About the 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. Upon successful completion of a critical Senior Honors Thesis your USC transcript will record departmental honors.

    • Minimum USC GPA of 3.0
    • Minimum English GPA of 3.5
    • Completion of introductory English sequence (200-level)
    • Completion of at least two USC upper-division ENGL courses
    • Be enrolled in, or have completed with a grade of at least A-, ENGL 491 (for English) or ENGL 492 (for NARS)
    1. Prior to the application period, begin thinking about your desired thesis topic.
    2. Submit your Honors application in the fall (usually in October or early November — an Undergraduate Studies Coordinator will reach out with the precise deadline each year). While once a two-step application, students now submit their project proposal and potential readers’ names at the same time as the other materials.
    3. If accepted, you will be granted D-clearance to enroll in ENGL 496 for the following Spring semester during Fall registration.

Steps to being admitted to the Honors Program:

1. ENGL 491 “Senior Seminar in Literary Studies” or ENGL 492 “Narrative Studies Capstone Seminar”

Enroll no later than fall semester. Enrollment is restricted to twelve students. For ENGL 491, multiple sections are always offered in fall; each will be taught by a research professor focusing on a special topic. For ENGL 492, 1-2 sections are always offered in fall (depending on need); through this seminar, students are supported during the process of completing their NARS capstone project.

These fall semester seminars are open to all seniors of the appropriate major, but required for students applying to the Honors Program due to the application prerequisite. You must earn a grade of at least 3.7 (A-) in ENGL 491 or 492 to proceed into ENGL 496 (see below).

In the foreground, a student stares at her laptop intently. Two students in the background converse with each other. The setting is the USC Doheny Library.


Typically due in October or early November. Materials are submitted via the Google form provided to students via email prior to the application deadline. List your English or NARS major courses, instructors, and grades (we may wish 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.

Two students parallel to one another type on a typewriter.


Project proposals are now submitted at the same time as all other application materials. Students submit a 2-3 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 before the fall semester begins to think about what interests you, and you should start discussing your ideas as early as possible with your professors.

An instructor is captured mid-instruction speaking.


If admitted to the program, and if you complete ENGL 491 or 492 with a minimum grade of 3.7 (A-), you will be granted D-clearance to enroll in ENGL 496 “Senior Honors Thesis” for the following Spring semester. In this intensive seminar you will meet with other Honors Thesis students and be supported by our Director of Undergraduate Studies during the process of completing your thesis. You will work independently, but under the direct supervision of two professors who will guide you based on their expertise in your topic. 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 (B+) on your thesis to receive Honors, and finish with an overall GPA of 3.5.

Previous Thesis Presentations

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, please contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies, whose information is available here.

  • Thursday, April 29, 2021
    12:00pm – 4:00pm
    Public (Zoom) presentation of Honors theses

    • 12:00, Jonathan Chang
      Thesis: “Quod Me Nutrit Me Destruit: Food, Community, and the Inversion of Nourishment in Early Modern English Witch Drama”
      Readers: Rebecca Lemon and Thea Tomaini
    • 12:30, Hunter Wilkinson
      Thesis: “‘Our Small Forever’: Law, Justice and Voice in Louise Erdrich’s Coming of Age Novel, The Round House
      Readers: David Treuer
    • 1:00, Ryan Fawwaz
      Thesis: “Girl of the Gilded West: Topophilia and Self-Reflexivity in Joan Didion’s Revised Frontier”
      Readers: William Handley and David Ulin
    • 1:30, Ryan Nhu
      Thesis: “The Work of Want: Interracial Desire and Contemporary Literature, 1962-2020”
      Readers: Viet Thanh Nguyen and Maggie Nelson
    • 2:00, Lucy Kenig-Ziesler
      Thesis: “Womanly Wiles: An analysis of violent women in Victorian literature and society”
      Readers: Erika Wright and Hilary Schor
    • 2:30, Sophie Hammond
      Thesis: “‘Their Own, Sometimes Subversive, Purposes’: Tipping the VelvetThe Persian Boy, and the Possibilities of Historical Fiction”
      Readers: Hilary Schor and William Thalmann
    • 3:00, Valerie Burgess
      Thesis: “Exploitation of Feminine Labor: How mid-twentieth century working class women writings engage and critique The Feminine Mystique
      Readers: Rick Berg and Brighde Mullins
    • 3:30, Katrina Coglitore
      Thesis: “Beyond ‘Little Brown Brothers’: Tracing Inherited Trauma Across Generations of Filipino Americans”
      Readers: Thomas Gustafson and Adrian De Leon

    For further project details, please read our Spring 2021 Honors Invitations.

  • Thursday, April 16, 2020
    12:30pm – 4:00pm
    Public (Zoom) presentation of Honors theses

    • 12:30, Jane Clark
      Thesis: “Ovidian Heroines Dismantling the Virgilian State in Early Modern Drama”
    • 1:00, Kanak Kapur
      Thesis: “Death Becomes Her: Melancholia, Secrets and Substitution in the Governess Narrative”
    • 1:30, Danielle Collins
      Thesis: “Rewriting Fate: Turn of the Century Black Female Authors and The Fight Against a Racialized, Gendered Destiny”
    • 2:00, Jason Collins
      Thesis: “Between Rational and Fanciful: Religion and Spirituality in the Late Victorian Bildungsroman”
    • 2:30, Megan Ritchie
      Thesis: “A Castle and a Con: Strawberry Hill and the Complexities of Authorship and Ownership”
    • 3:00, Michael Neely
      Thesis: “A More Perfect Union? Liberty Versus Equality in American Construction and Reconstruction”
    • 3:30, Lorea Mendiguren
      Thesis: “Fictions of Female Autonomy & Culpability in Romantic Literature of the Middle Ages”

    For further project details, please read our Spring 2020 Honors Invitations.

  • Wednesday, April 3, 2019
    Taper Hall of Humanities 420
    10:00am – 1:00pm
    Public presentation of Honors theses

    • 10:00, Anika Narayanan
      Thesis: “Bingeworthy: Temporality, Realism, and Consumer Immersion in Serialized Fiction”
      Readers: Brighde Mullins and Susan Segal
    • 10:45, Madeleine Dile
      Thesis: “Magic and the Perception of Humanity in Early Modern English Drama”
    • 11:30, Annamaria Sauer
      Thesis: “Narrative and Extremity”
    • 12:15, Katherine Coley
      Thesis: “From a State of Mutual Exclusion: Non-Native Women Writers and Representations of the Native American ‘Other’”
  • Wednesday, April 4, 2018
    Taper Hall of Humanities 420
    1:30pm – 3:45pm
    Public presentation of Honors theses

    • 1:30, John Broderick
      Thesis: “The Short Story: By Knockout”
      Readers: Elda María Román and Dana Johnson
    • 2:15, Marilyn Crowley
      Thesis: “Off the ‘Beat’en Path: Diane di Prima and Hettie Jones”
      Readers: Molly Bendall and David St. John
    • 1:30, Marina Zoukova
      Thesis: “Women’s Insanity Romanticized: An Exploration into the Portrayals and Implications of Insanity in Women in Gothic Literature in the late Nineteenth-Century”
      Readers: Margaret Russett and Tania Modleski
  • Wednesday, April 5, 2017
    Taper Hall of Humanities 420
    12:00pm – 4:30pm
    Public presentation of Honors theses

    • 12:00, Amy Hutto
      Thesis: “Lost Voices, Found Images: Intersections of Poetry and Photography in Stories of Marginalized Groups”
      Readers: Alice Gambrell and Molly Bendall
    • 12:45, Kevin Volkl
      Thesis: “The Crisis of Man in the Americas, 1933-1973”
      Readers: David Treuer, Anthony Kemp and Sharon Lloyd
    • 1:30, Allison Smith
      Thesis: “The News from Nowhere: William Morris’s Icelandic Landscapes”
      Readers: Margaret Russett and Devin Griffiths
    • 2:15, Constance Chan
      Thesis: “Rejecting Utopia: Representation of the Body in Chinese American Poetry”
      Readers: Viet Thanh Nguyen and David St. John
    • 3:00, Arianna Allen
      Thesis: “His War, Her Pen”
      Readers: Thomas Gustafson and Richard Berg
    • 4:00, Kathryn Kelly
      Thesis: “The Inevitability and Impossibility of Return: An Exploration into the Relationship Between Trauma and Literature in the American South and Central Europe”
      Readers: Viet Thanh Nguyen and David Treuer
  • Wednesday, April 6, 2016
    Taper Hall of Humanities 420
    2:30pm – 5:00pm
    Public presentation of Honors theses

    • 2:30, Luke Nunnelly
      Thesis: “Donne’s Doors: The Songs and Sonnets and the Subtleties of Huxley’s Mind”
      Readers: Rebecca Lemon and Joseph Dane
    • 3:15, Georgia Soares
      Thesis: “To See is to Feel: Feminist Symbols of Perception in Woolf and Lispector”
      Readers: Elda María Román and Beatrice Bennett
    • 4:00, Micaela Rodgers
      Thesis: “An Anxious Ireland: An Analysis of the Gothic through the Female Role in Sheridan Le Fanu’s The Purcell Papers
      Readers: Tania Modleski and Ross Scimeca
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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 Thingsand 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

Contact Details

USC Department of English

3501 Trousdale Parkway
Taper Hall of Humanities 404
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0354

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