Thesis Options

(1) a single document generally of 12,500-16,000 words (45 -60 pages), and no more than 20,000 words (80 pages, not including textual apparatus), presenting a sustained argument and generally broken into closely related chapters or sections;

(2) two article-length essays developing arguments on distinct but related topics, each 5000-6500 words (20-25 pages), with a framing introduction that addresses their conceptual, historical, or methodological relationship.

Thesis Timeline - Year 1

(1) Visit office hours of faculty you imagine as potential committee members.
(2) Submit preference form to Grad Coordinator by the last day of winter term.

(1) Arrange and hold “Program Meeting” with all three School faculty (no GCR required) on committee. At this meeting, you’ll determine faculty roles; discuss your topic and timeline; narrow your topic; and plan summer reading/research. The Program Meeting should ideally be held in the middle of spring term, but no later than the last week. It is your responsibility to contact all three faculty, by group email, to arrange a time and place to meet. Please begin this process several weeks before you hope to meet.

Thesis Timeline - Year 2

All Year:
Research and write thesis under supervision, as arranged, of committee.

Consult the email sent by graduate coordinator for deadlines for the defense schedule, etc. Study these deadlines closely, and discuss with your advisors.

Arrange GCR. See information under “Thesis Committee.”

Schedule and hold defense according to timeline for that year, as established by Grad School. You have six weeks from the date of the defense to submit the final copy of the thesis, with any revisions requested at the defense, but in no case can you submit the thesis after the last day of the term. Generally, the deadline dates for defense scheduling begin to appear in mid-April.

Thesis Committee Option 1 (Single Document)

Major Professor. The primary director, and the person you work with most closely. This person is typically an expert in the field you are studying. Once established, the Major Professor signs most of the forms you need to submit to the Grad School. The Major Professor reads all your drafts. Minor Professor (second reader). The role of the second reader varies, depending on what the committee determines at the Program Meeting. Some second readers read all drafts; others begin reading only once the thesis is advanced to a certain point. The second reader may or may not be a specialist in the field you study; often, second and third readers are chosen as much for methodological affinities as for specific expertise in the area you are studying. Minor Professor (third reader). As with the second reader, this person’s role varies from committee to committee. Often, the third reader enters the draft-reading process only once you have a near-complete document in hand. GCR (Graduate Council Representative). The GCR is a representative from a discipline outside our own. The GCR is not an “advisor” in the typical sense. Instead, the GCR looks at the final draft to ensure that it conforms to University standards, and attends the defense for the same reason. You are responsible for contacting potential GCRs, using the “Get GCR List” link from the Graduate School website. You may wish to review the online pages for each name on the list, looking for a GCR you think might have interest in your topic (this, however, is not necessary). Contact one potential GCR at a time, by email, giving a very brief synopsis of your thesis asking them if they’d like to serve as GCR on your committee. Work through your list until you succeed. (You can generate a new list if you exhaust your first).

 Thesis Committee Option 2 (Pair of Articles)

Advisor No. 1 and Director. The primary director for the first of your two articles, and the person responsible for signing your forms and ensuring the cogency of the entire document. This person is typically an expert in the field addressed by the first article, and is responsible for overseeing the project as a whole. Advisor No. 2. The primary director for the second of your two articles. This person is typically an expert in the field addressed by the second article. Minor Professor (third reader). The role of the third reader varies, depending on what the committee determines at the Program Meeting. Some third readers read all drafts; others begin reading only once the the-sis is advanced to a certain point. The third reader may or may not be a specialist in the fields you treat in the article; often, the third reader is chosen as much for methodological affinities as for specific expertise in the area you are studying. GCR (Graduate Council Representative). Same as Option #1, q.v.

NOTE: If your two articles are in the same field, you may choose to have only a single Major Professor, in which case follow the model for Option #1.

 Choosing a Topic

Some students arrive in the MA Program with thesis plans already in mind. Others only begin to formulate ideas after arriving. Both methods produce excellent results. You are not expected to have a definite thesis area and general topic (“digital rhetoric,” say, or “contemporary literature and theory”) until the end of your first winter term, when you constitute your committee. You are not expected to have a definite thesis plan until the end of your first year. Once constituted, your committee will help you plan the evolution of your area into a topic, narrowing your interests into a focused project. Faculty are always happy to speak with you about your interests, their interests, and the compatibility thereof. Use the following profiles, which provide a snapshot of areas of faculty advising, to help you know where to seek additional information.

 Constituting a Committee

The major resources for constituting a committee include:

ENG 514, which offers a broad introduction to research methods in the fields of literature and culture and rhetoric and composition. (ii)the faculty profiles at the end of this booklet;(iii)the courses you’ve taken;(iv)the Graduate Coordinator, who can help point you in the direction of faculty with particular expertise in areas that interest you;(v)most importantly, the faculty themselves, who are eager to help you succeed. Faculty are always happy to meet with you, both during and outside of the special designated week.

The procedure for constituting a committee involves submitting a preference form to the Graduate Coordinator. Your preferences should be guided by your independent research about faculty inter-est, by your coursework, and by any advice you wish to seek out from the Graduate Coordinator. As you visit faculty, please be aware that in some cases faculty may wish to hear more about a project before deciding if they feel the match will best serve you. In all cases, faculty are motivated by their desire to provide you with the best possible mentoring. If a faculty member is waiting to hear about an up-coming leave or sabbatical, for instance, or knows that other commitments may compromise the stability of the mentoring process, she or he may suggest alternatives in your own best interest. That said, advising students is part of the job description for all MA faculty, and you should not feel shy about discussing committee service with potential advisors.

Possible Committee Members

Anderson, Chris
MA Advising Areas of Expertise and Interest: Writing; Pedagogy; Autobiography; Literature in Translation; Religion and Literature; Non-Fiction

Harrell, Anna. “Believing Details”
Kleiman, Alicia. “The Infinite Margin: Living in Reading”
Knots, Less. “Inside, Outside: Light and Dark”
Inoue, Asao. “To Mend the Walls of Babel”

Barbour, Richmond
MA Advising Areas of Expertise and Interest: Early Modern Literature; Shakespeare; Historicism; Cultural Studies; Literature and Economics; Oceanic Narratives

Appel, Ian. “‘Present Fears’ and ‘Horrible Imaginings’: Gothic Elements in Shakespearean Tragedy”
Klinkowski, Autumn. “Geographers of writing : the Authorship of Aphra Behn and Daniel Defoe in Oroonoko and Robinson Crusoe”
Zinck, Jaime. ”Courting Elizabeth: The Virgin Queen and Elizabethan Literature”
Yaeger, Angela. “Immigrant Encounters: Film Narratives of the Modern Immigrant”

Betjemann, Peter
MA Advising Areas of Expertise and Interest: American Literature, Origins to Present (especially before 1925); American Art History; Material and Visual Culture; History of the Novel

Evans, Laura. “American Identity at a Crossroads: Cotton Mather’s Wonders of the Invisible World”
Butcher, Ian. “Radical/Domestic: Representations of the Professor in Willa Cather’s The Professor’s House and Vladimir Nabokov’s Pnin”
Hagan, Matt. “Codified into the Word: The Intersections of Language and Violence in Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian”
Larsen, Haley. “Bright Lights, Big City: Electrified Female Desire in Edith Wharton and Theodore Dreiser”

Bude, Tekla
MA Advising Areas of Expertise and Interest: Medieval literature, history of science, music and literature, medieval philosophy, literary theory, women's writing, manuscript studies, material history

Davison, Neil
MA Advising Areas of Expertise and Interest: Modernism; Post-Colonialism; Gender and Masculinity; Jewish Literature; Twentieth-Century Poetry

Kramer, Johanne. “George Bernard Shaw’s Big Three: An Althusserian Reading of Man and Superman, John Bull’s Other Island, and Major Barbara”
Tracy, Hannah. “Breeding the New Woman: The Eugenic Discourse of Motherhood in Shaw, Yeats, and Lawless”
Rathert, Greg. “Confessing Selves: The Colonial Politics of Irish Catholicism in Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”
Delf, Elizabeth. “‘Born of Ourselves’: Gendered Doubling and the Femme Fatale in Vernon Lee’s Ghost Stories”

Gottlieb, Evan
MA Advising Areas of Expertise and Interest: Eighteenth-Century and Romantic British Literature; Literary and Critical Theory; Cultural Criticism; Contemporary Fiction

Amelia England, “The Life of Things”: Weird Realism in Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads” (defended Sept. 2014)
Amy Kennedy, "“Running Athwart the Human: Queer (Un)Intelligibility and Animal Attachments in Justin Torres’ We the Animals and Mario Bellatin’s Beauty Salon" (defended Sept. 2015)
Emily Foster, "Reasserting Moral Boundaries: Representations of Fame in George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda" (defended May 2017)

Helle, Anita
MA Advising Areas of Expertise and Interest: Modern and Contemporary American Women Writers; History of Literacy and Pedagogy; Gender and Modernism; Feminist Theory; Archival

Maybaum, Lenore. “Traversing the Displaced: Incarcerated Women’s Writing Selves”
King, Michelle. “Revising Grandeur: Virginal Woolf’s Revisionary Strategies in Alice Munro’s Short Fiction”
Aragon, Rachael. “Re-Sounding the Soundscapes of Nella Larsen’s Passing and Toni Morrison’s Jazz”
Gratz, Kimberly. “The Power of Conceptual Metaphor in Diana Abu-Jabar’s The Language of Baklava and Birds of Paradise”
Simpson, Taylor,” Sexologist, What of the Night?: Inversion in Nightwood."

Jensen, Tim
MA Advising Areas of Expertise and Interest: Rhetorical Theory; Contemporary Composition Theory; Affect Theory; Critical Pedagogical Studies; Digital Rhetorics; Social and Environmental Movement Studies.

Brown, Nicholas. “Extending and Visualizing Authorship in Comic Studies”
Habet, André. “Reclaiming Voice: Enacting Social Dis-course in Belizean First-Year College Composition”

Lewis, Jon
MA Advising Areas of Expertise and Interest: Film Studies (Primarily American Cinema); Cultural Studies (20th Century American); American Studies After World War II

Yeager, Angela. “Immigrant Encounters: Film Narratives of the Modern Immigrant”
Allen-Spencer, Patricia. “Of Mice and Bunnies: Walt Disney, Hugh Hefner, and the Age of Consensus “
Scott, Ron. “Artificial Intelligence and Cyberpunk”
Foster, Brad. “Constructing Heroic Identities: Masculinity and the Western Film”

Malewitz, Ray
MA Advising Areas of Expertise and Interest: American Literature (1900-present); Science and Literature; Environmental Literature; Literary Theory; Digital Literature

Randlemon, Dan. “David Foster Wallace's Communal Middle Ground.”
Dodson, Matthew. “The Objects Within: An Applied OOO Literary Criticism”
Josten, Jon. “Conjuring September 11, 2001: Midwest Narratives in the Time of Death”

Olson, Rebecca
MA Advising Areas of Expertise and Interest: Early Modern Literature and Culture; Shakespeare; Word/Image Studies; History of the Book

Marie Wiley, "Genres at Play: History, Tragedy, and Comedy in Shakespeare’s Richard II"
Kristen Burkett, "‘Justify[ing] the ways of God to man’: John Milton’s Use of Satan to Promote a Christian Message in Paradise Lost"
Michele Bromley, “Monsters in the mirror: Literary Reflections of Mentally and Physically Deformed Humanity in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene"

Osagie, Iyunolu
MA Advising Areas of Expertise and Interest: Black Diaspora Transnational Literatures and Theories, Black Modernisms, African American Writers, Black Playwrights, Performance Studies, African Literature, Third World Feminisms, and Postcolonial Studies

Michael New, “Instrumental Voices: Experimental Poetry and the Jazz Tradition.”
Phyllisa Smith Derose, “Womanist Restorative Drama.”
Carissa Turner Smith, “Placing Religion: Twentieth-Century American Women Writers and Spiritual Geography.”
Timothy Robinson, “In the Presence of the Ancestors: Culture, History, Memory in the African American Novel.”

Pflugfelder, Ehren
MA Advising Areas of Expertise and Interest: Rhetoric and Composition; Professional and Technical Communication; Scientific and Environmental Rhetoric; New Media and Digital Rhetoric; Critical Theory

Gail Cole, "Principles and Practices in Online Writing Instruction"
Chad Iwertz, "Classified Bodies: Disability, Identity, and the Technological Classroom"
Wesley Snyder, "Public Proof: Science Communication, Weak Theory, and the Nonrational"
Nick Brown, "Extending and Visualizing Authorship in Comics Studies"

Ribero, Ana Milena
MA Advising Areas of Expertise and Interest: Rhetorics of race, women of color and transnational feminisms, migrant rhetorics, rhetorics of social movements, composition and literacy studies, multilingual writing and rhetorics, and rhetorics of citizenship

Sheehan, Elizabeth
MA Advising Areas of Expertise and Interest: Late Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century American Literature; African American Literature; British Modernism; Visual and Material Culture; Critical Race Studies; Gender Studies

Trowbridge, A. Hayley. "In and Out of Touch : Fabricated Histories in Nella Larsen's Passing and James VanDerZee's Studio Portraiture."
Barkley, Charles K. "'Her Hypnotic Eyes': Reading the Optical in Aaron Douglas’s Aspects of Negro Life and Nella Larsen's Passing."
Conway, Clare. "You better work : negotiating race, sexuality, gender, and neoliberalism in plus-size fashion blogs."

Nipper, Sarah. "Producing Possibility: Glimmering Alternatives in Willa Cather and Virginia Woolf."

Tolar-Burton, Vicki
MA Advising Areas of Expertise and Interest: Rhetoric and Writing; History of Rhetoric; Eighteenth and Nineteenth-Century British Literature; Literacy; Pedagogy; Writing Across the Curriculum; Archival Studies; Women’s Writing and Rhetoric

Robinson, Tracy Ann. “Charting Their Own Course as Writers: A Study of Writing-Intensive Students’ Self Assessment and Goal Setting at Start of Term”
Pajak, Zachary. “Picture This, Imagine That: The Literary and Pedagogic Force of Ekphrastic Principles”
Coffey, Marjorie. “Literacy Narratives Across the Curriculum”
Carothers, April. “A Circle of Response: Addressing the Tensions of Teacher Response to Student Writing

Ward, Megan
MA Advising Areas of Expertise and Interest: Victorian Literature; Literature and Technology; Digital Humanities; History of the Novel

Surface, Samara. “Adaptation Theory and the Lizzie Bennett Diaries”
Taylor, Corey. “Performing Education in Villette and Our Mutual Friend”
Cole Crawford, “Respect the Gap: From Big to Boutique Data through Laboring-Class Poets Online”

Williams, Tara
MA Advising Areas of Expertise and Interest: Medieval Texts; Medievalism in Contemporary Texts; Early Modern Texts; Gender; Pedagogy; Magic and Marvels

Tatom, Simon. “Fantastic Histories: How Malory’s Morte d’Arthur Influenced Tolkien’s The Silmarillion”
Brock, Christopher. “The Clerk’s Tale: Literal Monstrosities and Allegorical Problems”
Luepke, Natasha. “The Accessible Chaucer”
Harrington, Erin. “Intersections of New Historicism and Contemporary Theory in Renaissance Literature”
Fennell, Dalicia. “Life in (An)other World: Issues of Otherness and Magic in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series"
McLemore, Emily. “Willed Women: Female Bodies and Subversive Being in the Knight’s and Second Nun’s Tales"

Useful Resources

The Graduate School prescribes certain formatting for the thesis, certain deadlines for the submission of scheduling forms, and certain requirements for what you must do before and after the defense. All of this information can be found in the in the Graduate School's Online Thesis Guide.


1. Can a member of the MFA faculty sit on my committee?
Not typically, as MFA faculty have full workloads with students in the MFA program.

2. What happens if I am not prepared to defend by the end of the second year?
You may continue to pursue the degree (i.e. work on the thesis). Any funding you hold (GTA or scholarship) will expire, and you will be responsible for registering for a minimum of three credits per term (including summer), at your expense, until the degree is completed.

3. Can I defend in the summer?
Not typically. It is very hard to assemble all the members of your committee for a summer defense. Any such arrangements would need to be completed well before the summer, and include all parties, including the GCR. In practice, this is rarely viable.

4. Can I include a member of another department on my committee?
In some cases, yes, if that person possesses substantial expertise in an area relevant to your thesis. Please see the Grad Coordinator for procedures.

5. Why does the name of the School Director appear as my instructor for thesis credits?
In practice, it becomes too complicated to create separate sections of ENG 503 (Thesis Credits) for every advisor. Accordingly, the School Director is listed as “Instructor of Record” for those credits. This does not appear on your official transcript, and you should corresponded about thesis matters with the Grad Coordinator and your committee members.