The Senior Project in Literature

The Senior Project in Literature consists of a substantial critical essay, typically of 25-45 pages, involving an in-depth study and evaluation of a specific author or topic of significant literary importance. Each essay will include an introduction to the critical question under discussion, a substantial analysis of the subject that refers in detail to both primary and secondary sources, and a cogent conclusion. Citation of sources should follow the MLA format and will include a substantial Works Cited list that follows MLA conventions.

A successful senior project will demonstrate the ability to explicate literary texts and to identify and articulate critical issues. It will show the ability to use distinct critical approaches, as appropriate, to create fresh, imaginative interpretations. Analysis will be well supported by reference to primary texts, such as the chosen novels, poems, essays, or plays of the author or group of authors under discussion, and by reference to appropriate secondary texts such as biographical or historical materials and relevant interpretations by scholars and critics.

A successful senior project will place the works under discussion in context, indicating their relation, where appropriate, to other literary and critical texts. It will generally begin with an introduction that states the subject and clearly and efficiently presents the problem, context, and thesis. The writing will be clear and cohesive and will integrate quotations skillfully both into the essay’s sentences and into its unfolding argument. The conclusion of the project will be stated clearly and concisely.

Finally, at the oral defense, the student will speak knowledgably about the subject and show the capacity to explore lines of discussion related to, but not stated in, the essay itself. Evaluation will be on based three factors: the critical essay as a finished product, the oral defense, and the advisor’s assessment of the student’s effort, learning, and growth. By successfully completing a senior project, the student will have demonstrated the research, writing and critical thinking skills that the department expects its seniors to achieve as they complete their work in the major.