Honors Program

The English Honors Program is open to students in English literature and in creative writing. The program provides a unique opportunity to pursue in depth a critical project of your own design. If you are thinking about applying to graduate school or professional school (such as law school) you will find the program especially rewarding. The Honors Thesis is a critical research project and typically runs upwards of 40 pages. If you are in the creative writing track, you may choose to include a creative component to accompany your critical thesis. Upon successful completion of a critical Senior Honors Thesis your USC transcript will record departmental honors.

Basic requirements:

  • Minimum USC GPA of 3.0
  • Minimum English GPA of 3.5
  • Completion of introductory English sequence (200-level)
  • Completion of at least one USC upper-division literature course
  • Be enrolled in, or have completed, ENGL 491.

There are several steps for admission to the Honors Program:

  1. File your Honors application in September.
  2. Submit a proposal for your Honors thesis in October.
  3. Enroll in ENGL 496 for the following Spring semester during Fall registration.
  • 1. ENGL 491 "Senior Seminar in Literary Studies"

    Enroll no later than Fall semester. Enrollment is restricted to twelve students, and we will offer three sections; each will be taught by a research professor focusing on a special topic:

    • Alice Gambrell, "Visual Writing"
    • Tania Modleski, "Becoming Jane Austen"
    • Elda Roman, "The Ethnic Novel"

    This senior seminar is open to all seniors, but required for students applying to the Honors Program. You must earn a grade of at least 3.7 in ENGL 491 to proceed into ENGL 496 (see below).

  • 2. Honors application

    Due in September 2015. The form is available in the English Department Office or available here. List your English courses, instructors, and grades (we will want to speak with your instructors). Attach your current STARS report, along with a substantial writing sample that shows your research and writing skills to best advantage.

  • 3. Project proposal

    Due in October 2015. If your application is selected, your next step will be to submit a 3-5 page proposal for review by the Undergraduate Studies Committee. In your proposal you will describe what you would like to do for your Honors Thesis, and identify several English faculty with whom you have discussed your ideas and who might supervise your independent research. You have all summer to think about what interests you, and you should start discussing your ideas now with your professors.

  • 4. ENGL 496 "Senior Honors Thesis"

    If admitted to the program, and if your proposal is accepted, and if you complete ENGL 491 with a minimum grade of 3.7, you will enroll in ENGL 496 “Senior Honors Thesis” for Spring 2016. In this intensive seminar you will meet with other Honors Thesis students. You will work independently, but under the direct supervision of two professors who will guide you. Your completed thesis will be graded by a jury of professors from the Department of English, and you must receive a minimum grade of 3.3 on your thesis to receive Honors, and finish with an overall GPA of 3.5.

    If you want to see what current Honors Thesis students are doing, you are invited to attend the public presentations they will be making in the Spring semester. Drop by, engage in stimulating conversation, and see if this program is right for you. You are welcome to attend even if you are just curious about the Honors Program for a later year.

    For additional information contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Professor Lawrence D. Green, lgreen@usc.edu.

  • Spring 2015 Honors Theses Presentations

    Thursday, April 17, 2015
    Taper Hall of Humanities 420
    2:00pm - 4:00pm
    Public presentation of Honors theses

    • 2:00, Eric Wendorf
      Thesis: "On the Side of the Flies: The Artists and the Fascist Crowd in Nathanael West"
      Readers: Professors John Rowe and William Handley
    • 2:30, Sara Newman
      Thesis: “Searching for Sylvia”
      Readers: Professors David St. John and Christopher Freeman
    • 3:00, Carrie Moore
      Thesis: “'Where There Is A Woman There Is Magic': Unconventional Black Women's Histories in Sassafress, Cypress & Some Sing, Some Cry
      Readers: Professors Michelle Gordon and Dana Johnson
    • 3:30, Nandini Ruparel
      Thesis: “The Ghosts of Our Pasts: The Creation and Dissolution of Identities in the South Asian Diaspora through Jasmine, The Namesake, and The Inheritance of Loss
      Readers: Professors Viet Nguyen and Karen Tongson

    Thursday, April 9, 2015
    Taper Hall of Humanities 420
    2:00pm - 4:00pm

    • 2:00, Sara Worth
      Thesis: “'Can it be reversed?': Thomas Pynchon, California, and the American Betrayal"
      Readers: Professors John Rowe and William Handley
    • 2:30, Orli Robin
      Thesis: “Liberating Spirit and Spirituality: An Aesthetic of Redemption in Jean Toomer's Cane
      Readers: Professors Susan McCabe and Richard Berg
    • 3:00, Kelly Belter
      Thesis: “A Family Affair: Magical Realism and Narratives of Multigenerational Trauma”
      Readers: Professors Aimee Bender and Richard Berg
    • 3:30, Sasha Pearce
      Thesis: “'Crude Conception': Milton, The War in Heaven, and the Origin of Evil”
      Readers: Professor Lawrence Green and Ross Scimeca
  • Spring 2014 Honors Theses Presentations

    Thursday, April 10, 2014
    Taper Hall of Humanities 420
    2:00pm - 4:00pm
    Public presentation of Honors theses

    • 2:00, Alyra Lennox
      Thesis: "A Great Mosaic-Like Whole: Intertextuality in Milton and Milosz"
      Readers: Professor Percival Everett and Julianne Werlin
    • 2:30, Gerri Gonzalez
      Thesis: “Thinking Time: Temporality and the Moment in the Victorian Serial Novel”
      Readers: Professors Kate Flint and Ross Scimeca
    • 3:00, Whitney Tolar
      Thesis: “The Burden of Memory and its Role in Storytelling: the Paradox between Representation and Reality though the Memoirs about the Vietnam War”
      Readers: Professors Rick Berg and Tim Gustafson
    • 3:30, Ryan Kindel
      Thesis: “City Animals”
      Readers: Professors Michael Du Plessis and David Treuer

    Thursday, April 17, 2014
    Taper Hall of Humanities 420
    2:00pm - 4:00pm

    • 2:00, Peter Figliulo
      Thesis: “From the Mountain to the Cradle: Existential Fiction and World War”
      Readers: Professors Percival Everett and David Treuer
    • 2:30, Betty Fang
      Thesis: “The Perks of Being the Wallpaper: The Phenomenology of Carceral Spaces in Literary Sites of Heterotopia”
      Readers: Professors Tania Modleski and Susan McCabe
    • 3:00, Michelle Khazaryan
      Thesis: “Paved Roads: A Cross-Cultural Exploration of First-Generation Bildungsromans and their Relationship to the Canonization Process”
      Readers: Professors Elda Maria Román and Karen Tongson
    • 3:30, Christopher Bautista
      Thesis: “More than a Moor: The Role of Double Consciousness in Othello”
      Readers: Professors Bruce Smith and Emily Anderson
  • Spring 2013 Honors Theses Presentations

    Tuesday, April 9, 2013
    Taper Hall of Humanities 420
    2:00pm - 5:00pm
    Public presentation of Honors theses

    • 2:00, Stephanie Ashley
      Thesis: "The Daughter’s View: A look at the works of Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin through Mary Shelley’s fictions"
      Readers: Professors Margaret Russett and Kate Flint
    • 2:30, Oriah Amit
      Thesis: "Putting Women on the Map: Rewriting Kerouac's mythological road"
      Readers: Professors Thomas Gustafson and Richard Berg
    • 3:00, Alyssa Arreguin
      Thesis: "Becoming One of the Joneses: John Fante’s characterization of an Italian American identity"
      Readers: Professors Thomas Gustafson and Dana Gioia
    • 3:30, Dana Horowitz
      Thesis: "An Ocean Between Us: Navigating hierarchies of identity in Caribbean literature"
      Readers: Professors John Carlos Rowe and Richard Berg
    • 4:00, Melinda Guilford
      Thesis: "Through the Eyes of Zora Neale Hurston: How fiction reflects, represents, and re-imagines social thought"
      Readers: Professor Michelle Gordon and Alice Gambrell
    • 4:30, Stephanie Nicolard
      Thesis: " William Wordsworth's Revolutionary Imagination in the Prelude"
      Readers: Professor Margaret Russett and Devin Griffiths
  • Spring 2012 Honors Theses Presentations

    Thursday, April 5, 2012
    Taper Hall of Humanities 420
    2:00pm - 5:00pm, for ENGL 496
    Public presentation of Honors theses

    • 2:00, Daniel Rios
      Thesis: "from Eden to Babel: Los Angeles Fiction and the Transnational Dialogics of Ethnicity"
      Readers: Professors Thomas Gustafson and William Handley
    • 2:30, Alysha Owen
      Thesis: "If the Glove Fits: The Martial versus the Marital Hand and the Importance of Hand Imagery in Shakespeare"
      Readers: Professors Emily Anderson and Rebecca Lemon
    • 3:00, Julia Cooperman
      Thesis: "Vigilant Virgins and Matron Martyrs: Literary Representations of the Chaperone in Victorian and Edwardian Fiction"
      Readers: Professors Kate Flint and James Kincaid
    • 3:30, Aishlin Cortell
      Thesis: "Beastly Women and Womanly Beasts: Animals, Lesbians and the Modern Subject in Djuna Barnes and Tanizaki Junichiro"
      Readers: Professors Joseph Boone and Akira Lippit
    • 4:00, Jace Brittain
      Thesis: "The Rest is Shweigen: German Romantic Translations of Hamlet"
      Readers: Professor David Lloyd and Dr. Ross Scimeca
  • Spring 2011 Honors Theses Presentations

    Tuesday, March 22, 2011
    Taper Hall of Humanities 420

    • 2:00, Cordelia Arterian
      Thesis: "The Male Fantasy: Authorship as superiority in 16th-century England"
    • 2:30, John Graff
      Thesis: "An Absolute is Reached: F. H. Bradley’s final problem as reconciled in To the Lighthouse"
    • 3:00, Alexandra Kretowicz
      Thesis: "'Don’t Dream It, Be It': The paradoxical tendency of countercultures to reflect the structure of mainstream culture"
    • 3:30, Victor Luo
      Thesis: "The Metafictive Dialogues of Identity in Libraries and Books: A reading of Jorge Luis Borges’ 'The Library of Babel' and 'The Book of Sand', and Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore"
      Creative Project: "Dragonfly Used Books and the Eternal Springtime"
    • 4:00, Caitlin Coyne
      Thesis: "The Modern Political and Social Implications of Christa Wolf’s Cassandra"
      Creative Project: "India Marone"

    Tuesday, March 29, 2011
    Taper Hall of Humanities 420

    • 2:00, Kelly Baron
      Thesis: "Staring Intently Inward: Sexuality and self-awareness in David Foster Wallace's Brief Interviews With Hideous Men"
      Creative Project: "Whenever You're Ready"
    • 2:30, Yu Sara Kanematsu
      Thesis: "Farce, Fools and Doctor Faustus: Pushing societal boundaries through Marlowe's comic tragedy"
    • 3:00, Tanvi Mirani
      Thesis: "South Asian immigrants and the Domestic Sphere: The Establishment of an American Identity in Jhumpa Lahiri's works"
    • 3:30, Lauren Perez
      Thesis: "Horrifying Hungers: Domestic space, consumption and women in horror fiction"
      Creative Project: "The Resurrectionist's Gallery"
    • 4:00, Cara Dickason
      Thesis: "Peculiar Women, Manly Men, and the Construction of Gendered Identity in Angels in America"
    • 4:30, Colin Dwyer
      Thesis: "The Beholder of the Eye: Nonsense and naming in Alice in Wonderland"
      Creative Project: The Sneeze that Fell Apart
  • Spring 2010 Honors Theses Presentations

    Tuesday, March 23, 2010
    Taper Hall of Humanities 420
    2:00pm - 5:00pm

    • 2:00, Alex Jestin Taylor
      Thesis: "Visions of Honesty: Kerouac’s Authentic American Myth"
      Readers: Professors Boyle and Gustafson
    • 2:30, Emiko Suzuki
      Thesis: "'its not despair until time its not even time until it was': Temporality and Experience in the Decay of the Postwar American South in William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! and The Sound and the Fury"
      Readers: Professors Gordon and Eggenschwiler
    • 3:00, Thomas Schaeffer Nelson
      Creative Project: "This"
      Thesis: "Whatever You Called It: The Fetus as Destabilizer in 20th-Century Literature of Abortion"
      Readers: Professors Bender and Johnson
    • 3:30, Sarah Vita
      Thesis: "Solving the Mystery of the Mysterious: Unearthing Philosophy and Identity in Detective Fiction and Thrillers"
      Readers: Professors Kincaid and Du Plessis
    • 4:00, Steven Philp
      Creative Project: "Whisper Room"
      Thesis: “'Woof': Chasing the Contemporary Bear"
      Readers: Professors Bender and Roman

    Tuesday, March 30, 2010
    Taper Hall of Humanities 420
    2:00pm - 5:00 pm

    • 2:00, Ashwin Kannan
      Creative Project: "Silver Tongues and Slippery truths: The voice of the delusive character"
      Thesis: "Unstable Irony, Display and Play: Rethinking satiric norms in John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces
      Readers: Professors Everett and Kincaid
    • 2:30, Kate Gong
      Thesis: "Big God Howled Like a Hot Wind: the Effects of Globalization in The God of Small Things and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
      Readers: Professors Nguyen and McKnight
    • 3:00, Kevin Kim
      Creative Project: "The American Scream"
      Thesis: "A riot by any other name is still a riot"
      Readers: Professors Nguyen and Iwamura
    • 3:30, Andrei Malikov
      Thesis: "Unsettling Laughter and Martin McDonagh’s Post-Colonial Ireland"
      Readers: Professors Lloyd and Roman
    • 4:00, Janet Thielke
      Creative Project: "Call You By Name"
      Thesis: "The Short Bus and the Soul Train: Physical and Spiritual 'Freaks' in the Works of Carson McCullers and Flannery O’Connor"
      Readers: Professors Wiggins and Handley

Undergraduate alumni publications pictured above:
Paul Legault, The Emily Dickinson Reader McSweeney's 2012; Becca Klaver, L.A. Liminal Kore 2010; Patrick Ness, Monsters of Men Candlewick 2011; Téa Obreht, The Tiger's Wife Random House 2011; Paul Legault, The Madeleine Poems Omnidawn 2010; Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls Candlewick 2011.

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  • Taper Hall of Humanities 404
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  • Los Angeles, CA 90089-0354
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