Senior Exams

The senior departmental exam is an opportunity for you to reflect on your coursework and independent work in English. The exam, which lasts approximately 30 minutes, takes shape as a discussion between you, your thesis adviser, and your second thesis readerDuring this time, you are asked to think carefully and critically about your journey through the major — for instance by relating particular texts or archives you have encountered in coursework to your thesis, situating your own research alongside current work in the relevant field, and/or offering examples of the kinds of theoretical or critical frameworks that help you make sense of the questions that continue to animate your curiosities. As you think back on your course of study you are also invited to think forward: to formulating new questions and problems you hope to explore, or to refining your own description of the English major and what it values. The exam is at once an exercise in critical acumen and an occasion for thoughtful reflection. Before the exam , you will submit a reflection paper on your course of study in the English department. This 800-word reflection statement details your intellectual development, including (but not limited to) the relationship between coursework and independent work. This is an opportunity for you to consider what recurring themes have guided your choices over the last two years, what discoveries you have made, and what questions have stayed (and might yet stay) with you. The exam and the reflection paper together count for 10% of your departmental GPA (7.5% for the exam, 2.5% for the reflection paper). 

To aid your examiners, you will also complete a form that includes:

  1. a list of your English courses, including approved cognates,
  2.  your JP title, brief JP abstract (100 words), and the name of your JP advisor, and
  3. an account of any additional courses, fellowships, internships, or other experiences that are relevant to your work in English. 

During the exam, you should be ready to discuss your coursework and career in English. All majors — those writing theses of all kinds, including in creative writing and theater — will have the opportunity to discuss the significance of specific texts (novels, plays, poems, films, essays, works of theory, etc.), and to talk about the archives of critical and imaginative writing that inform their independent work. “Creative writing” inevitably involves research and reflection on the history and uses of literature, just as “research” inevitably involves attention to rhetoric, style, and audience. You should thus also prepare to discuss your thesis and how it stages an engagement with your work in the English department.