GUIDELINES FOR FOURTH YEAR STUDENTS IN COMPARATIVE LITERATURE
The BA Project
You may fulfill the BA requirement in Comparative Literature in one of two ways. You may either write a long paper or you may do a translation and provide a critical apparatus to accompany it. Either way, your final project should ideally display evidence of your ability to read at least one language other than English.
The BA project should be approximately 30 pages long.
- Finding an Advisor
In choosing an advisor, it is a good idea to approach not only professors who study topics similar to the one you wish to write on, but also people with whom you have already studied and whom you find personally appealing. By the end of the first quarter, your faculty advisor must orally consent to advise your BA paper. It is your responsibility to report your advisor's consent to the departmental head and to your preceptor. If you experience any trouble finding a suitable advisor, please consult your preceptor as soon as possible.
- The Structure of a BA Paper
The paper should develop one overarching argument. There is a tendency among undergraduates, who typically feel much more comfortable writing shorter essays, to want to make their BA papers into collections of smaller papers loosely grouped around a theme. Resist this temptation! The BA paper is a unique opportunity for you to delve into your research more deeply than you have ever done before. It is best to choose a topic about which you think you could probably write approximately 15 solid pages. As you learn more about your topic, the amount you are able to say about it will surprise you! (We promise!) During the first quarter, spend time not only doing preliminary reading, but also talking with your preceptor and faculty advisor. They will help guide you toward a reasonably-sized paper topic. Do not be surprised if the first time you see your preceptor, he or she tells you you have generated enough ideas to fuel 8 theses. The second time, maybe you will have narrowed your topic down to 3 theses' worth. Keep narrowing and honing as you read and discuss your topic with your advisors.
- Requirements for Translators
If you are doing a translation, the translation may take up the bulk of your project. However, you will also be required to write a short (at least ten page) paper detailing some translation issues you encountered and how you overcame them. Translators must also have faculty advisors and should, by the end of the fall quarter, determine what they intend to translate.
- Choosing What to Translate
Pick something you really like! Ideally, your translation should fill a gap in available translations. You may wish to undertake a translation because of the deficiencies in available translations of a work or because the work you choose has never been translated. As examples, you may translate a short story, a play, a poem or poems, or a section of a novel. This list, however, is not exhaustive.
- Requirements for Translators
Whether you are translating or writing a paper, you must, by the end of the sixth week of fall quarter, turn in a short (approximately two-page) paper proposal to your preceptor as one of your assignments in the weekly Fall Quarter Workshops. After workshopping this proposal and receiving feedback from the preceptor, you must submit the proposal to your faculty advisor. The purpose of the proposal is to help guide your reading and research. You may get partly through your research and realize that you are actually interested in a slightly different aspect of your topic than the one you had originally planned to discuss in your paper. That's fine. You are not irremediably bound to abide by the proposal. Nevertheless, if you have articulated in your proposal where your interests lie, you will be better able to direct your reading.
Once you have decided on a topic, enlist the help of your advisor and put together an extensive bibliography. As part of the Fall Workshops, you must hand in to your preceptor a copy of this preliminary bibliography.
Translators will be expected to produce a critical bibliography during the second quarter (once they have finished translating). It is advised that while you are translating you not read other translations of the piece you are working on. Once you have finished your translation, you are encouraged to look back and compare your translation with other people's.
- Reading and Research: CMLT 29801 (Papers especially)
Begin to research your topic no later than winter vacation. Read about every aspect of your topic; even read about things that on their surface seem only tangentially relevant to your topic. Learn about the time period in which your authors wrote; learn about what they ate and wore; learn about the political climates in which they lived; learn about the literary traditions on which they drew. All these things will make you a more erudite person and will make your paper richer and more substantial. In short, read very widely; immerse yourself in your research, and become an expert on your topic. (It is also a good idea to take notes while you read).
- Fall Quarter Workshops
All students are expected to attend weekly workshops in the Fall Quarter. In these workshops, you will read about comparative methodologies and you will prepare and submit drafts of both the proposal and the bibliography. It is important that students complete their applications before or during Spring Quarter of the third year so that the preceptor can contact students about scheduling a day and time for Fall Quarter Workshops.
- Winter and Spring Quarter Workshops
It is expected that your first draft will be less polished than your final paper. However, the more finished a draft you can present, the better and more helpful the comments you will receive. The second draft should be a complete and fully researched draft, and must include editorial changes you have made in response to the comments you received at your first presentation. This is not - of course - to say that you must incorporate into your paper every suggestion you get in your first session. However, your second draft should demonstrate that you have read and seriously considered the comments of your preceptors and peers.
Obviously, the criticism you level at your classmates' papers should be constructive and politely worded. Also, we ask that you hand your paper in on-time so that others will have ample time to read your draft and comment on it carefully. Please proofread all drafts before you hand them in. (This does not mean pressing the "spell-check" button on your computer; it means printing your paper out and reading it through carefully to catch typos, grammar mistakes, etc).
- Concluding Admonition & Encouragement
Finally, writing a senior thesis should be an enjoyable experience. This task allows you to research and write a paper that will be beneficial to you. Should you consider continuing your studies at the graduate level, this paper, for example, would be a good candidate for the writing sample of graduate applications. Consequently, you should choose a topic that you will look forward to working on for the better part of your fourth year. Please remember that the Comp. Lit. faculty advisor and preceptors are here to help you with any aspect of your project.