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COMPARATIVE LITERATURE HONORS THESIS

Writing an honors thesis allows you to explore a topic in greater depth than is possible in a standard
undergraduate paper. It provides a valuable training in research skills and in sustaining an argument over
a significant number of pages. This training can be very useful in your later life, whether you choose to
enter the work force after graduation or to pursue further studies.

The thesis should identify a specific problem or question you need to address. Make sure that the problem
you identify is one that can be explored in a short thesis (“Aesthetics and Politics in the Later Works of
Thomas Mann” is not a viable topic.) As you read and make notes, keep the following questions in mind:
what am I trying to argue? Why does my argument matter? What difference does it make? How does my
argument relate to current debates in a particular field?

To write a research paper is to enter into dialogue with other scholars, and you will need to consult the
work of these scholars as you formulate your topic. A question may be of interest to people in several
different fields, so you need to identify the particular community of scholars you are addressing. (Is your
reading of Death in Venice a contribution to discussions of Thomas Mann’s position in German
literature? Or to queer theory? Or to discussions of philosophy’s impact on modern literature? In each
case, the essay will need a different framework and a different set of reference points.)

You are not required to structure your thesis around an explicit comparison of works from two or more
countries. But your thesis should embrace a “comparative attitude.” That is to say, your analysis should
reveal some knowledge of literary debates and texts beyond a specific national literary tradition.

Make sure you leave yourself enough time to re-write; the first draft will rarely be the final draft. Most
likely you will find yourself having to make substantive revisions of your writing. We will meet several
times during the fall to discuss techniques for writing a thesis and to share work in progress.

Timetable:
September 30: 2 page abstract and bibliography of 10 relevant works. Your abstract should indicate the
questions you will be posing, why these questions matter, which texts you will be discussing and why,
and what angle/perspective/method you will be using. It should also indicate the proposed structure and
number of chapters.

Dec 15: submission of one chapter.

April 1 Submission of two copies of completed thesis

Practical Requirements
The length of the comparative literature thesis should be between 45 and 60 pages (double-spaced,
standard font, one inch margins), including notes but excluding bibliography. It will normally consist of
several chapters. As well as the bibliography and notes, the thesis should include a title page, a table of
contents and an acknowledgments page. It should be bound. Please proof-read carefully: spelling
mistakes and grammatical errors are not acceptable. All theses must adhere to the standard MLA
referencing system. You are strongly encouraged to consult the MLA Handbook or a similar book for
useful information about the mechanics of writing a thesis.

Evaluation
The thesis will be evaluated by two examiners. A prize will be awarded to the best honors thesis each
year.