Skip to Content


Becoming a member of the English Department Honors Program means becoming a part of a small, intensely committed group of teachers and students all working toward achieving excellence in the related disciplines of reading, understanding, and writing about texts. Honors courses and the program at large place a premium on discussion, on sustained elaboration of ideas inside and outside the classroom, on conceiving of projects in complex and engaging ways, on learning to do research, and on presenting the fruits of that research in expressive, lucid prose.

Honors in English signals sustained, outstanding achievement in the undergraduate major.

To achieve a degree with Honors, a student must successfully complete the honors thesis and maintain a 3.5 major GPA and a 3.4 cumulative GPA.

Admission to the Program

Applications are accepted every October and February. Students may apply as early as their sophomore year though the majority of students generally apply during winter term of their sophomore year or fall term of their junior year. Students should take the English Major pre-requisite, English 298, prior to submitting their honors application.

Though the program occasionally accepts a few late applicants (i.e. students applying in the winter term of their junior year), admission is more difficult to achieve if you apply late. Your chances for success in the program are greatest if, before the first term of your senior year, you have taken at least one theory course (preferably Eng. 390 or 490) and begun thinking about a possible focus for your thesis. The application consists of a cover sheet; a transcript; a 800-word statement of purpose; and a writing sample.

Students interested in discussing their application can contact Professor Gillian White, Director, English Honors Program.

The Requirements

Click here for to download the Checklist for English Majors with Honors.

Students in the English Honors Program must maintain the major and cumulative GPA requirements, complete the general major requirements, in addition to:

  • A literary theory course, English 390 or 490. It is recommended that the theory course be completed in the junior year.

  • Two Honors seminar seminars (honors-designated sections of English 397, 450, and/or 451). It is suggested that these courses be taken in different semesters as the classroom discussion and reading and writing requirements are particularly challenging.

    Prior to fall and winter registration, you will be contacted by the Undergraduate Student Services Assistant with honors seminar information and registration instructions.

  • Honors students write a thesis of approximately forty to fifty pages during the senior year -- a project that is designed to be the single most important, most meaningful piece of work students undertake as English majors. Students write most of their thesis in two required courses: 495-Honors Colloquium: Drafting the Thesis (taken fall term of senior year) and 496-Honors Colloquium: Completing the Thesis (taken winter term of senior year). Students are guided throughout much of their senior year by a faculty adviser chosen early in that year.

  • The completed thesis is due mid-March of the senior year.

  • In early May, Honors students will participate in an Honors Symposium, at which students make brief presentations of their theses to interested faculty, friends, and family.

  • The English Department has an archive of past honors theses, which can be browsed in 3200 Angell Hall. You may also view past honors thesis titles (and electronic theses starting in 2000) on the department website at the English Department Honors Thesis Archive Catalog.

Study Abroad

Honors students are encouraged to study abroad for a term, when that study is academically feasible and seems likely to contribute to the success of a student's project. Those intending to study abroad should inform the Honors Director of their plans as early as possible, so that the curricula for junior and senior years may be carefully planned.

The Quinn and Wagner Awards

The Quinn Thesis Prize recognizes those students whose final thesis project exhibited strong writing and research.

The John Wagner/Ralph Williams Award for Outstanding Thesis is given to the student whose final thesis has been deemed the outstanding thesis for the year. This annual award is decided by the Honors Committee and includes a cash prize.

The Quinn and Wagner awards are announced at the year-end Honors Symposium.

The Wagnew Bursaries

Each year the Wagner fund awards two or three grants to help English Honors students acquire the materials or experience they need to complete particularly ambitious projects. Awards come from a limited pool of approximately $250 and may be used to help support trips to archives or other sites related to students' work; apply early. They may also be used to buy books or other materials not easily available but necessary to a given project. Applicants must first discuss their applications with the Director of the program.

Creative Writing Honors

Participants in the Creative Writing Sub-concentration are also eligible to achieve Honors. For more information on the Creative Writing Sub-Concentration, please click here.

Students wishing to apply should contact Keith Taylor, in 4179 Angell Hall.