Your final project for this semester will include a proposal for the thesis you’ll submit in the spring. 

The proposal will be two to three pages long, and it will contain four things:

  1. A strong and concise argument for the value of the argument you’ll make in the thesis. What’s interesting to you about the question you’re raising, or the hypothesis you propose? Why should this question/hypothesis be interesting to others, too, in the context of a larger critical debate?
  2. A summary of the most pressing questions and concerns you bring to  your thesis at this point. Can you see features of your idea or parts of the process that make you nervous? Can you think of ways the class could support your success in these areas?
  3. A list of texts that will be important for you, plus any questions you have in mind that might be answerable with further research. What literary text(s) do you have on your mind, and what theoretical texts seem most promising for their analysis? What do you hope to learn with further research?
  4. An introductory paragraph (or two) of your working draft of the thesis. As you reflect on the thesis in #1 and #2, above, you’ll also begin to write it. Draft the opening of the thesis, raising your central question/thesis/hypothesis in the context of a larger debate.

You may structure your proposal however you like, as long as it contains these four things. Whatever structure you use, you should use this assignment to articulate the ideas you want to discuss with me and the class as we do our draft workshops and conferences. A strong proposal will set you up well to get the foundation of your thesis in place before we leave for winter break.

A strong proposal will:

  • Identify the interpretive question you want to raise in the context of the texts you want to analyze. What do you want to try to understand better with the process of writing your thesis, and what literary/theoretical texts prompt you toward this particular line of inquiry? What keyterm(s) do you think will prove helpful, and how do you think you’ll use it/them?

This section of your proposal should demonstrate why you’re excited to write your paper, and why another reader should be excited to read it, too.

  • Reflect on any limitations in the knowledge you’ll need to write your thesis, and predict the ways you might strengthen your argument with further research. What do you need to know that you don’t know yet? Describe the terrain of literary scholarship you should learn more about to write this paper well—a term that you’ll need to define, maybe, or a critical debate that you want to discover?

You can think of this section of your proposal as a research plan. Name the primary and secondary sources that you already have in mind, and identify any holes that you might be able to fill with further research.

  • Describe the contours of your enthusiasm about this paper and raise any questions or concerns that you have about writing it. What excites you about your subject, and what worries you?

This section of your proposal is like a mini-letter to me. Be honest here about the way you envision the work you’ve done and plan to do.

Note that the best and most useful proposals get written after some preliminary research and writing. The brevity of this assignment could lead you to conclude wrongly that the proposal can be written quickly. On the contrary, those two/three pages might represent the culmination of many hours of thinking and writing, which will enable you to imagine the contours of your thesis more clearly.


Draft Workshops
On the day of the workshop, everyone should bring three copies of your draft of your proposal.

  • For Tuesday people: Tuesday, Nov. 13
  • For Wednesday people: Wednesday, Nov. 20

You can sign up for a conference here.


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