
- A project description that explains the scope, focus, goals, and intent of the project
- A brief artist's statement that does the following:
- Provides a narrative account of how the student came to be interested in this particular project (course work, readings, unofficial creative and intellectual explorations);
- Demonstrates the student's proficiency in the project's genre, and delineates the course work, tutorials, readings, and extracurricular activities that have prepared him/her for this project;
- Situates the project, providing an analysis of how it engages with other contemporary works in the same genre and/or its historical precedents;
- Outlines how this project will engage with and contribute to timely aesthetic, intellectual, and creative conversations.
LATE APPLICATIONS WILL NOT BE CONSIDERED.
The Honors Committee will evaluate the proposals and post the results before pre-registration is finished.
Interested candidates should contact Patrick O'Malley, chair of the Honors Committee, with any questions. Candidates may also wish to review the collection of completed theses, available in New North 306.
You are invited to pursue any topic that you consider worthy of attention, and we assume that you will pursue it with scholarly rigor, intellectual seriousness, and artistic integrity. You should follow your own interests and commitments in defining your project, though you should avail yourself of the advice of those faculty members whose expertise will help you focus your ideas and give them depth. Most successful applicants have derived their projects from interests developed during their time as English majors at Georgetown. During the actual writing of the thesis, of course, you will work closely with a faculty mentor.
Here is a partial list of the kinds of topics that Honors students have pursued over the past few years:
- polyphony in the novels of Cormac McCarthy
- thematic and linguistic violence in Dickinson, Plath, and Olds
- women in post-Stonewall gay male literature
- madness and skepticism in Hamlet and Don Quixote
- dialogism in Toni Morrison and Christa Woolf
- the Booker Prize as post-colonial phenomenon
- Joyce: relations with the Catholic Church
- the language of non-conformity
- jazz in the Harlem Renaissance
- the scientific revolution and 18th-century narratives
- history of the criticism of King Lear
- conflict in Seamus Heaney
- Irvine Welsh and dialect writing
- the heroic endeavor in Beowulf
- sound and structure in scripts
- American views of wilderness
- intertextuality in Gloria Naylor
- geography, literature, and self-identity in Amerindian poetry
- identity and memory in Maxine Hong Kingston
- influence of the internet on writing
- The Waste Land and mysticism
- Crime fiction and the American dream
- Double consciousness in the works of Baldwin, Morrison, and Naylor
- the written legacy of oral narratives in Amerindian culture
- women in Blake's poetry and theology
- beat literature of Burroughs, Kerouac, and Ginsberg
- medieval women troubadours
- African-American women writers and their Biblical heritage
- adult-child discourse in real-life conversation and classic children's literature
- the role of bible-making in the works of Blake, Wordsworth, and Hardy
- Morality plays in the Middle Ages and the twentieth century
In addition, Honors students have written novels, scripts for stage and screen, and collections of poetry. Those students who propose creative projects should have developed their skills through taking courses with the Georgetown English Department creative writing faculty or through participation in campus and professional journals and other creative venues.
Follow these links to view sample Honors Thesis Proposals of various types:
- Queering the Novel: Spatiality and Temporality in E. M. Forster
- Monumental and Counter-Monumental Memorializations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
- Cultural Contact in Kipling's Stories of India
- Exquisite Corpse: The Surrealist Game
- A Tibetan-American Family: A Literary Novel
The Parts of the Thesis
Each thesis should have most or all of the following parts: Title Page; Dedication and/or Acknowledgments (if used); Table of Contents with page references (if relevant); List of Illustrations (if used); List of Tables (if used); Text, beginning with the Introduction or Chapter One; Endnotes (if used); Appendices (if used); Bibliography.
The title page is not numbered (although it counts as i), but the pages of the prefatory material that follows (acknowledgments, table of contents, etc.) should be numbered with lower-case Roman numerals (ii, iii, etc.). The body of the thesis itself, beginning with the Introduction or Chapter One, and continuing through the end of the Bibliography, must be numbered consecutively using Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.); this sequence of numbers should start with 1 (that is, don’t continue the Roman numeral sequence that you used for the prefatory material). Pages containing charts, graphs, illustrations, tables, etc., must be numbered consecutively with the text.
Page numbers may appear either at the bottom center of the page, or at the top center or top right and may be preceded by your last name (but no other information). If your page numbers are at the top of the page, they must be moved to the bottom (or omitted) for any page with a major heading (that is, any title for a chapter or section that is important enough that you start a new page for it).
Every thesis must follow the conventions of citation and style set forth in a style manual that has been approved by your mentor. (This is most important for critical theses, since creative theses may not have the sorts of citations or notes—except, perhaps, in the introduction—that make a style manual necessary.) The most commonly-used style manuals in English studies and related cultural studies are the MLA Style Manual and The Chicago Manual of Style, but you may want to check with your mentor to see which style would be most appropriate for your work. You may use either footnotes or endnotes in accordance with your preference and the conventions of the style manual.
The text of the thesis must be double-spaced (or equivalent, depending on the word processor that you are using), and the bibliography should be as well. Long quotations, footnotes, or endnotes may be single-spaced or double-spaced depending on your preference and the style manual that you are using.
Your thesis must have a margin of at least one and one-quarter inches on all four sides of every page. Everything, including illustrations, graphs, and text, must be printed inside this 1.25” margin. Please use a ruler to measure your margins, because your word processor might not be in perfect alignment with your printer, and theses that do not have appropriate margins can’t be bound.
The Title Page should include the title of your thesis, the submission statement (including the degree and the name of the department) your name, the name of your mentor, the location (“Washington, DC”), and the date.
The submission statement should be centered on your title page following the title and appear as follows:
submitted to the Faculty of the
College of Arts and Sciences
of Georgetown University
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the
Bachelor of Arts
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