MA Literature and MA Literature & Composition Capstone Project

Capstone Description and Procedure PDF

The capstone (Alternate Plan Paper) project for the MA in Literature and the MA in Literature & Composition is a long-term research project that demonstrates your mastery of the research and writing skills you’ve learned in your advanced study, as well as of mastery of your chosen subject matter. Students may choose to write either a traditional academic essay or a pedagogical project.

  • Students who chose the traditional academic essay will conduct research on a literary text, author, or movement/tradition to produce an article-length essay (around 15,000 words). This generally means an insightful interpretation of a literary text, contextualized by an extensive review of existing criticism on the topic. The argument need not be groundbreaking (as in a Ph.D. dissertation) but should seek to join the critical conversation in a thoughtful and well-supported way. 
  • A pedagogical project should similarly demonstrate extensive research in literary analysis and pedagogy, applied to course design and instruction through lesson plans, classroom activities, and related materials. These practical elements should be accompanied by a cover statement explaining your goals and describing your use of ideas gleaned from secondary sources. 

Planning ahead : 

Your first steps should be completed before the term in which you want to complete the program. So if you want to graduate in summer 2023, you should start on these steps by the middle of the SP 2023 semester. (We recommend spending an entire 15-week semester or full summer on the project, rather than a short 5-week summer session).

  • Think of some potential topics and/or texts you could work on intensively for an extensive project. Many students opt to use a paper from an earlier seminar class as a starting point, but the capstone paper should develop that work substantially (this route can also make selecting an adviser easier).
  • Communicate with potential project advisers according to the topic(s) you’re interested in researching; pitch your ideas and have some conversations about expectations on both sides, including timelines. In general, the chronological and geographical subfields and faculty would approximately line up thusly (note that the faculty all have interests and expertise that are not confined by these kinds of boundaries, so this list doesn’t cover every possible type of project we could competently advise)

Literature Faculty:

  • Dr. Ed Avila – American literature (especially 20th-21st c.), multiethnic literature (esp. Latinx), cultural studies.
  • Dr. Kirsti Cole – rhetoric, gender studies, literary theory (various)
  • Dr. Danielle Haque – global literature, American literature (esp. 20th-21st c.), ecocriticism, postcolonial criticism.
  • Dr. Melissa Purdue – later British literature (esp. Gothic, Victorian, and Modernist), gender studies, animal studies.
  • Dr. Gwen Westerman – American literature, multiethnic literature (esp. Native American), contemporary poetry.
  • Dr. Liz Williamsen – earlier British literature (esp. medieval and early modern), drama, historicism, historical linguistics.

 Rhetoric and Composition Faculty:

  • Dr. Heather Camp – writing across the curriculum, writing, and community engagement.
  • Dr. Kirsti Cole – writing pedagogy, activist and feminist rhetoric, gender studies, and literary theory.
  • Dr. Sarah Henderson Lee – multilingual writing teacher education, literacy practices of immigrant and resident multilingual students, world English and composition.
  • Dr. Kelly Moreland – writing instruction, writing program administration, digital/multimodal writing methods, feminist and embodied rhetoric.

 Final semester: 

In your last semester in the program, you will complete the capstone project. Although ENG 694 is a 1-credit course, the scope of the project will require you to devote considerable time, so we recommend that a full-time student take no more than two other courses while working on the project.

  • Register for one credit of ENG 694 Alternate Plan Paper for the semester that will be your final one in the program. You’ll need to ask your capstone adviser to put enrollment permission into the registration system, and then you’ll register for the section number attached to their name.
  • Arrange a schedule of deadlines and meetings with your adviser for the capstone term, making sure you’re getting whatever guidance and prodding you’ll need to ensure your successful completion of the capstone. Try to stick to it, but renegotiate as needed.
  • Go read all the relevant things and write, write, write. 

Your particular project adviser will perhaps have a slightly different modus operandi, but you’ll find that out when you have your initial conversations.

Don’t forget to fill out the Application for Graduation and (later) the Recommendation for Awarding Degree and get adviser signatures. The DGS sends out a list of deadlines for such things at the beginning of the semester.