What is the Thesis?


Note: you must have taken at least one course in the area in which you intend to write your project. For example, if you want to write about Moby Dick, you need to have had a course in nineteenth-century American literature, even if that course did not include any readings by Herman Melville.

A project in literature should aim for 40 pages with an upper limit of 60 pages. The project should address an interpretive issue current in a given field that has important stakes for how we understand a larger literary or cultural phenomenon (e.g., race in nineteenth-century America or the gothic novel in eighteenth-century Britain). The project should provide a review of the most recent scholarly approaches to this issue and demonstrate its originality by explaining how the project’s argument complicates or extends this scholarship in new ways. In addition, the thesis should place the literary text(s) within a specific historical and/or theoretical context, engaging with primary and secondary sources to establish this context for the reading of the literature. The originality of the project’s argument will likely extend from the connection that the writer makes between the literature and this historical or theoretical framework. Finally, the thesis should include an extensive close reading of the literary text(s) that engages with the work of additional scholars and/or theorists. The entire thesis should follow MLA format, except where that format deviates from thesis formatting guidelines.



Note: you must have taken at least one workshop in the genre in which you plan to write your project.

A project in fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction should aim for 40 pages with an upper limit of 60 pages.  Projects in all creative areas should include, within this range of lengths, an introductory essay establishing the literary context of the project and including a pertinent bibliography. The Literary Context Essay should be ten pages long and should place your creative thesis in the context of appropriate literary and generic traditions and theoretical approaches. Thus the essay will identify at least one literary tradition or generic category (e.g. Jewish fiction, confessional poetry, satire, fairy tales, fantasy, experimental fiction, magical realism) as well as a few writers working in that tradition, and describe how the work already done in that tradition informs your understanding of your creative project. The essay should also incorporate appropriate theory and scholarship into this discussion. What are the main arguments of relevant theorists and scholars? How do those arguments help you understand your work? How does your work address or reject their concerns? Please attempt to balance the content of your essay so that you discuss your work, the literary context, and the theoretical context in equal measure.

Sample Context Essay: Fiction

Sample Context Essay: Nonfiction