Thesis Advice and Sample Theses

Folks, look in the blogroll for a pdf of the thesis advice I handed out tonight.

Also, you asked for copies of good theses from years gone by. See the samples in the blogroll under “sample theses.”

I’ll see Group A on Thursday. I want to know about your progress.

Thesis proposals

Your thesis proposals are due next Tuesday, March 10th.

Proposals should be 4 to 5 pages long (not counting bibliography). First, they should identify the sonnet sequence with which you have chosen to work. Second, they should explain the different approaches that you expect to pursue when writing about your sequence. Suggested focuses include but are not limited to meter & form, symbolism, the plotting of the sequence, its literary or historical significance, development of overall sequence logic, treatment by previous critics, biographical introduction to your author, etc. You should provide some discussion of ways that critics have approached your sequence — at the very least provide information about what sort of secondary source work you have identified (if not yet read). Finally, provide a bibliography of editions for your primary source and of secondary sources with which you will work.

Goals & Focus of Course

Welcome to the Spring 2009 senior seminar in Literature at Stockton College. The working title for the seminar is The Sonnet Sequence. As a class we will read four sequences: two from the Renaissance period, one from the nineteenth century, and another from the twentieth century. We are looking for ways to understand our texts as discreet units — sonnets — but also as complete works — sequences. How does meaning shift and play as we change focus between these literary perspectives?

We will be concerned with issues of form, as part of the course is reserved for mastering the structural and evaluative techniques of meter and form. Reading a range of secondary works will provide theoretical frameworks through which we will gain additional understanding. It will be our overall task to learn about the potential avenues of meaning offered by sequences.

Individually, you will choose and analyze a sequence of your own choice, writing a complex, rich, and intelligent thesis that engages with the scholarly debate surrounding your sequence and that clearly explains your own critical understanding.

Kinsella’s Senior Seminar in Literature

In the Spring of 2009, it will be my pleasure to offer a section of the Senior Seminar in Literature that deals with sonnet sequences. We’ll start with Renaissance sequences, first reviewing the development of the European sonnet and its early adoption in English by Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard. As a class we will read four to five sequences: a couple early, a couple more recent. Sidney’s Astrophel and Stella and Shakespeare’s sonnets are likely to make the cut along with Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese and Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Fatal Interview. I plan to have us read a decent selection of sixteenth-, seventeenth-, nineteenth-, and twentieth-century sonnets (the form was out of vogue throughout most of the eighteenth century).

We will pay special attention to form, using introductions such as John Hollander’s Rhyme’s Reason, James Longenbach’s The Art of the Poetic Line, John Lennard’s Poetry Handbook, or Paul Fussell’s Poetic Meter and Form. We’ll also pay attention to criticism. I have a number of academic studies in mind for secondary reading including Amy Christine Billone’s Little Songs: Women, Silence, and the Nineteenth-Century Sonnet and Michael R. G. Spiller’s The Sonnet Sequence: A Study of its Strategies. In part, the choice of texts will depend on availability and cost. Luckily a large number of early sequences have been reproduced from out of copyright editions and can be found on the web. You’ll see I have started to list some in the nav bar. Sometime during the semester we will treck over to PENN to see some of its Renaissance treasures. I guarantee the trip will thrill you.

After we have spent a about half the semester reading and studying sonnet sequences together, students will focus their reading on sequences of their own choice. The final product of this seminar will be a well researched and well-written thesis, around 30 to 35 pages, presenting a sophisticated, critical response to the chosen sequences.

Tom Kinsella