Department of English and Philosophy


The MA Program   • The PhD Program

Graduate Research Topics

To give potential applicants a sense of research they might do in our department, below we provide a list of some dissertation and thesis projects completed by students in our programs.

Graduate students have written PhD dissertations and MA theses in a number of areas of English studies. Most projects focus on English or U.S. literature, and/or some aspect of literature or composition pedagogy. In some cases, where we have had faculty with relevant expertise, students with demonstrated qualifications have written on Anglophone and other national literary traditions, or traditional or newer forms of narrative (oral storytelling, film, graphic novels, and even video games).

PhD in English and the Teaching of English

The PhD integrates research in literature with theoretical and practical training in the teaching of literature and composition. Each dissertation contains at least one chapter or chapter-length appendix discussing implications of the research for teaching literature or composition. The list below is organized in reverse chronological order, by date of completion.

  • "'Come Out of the Woods and We'll Tell You Who You Are': The Protest Literatures of S. Alice Callahan, Charles Alexander Eastman, and Simon Pokagon" (2017)
  • "Parables as Didactic Literature and their Dialetic Motive" (2016)
  • "Completing the Picture: Bringing Instructional Design Into Basic Writing Pedagogy" (2015)
  • "Middle-Earth, Middle-Margins: Seeing Dwarves in the Shadow of Elves" (2015)
  • "On the Road Again: The Influence of Francis Parkman's The Oregon Trail on Jack Kerouac's On the Road" (2015)
  • "Reading the Rows: A Working Meditation of Agriculture, Nature, and Literature" (2014)
  • "Jane Austen in Postmodern Popular Culture" (2014)
  • "Transgressing Postcolonial Indifference, Recovering History: Women and Desire in Arundhati Roy’sThe God of Small Things, Ahdaf Soueif’s The Map of Love, and Edwidge Danticat’s The Farming of Bones" (2014) 
  • "The Caverns of the Heart: The Existential Themes of Nathaniel Hawthorne" (2014)
  • African-Arab Hybrid Identities in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Tayyeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North, and Hisham Matar’s In the Country of Men (2013)
  • “For the Future”: Consciousness, Fantasy, and Imagination in Owen Barfield's Fiction (2013)
  • “Fellow-Citizens With the Saints”: Mormon Conversion Narratives and the Rhetoric of Religious Identity (2012)   
  • Adapting Edward II: Eight Representations of Early Modern Sexuality (2012)
  • A Forgotten Face of Japan: Six Short Stories by Koda Rohan (1867–1947) with a Critical Introduction (2011)
  • “Passionate Struggle Into Conscious Being”: D. H. Lawrence and Creative Nonfiction (2011)
  • The Wise Woman in Postcolonial Works Of Magical Realism of the Americas: Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Cien años de soledad, Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima, and Toni Morrison’s Paradise (2010)

MA in English

The MA focuses on English and U.S. literary tradtions, and we encourage students to complete coursework in literature and/or composition pedagogy. The following list is organized roughly according to the project’s period or subject matter.

MA Literature Theses
  • Christine de Pizan’s Use of Irony in The City of Ladies: Shifting Boccaccio’s Reputation
  • Orality and Textuality: Representations of Discourse Communities in Langland’s Piers Plowman
  • Enter the Master Dissector: Metaphorical Human Dissection in The Revenger’s Tragedy
  • Eighteenth-Century Masculinity and Jane Austen: Modern Man Emerging from an Old Model
  • Context and Transcendence: The Ambivalent Nature of Wordsworth’s The Prelude
  • Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights: The Evolving Gothic Tradition
  • Definitions of Hope: Comparing the Language and Context of a Theme in Emily Bronte and Emily Dickinson's Poetry
  • Be a Man: Representations of Masculinity in the Civil War Literature of Ambrose Bierce and John William De Forest
  • A Rhetoric of Renewal, Imagination, and The Sublime: The Work Of Landscape in Isabella Bird’s A Lady’s Life In The Rocky Mountains
  • Personal Narratives With Parallel Purposes: Comparison and Contrast of the Diaries Versus Autobiography of an Idaho Pioneer Woman
  • Mary Richardson Walker and America’s Racial Project
  • Showdown at Rawhide: The Ed F. Winn Story
  • Discursive Riot: Silence and Subversion in Chesnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition
  • Voices From the Backwash: The Ignored, Forgotten and Silenced Sketches of Three World War I American Battlefield Nurses
  • Smells Like Faulkner: The Use of Synesthetic Smell in Faulkner’s Novels and Short Stories
  • E. E. Cummings, the Ambiguous Modernist: A Re-Evaluation of his Work
  • J. D. Salinger’s Uncollected Stories and the Development of Aesthetic and Moral Themes in The Catcher In The Rye
  • Nothing To Laugh About: The Effects of Humor in Heller’s Catch-22 and Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five
  • The Immortal Child: Jack Kerouac’s Search for the Sublime
  • The Evolutions (and Devolutions) of Salman Rushdie’s Narrators
  • Failed Hybridity: Creole Identity in Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea and Kate Chopin’s The Awakening
  • Examining Unclosed Wounds in the Biografiction of Sherman Alexie and Tim O’Brien
  • Images and Echoes: Memory, Imagination and the Mature Perspective in the Works of Harriet Doerr
  • Fact, Fiction, and the Literature Of Truth: A Study Of J. Joseph Mitchell’s Up In The Old Hotel
  • Empathetic Imagination: Perception, Aesthetics, and Ethics in Life of PI by Yann Martel
  • From Dissolution to Realization: The Interdependence Of Self And Place in Alice Munro’s Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage
  • The Immortal Child: Jack Kerouac’s Search for the Sublime
MA Pedagogy Theses (literature and/or composition)
  • Shakespeare and Pedagogy: “Confusion Now Hath Made This Masterpiece!”
  • The Effects of Author Sex on Students’ Evaluations of Student Writing
  • Connected Pedagogy: Building a Refined Constructionist Method for a First-Year Composition Course
  • "What Do You Have In Mind?" Using Contemplative Strategies to Elicit Thoughtful Writing
  • From Strawberries to Strange Cases: A Structural Review of the Pedagogical Canon
  • Encouraging Humanist Approaches in Higher Education Literature Classrooms
  • Balancing Convention and Change in Multimodal Pedagogy and Assessment
MA Papers (course papers, revised into publishable-quality, article-length essays)
  • Context within “The Wife’s Lament”: The Semantic and Stylistic Pulse of a Whole Poem
  • A Coexistent Realm: Medieval Imagery and the Feminine in James Joyce's Dubliners
  • “A Bag of Tricks”: Silence and Power in the Novels of Amitav Ghosh


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