Department of English


The English Honors Program

The English Department Honors Program gives our majors scope, during their senior year, for especially intense and independent work in English literature and language. The program begins in the fall semester with an Honors Seminar, limited to about fifteen students; all honors students are required to enroll in this seminar. In the spring semester, each student completes an honors thesis, a text written on a topic of their own choosing. The thesis is ordinarily an extended scholarly or critical essay, but majors in creative writing can submit extended work in prose or poetry as their thesis. While the fall seminar is intended to prepare and focus students for the in-depth work of writing an honors thesis, the possible topics for theses need in no way be bound to the seminar topic. Theses and creative manuscripts in the past have included "Seventeenth-Century Religious Poetry," "Star Wars," "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," "Angela Carter," "Ralph Waldo Emerson and Cultural Critique," "Motion: A Collection of Short Stories," and "Twelve Angry Wimmin: A One-Act Play" that was produced. All junior English majors are invited to apply.

Application forms are available in the English Department office, Morey 426. You may also download the application here or complete the application online. Completed applications must be returned to the English Department no later than Friday, February 27, 2015. If you have any questions whatsoever about the seminar, please contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Fall 2015 ENG 396 Honors Seminar: Loving Dido

Instructor: Hahn, T.
CRN: 42205
M 1400-1640

Many readers, from Virgil’s time to our own, have found Dido the most compelling, memorable, and sympathetic character in the Aeneid, Europe’s greatest epic. In the last decade or so, she has come into her own, as the center of avant-garde productions like Sascha Waltz’s underwater choreography in Berlin, Katie Mitchell’s multi-media event at the Young Vic, the combined opera-ballet at Covent Garden, and gender-defying modern dances by Pina Bausch and Mark Morris. We will begin with Virgil, and then compare his portrait to other ancient and medieval portrayals of Dido and her powerful / dangerous avatars (Homer, Euripides, Ovid, Augustine, lyric and erotic poetry of the Middle Ages). We will then turn to Henry Purcell’s opera (the source for Dido’s recent resurgence), and examine DVDs of contemporary stagings and adaptations, including notable performances by African-American divas, ballet, modern dance, experimental and political theater, satires, and Victorian pantomimes. We will then read some canonical literary portrayals – Chaucer, Shakespeare, Marlowe – compare literary translations from the sixteenth through the twenty-first centuries, review some recent popular novels, and engage with contemporary poetry and fiction from North Africa that addresses race, colonialism, and Eurocentric geopolitics. We will then turn to a number of medieval and later romances that elaborate the story of Dido, and introduce issues of racial identity. We will conclude by spending time with digital Dido, analyzing high art and sentimental through soft porn images from manuscripts through masterworks, to the internet, video games, cartoons, and animé, working with a visual archive several gigabytes in size. Class members will offer written responses and in-class reports, and produce a substantive final research paper.