Senior Seminar

This site serves as an archive of blog posts and resources for ENGL 403: Questions and Methods of Literary Study, a Fall 2018 senior seminar at Dickinson College. It provides a space for students to reflect on the texts, contexts, and methodologies that we’ll be studying this semester. The site also houses a dynamic bibliography featuring each student’s exploratory reading list, part of the independent field work they will complete for their senior thesis. We hope you’ll follow our blog, browse the bibliography, and join our conversation. If you have any questions about this website or the course, please contact Prof. Sheela Jane Menon at


In preparation for English 404, this course will examine several important methods of writing, research, and analysis in literary studies. We will explore how critical conversations have developed and evolved within the discipline, and how they can help you shape your own research and writing.

Cover of Things Fall Apart

Our course will be anchored in a primary text – Chinua Achebe’s classic novel of African and World Literature, Things Fall Apart (1958). We will also read a selection of writing by a new generation of global writers whose work remains in conversation with Achebe’s. These include: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun (2007), Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go (2013), Chris Abani’s The Face: Cartography of the Void (2014), and Chinelo Okparanta’s Under the Udala Trees (2016).

Our reading and discussion of these texts will engage a range of critical approaches including postcolonial, critical race, gender, and cultural studies. We will explore how research has been conceptualized at different periods in history and at different junctures in the evolution of literary studies. Through a careful analysis of these theories, texts, and contexts, this course aims to strengthen your grasp of the history and current configuration of literary studies and related disciplines.

Remember, your Senior Thesis is not a year-long project, it is a year-long process. You will write your project in the spring semester. This semester, our seminar will hone your critical self-awareness as a reader, researcher, discussant, and writer. In other words, your work this fall will better prepare you to frame your interests and questions, conduct independent research, and begin to examine your thesis ideas in the relevant fields and through the appropriate methodologies.