At the beginning of the third quarter every year, all seniors begin the process of writing a thesis by exploring a literary area of interest, coming up with an original thesis, and then writing a 15-20 page paper incorporating secondary criticism.
After the theses are finished, the senior thesis English teachers read the nominated essays (all anonymous) from each class and vote on the best theses. The English department’s criteria for a successful thesis includes seven elements. It must be: elegantly crafted and polished, original, well-developed and finished, drawn from a sufficiently broad variety of secondary source material, fun to read, reflective of the students’ sincere connection to the literary material and the investigation, and, finally, correctly cited.
This year, the winners were seniors Thomas Betts, Erin Bowen, Ali Meizels, and Benjamin Small. Their topics included Thomas’ comparative analysis of Ike McCaslin from “Go Down, Moses” and Huck Finn from “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” two Southern boys who are forced to contend with the corrupt and complicated nature of their patrimonies, to Ben’s exploration of names in “Sula” by Toni Morrison and “Apex Hides the Hurt” by Colson Whitehead.
Some seniors choose to write about books and movies that they have already watched on their own, but sometimes the inspiration comes from books they have read at KO. “The two sources that I used for my thesis were ‘Sag Harbor’ by Colson Whitehead and ‘Moonlight’ by Barry Jenkins,” Ali said. “I had read ‘Sag Harbor’ in Symposium and I had watched ‘Moonlight’ last year when I took a GOA Gender Studies class.” Erin said that she enjoyed writing the thesis, partly because it ended up proving wrong the assumptions she had made about the novel, “Lolita,” before reading it.
Throughout the long writing process, the seniors learned more about themselves. “[The] thesis helped me learn how to approach a big writing assignment and break it up into manageable pieces, which is an important skill,” Ali said.
The winners had some advice for the junior class. “Choose a topic you like,” Ali urged. “Everyone says it, but it’s true, if you’re excited to work on your thesis the whole thing will be so much easier.” Tom agreed. “I definitely enjoyed writing thesis a lot more because I was familiar with and interested in my topics,” he said.