Cambridge University

Senior Thesis

Comparative Literature Thesis Models

Each Senior major in comparative literature defines his/ her thesis topic in consultation with the faculty members who teach the capstone seminars, Comp Lit 398 and 399. The subject of the thesis should build on languages, literary and cultural interests and/ or competencies cultivated in coursework at Bryn Mawr and Haverford or abroad. Although the field of comparative literature has undergone major transformations in the past twenty years, its abiding interests remain rooted in textual specificity (close readings of texts) and in intellectual and linguistic diversity. As befits work in this field, the thesis topic should be broadly comparative in nature. Given the broad range of contemporary scholarship in comparative literature, the senior thesis could entail one or several of the following models:

1.  A study of a critical problem as exemplified in authors or works from two different literary and linguistic traditions (for instance, a comparison of the disintegrating dramatic self in Eugène Ionesco and Tom Stoppard; gender relations in El libro de buen amor and the Canterbury Tales; the representation of AIDS in African and Latin American fiction).

2.  An exploration of generic or transnational issues in different media (for instance modernist poetry and jazz; Dante Gabriel Rossetti's Early Italian Poets and its illustrations; representing the First World War in poetry and film; trauma in film and the novel).

3.  A critical examination of a problem in literary or cultural theory or literary history (for instance, the “author function” in fictional and ethnographic personal narratives; the representation of gender transitivity in medical discourses and photography).

4.  A study and translation of a literary work or a critical examination of the cultural and ideological implications in translation (for instance, the role of Jewish translators of Arabic texts into Castilian and the invention of Spain).

Regardless of the model of comparative work adopted, the thesis should represent a well-rounded synthesis of relevant theoretical approaches; this will often be a synthesis of various theoretical approaches. Queer theory and trauma theory, for instance, might both inflect a reading of poets of the First World War; Foucault's Discipline and Punish and other works would allow for interpretations of writing under censorship in the Middle East or Latin America; an understanding of the use of tropes (allegory, irony) or satire might illuminate the narrative strategies employed in offering resistance to censorship; diasporic writers might be approached through theories of translation, cultural memory, or both.