Honors in English

  • Is there an author or text that you’d love to explore in depth?
  • Have you ever written a great essay for a class that you want to expand?
  • Are you ready for independent research and writing?
  • Would you enjoy working one-on-one with a professor?
  • Are you considering graduate school?
  • Are you a junior or senior with a GPA of 3.6 or higher in your major?

If the answer to any or all of the above questions is yes, then consider pursuing Honors in English. Qualified students must enroll in both a one-semester seminar and thesis credits. Please read below for more information.

ENGL 4900-001 English Honors Seminar (2 credits)

This course should be taken toward the end of your college career. It is a workshop designed to help you develop, draft, and finish a critical thesis. You will be assigned a sequence of writing assignments-including but not limited to an abstract, annotated bibliography, and proposal-to help you successfully accomplish the various stages of your project. Weekly meetings will give you the opportunity to share and workshop your drafts in a structured environment. The rest of the work will occur through independent research, writing, and tutorials with the English Department Honors Advisor, Dr. Melissa Gregory, as well as with an outside thesis director. The project will culminate in a formal defense with the Honors committee. This is an ideal course for those students who wish to experience the pleasure of pursuing an independent research project or who are considering graduate school in English or another discipline.

Prerequisite: Admission to the course is contingent on permission from the Honors Advisor and Committee. Interested students must contact Dr. Gregory before they sign up for the course : melissa.gregory@utoledo.edu ; 419-530-4915; University Hall 5070-A.

4960-001 English Honors Thesis (4 credits)
These thesis credit hours are taken in conjunction with the Honors Seminar (ENGL 4900) and are required of all candidates for departmental honors. They represent the actual research and writing of the thesis. Prerequisite: Approval of the Honors Committee.

Please note that ENGL 4900 and ENGL 4960 are usually offered only during the FALL Semester.

Do You Qualify for English Honors?

An Honors Candidate Must:

  • be a junior or senior
  • have completed 15 hours of 3000-4000 level English courses
  • have a GPA of 3.6 or higher in 3000-4000 level English courses
  • discuss the possibility of departmental Honors with the English Honors Advisor prior to enrolling
  • fulfill the departmental Honors requirements in addition to the hours required for the major
  • receive an A on the thesis to receive the designation of Honors.

Please note that you do not have to be enrolled in the College Honors program to pursue departmental Honors.

First-year and sophomore English majors are encouraged to start planning for Honors early! Don’t hesitate to contact the Honors Advisor with questions.

Selected Recent Honors Theses
Emily Corey, “‘I Want To Be So Much Worthier’: The Dollhouse in Dickens’s Little Dorrit and Our Mutual Friend(dir. Gregory)
In Little Dorrit (1855-57) and Our Mutual Friend (1864-65), Charles Dickens uses the metaphor of the dollhouse to explore the vulnerability of his most important female characters, whom he portrays as deprived of agency and subject to manipulation—in effect, turned into human dolls. I argue that in these novels, evidence suggests that Dickens is conflicted about his own metaphor: while on one hand both texts expose the devastating effects on women of being treated as miniature playthings (Bella declares that she “want[s] to be something so much worthier than the doll in the doll’s house” [663]), on the other hand, they ultimately fail to offer a larger critique of the Victorian social structures that enable such treatment. I explore this tension particularly through the characters of Little Dorrit, Jenny Wren, and Bella Wilfer.

Emily Gardner, “Narrative Structure and Reader Skepticism in Frankenstein” (director: Gregory)

In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein presents his narrative as that of a fated man, burdened with the task of hunting his creature until death, and thus assumes his narrative is the most legitimate one of the text. But I argue that the embedded narrative structure of Frankenstein, which presents multiple stories within stories, invites skepticism of the legitimacy of Frankenstein’s narrative. I focus particularly on the narratives of Walton and Safie, which I propose destabilize the assumed primacy of Frankenstein’s tale.

Heather Liming, “The Legend of Good Women and Chaucer’s Woman-Friendly Corpus: Exposing and Challenging Antifeminism and Gender Polarization” (director: Fitzgerald)

In my analysis of Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women, I join a growing and often polarized critical conversation in which feminist literary critics attempt to anchor their view of Chaucer as either misogynist or proto-feminist through a discussion of women’s helpless position throughout the Legend‘s tales. Through an in-depth discussion of anti-feminism within the Legend‘s Prologue and a detailed analysis of the tales of Thisbe and Philomela, I argue that the Legend‘s purpose is more complex: I maintain that the Legend does not mean to glorify or to demonize women but instead seems to call for a more complex and realistic literary representation of women that allows for flexibility in poetic discourse. Although the Legend is unfinished, and arguably an experimental prelude to later works which take up similar concerns with women’s voice, I assert that the Legend brings serious attention to women’s struggles and that it holds a necessary place in the perennial debate concerning Chaucer’s reputation as women-friendly.

Astrid Martinez, “A Movie Theatre of Envy: Portrayals of Mimetic Desire in Film Adaptations of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (dir. Wikander)
In 1991, anthropological philosopher René Girard proposed that the key to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is mimetic desire, the psycho-social cycle of imitating and imitated desire, and highlighted the satirical aspects of the play. Using this theory as a tool, I chronologically analyze three film adaptations of the play, encompassing those produced by Reinhardt and Dieterle in 1935, Peter Hall in 1968, and Elijah Moshinsky in 1981. My conclusion is that the increasing individualization of the characters of the Athenian lovers in film reflects the conventions of modern television and cinema, but undermines Shakespeare’s satirization—so astutely noticed by Girard—of the concept of unwavering love through the mutability of the lovers.

Erica Olschansky, “‘I Can’t Be Sure If He’s Faking’: Holocaust Testimony and the Unreliable Narrator in Art Spiegelman’s Maus” (director: Stroud)

This essay examines the portrayal of Vladek, the narrator and eyewitness in Art Spiegelman’s graphic novels Maus I (1986) and II (1991). I argue that Spiegelman uses humor and irony to distance the reader from Vladek, often exposing him as a hypocrite and a trickster and making him an untrustworthy narrator despite his heroic survival of the Holocaust. This depiction of Vladek ultimately encourages Spiegelman’s readers to remain alert and skeptical in understanding the Holocaust through oral testimony, forcing them to recognize that Vladek’s story is not unmediated truth and making Maus a powerful challenge to the conventional means by which we access history.

Daniel Trzciński, “My Advent’rous Song: Milton and Music as Mediator in Paradise Lost” (director: Mattison)

This essay explores how John Milton characterizes his magnum opus Paradise Lost (1667) as a song in his attempt to mediate divine truth. I first investigate several of his early poems to reveal his developing conception of his poetic-prophetic role and its relation to earthly and heavenly music. Then, I examine how this culminates in Paradise Lost, in which he negotiates with poetic-prophetic forebears to establish his own role, composing the poem with a figural ode that I call oral-aural. This mode and uses music to bypass language’s semantic and epistemological problems and to ascend the Neoplatonic metaphysical continuum, allowing Paradise Lost to embody divine truth.