Final Project

The final project can either be a seminar paper or a digital humanities project (possibly collaborative) dealing explicitly with some aspect of the history of the novel in the long eighteenth century.

A seminar paper consists of a twenty-page (or so) original interpretive argument.  It should explicitly situate your thesis in terms of the larger scholarly debate on the issues and include up-to-date scholarship, whether on the novel generally or your specific author(s) and work(s).  It should be contextualized historically, but you are not limited to works covered in class.

This form of highly focused, linear exegesis is ideal if you hope to eventually present this work at a conference, turn it into an article, or see it as a possible dissertation chapter.  This may apply even you do not plan to specialize in the eighteenth century, if you choose a theory, method or topic related to your interests.  For example, students in the past focusing on early modern religion have written papers on religious representation in the eighteenth century, which helped them understand religious studies more broadly (ditto print culture studies). A nineteenth-century student might chose to focus on Jane Austen and domestic femininity.  Some students just feel like they need more practice writing in this longer, critical mode that will be so important as they move forward.  However, if writing a paper will not help your future endeavors, consider sharpening your digital skills with a project. Either way, make it a strategic choice; do not choose the course of least resistance.  See this article on deciding which medium is right for you.

Examples of paper topics (all of which need to be focused):

  • The function of desire in the construction of subjectivity
  • Reconsidering the romance
  • The English novel in the context of non-European texts, traditions or representations
  • Education by or in novels
  • The novel in print culture (a study of a specific bookseller; the effects of copyright law; title pages; marketing strategies, etc)

Please submit a prospectus (working thesis, description and preliminary bibliography) by March 28.  You are encouraged to talk to me in person before this is due.

A digital humanities project can take an almost infinite number of forms, although in line with its media it focuses more on making connections, representing information visually (eg, illustrations, title pages, maps, graphs), sharing or teaching, forming collections or archives, editing unavailable texts, providing contexts or linked annotations.  See this post for more ideas for tools.  A DH project does not necessarily require advanced technical skill or expensive software (if necessary, see the Student Technology Studio for help, or attend this workshop at ASECS—register there or through ASECS).  The subject can be wide-ranging or tightly focused; either way, collaborating will allow you to share skill sets and research, and minimize the individual time investment. (By the way, undergraduates are often much better about collaborating than grad students, with remarkable results!  See the Jane Austen sites below.)


  • An online edition of an unpublished novel or historical works relating to the novel, including an introduction that discusses the editorial choices you made and why you made them.  (Make sure you choose a book in the public domain)
  • Create a collection of works that help contextualize a or several novels.  Again, any works used must be in the public domain, including images.
  • Mapping: the geography in a novel or of the book trade in novels
  • Use a text mining tool such as Voyeur to reveal interesting things about language use:  Here is an historian’s take on text mining:
  • Participate in EEBO Interactions and write a short paper discussing your contributions and analyzing the efficacy of this tool: (this is more suited to those studying early modern periods)
  • Write a Wikipedia article (or series) on an issue related to a writer or novel
  • UPDATE: create and interactive text from an C18 novel with Twine or other platform
  • UPDATE: create a timeline for the novel/period with Timeline JS or other app
  • UPDATE: choose the right tool to use at Bamboo DIRT (review at ProfHacker)
  • More ideas and examples are bookmarked here or Google “student digital humanities projects”

Any of these, except perhaps the Wikipedia article, need to include a statement of purpose or an introduction to readers.

In lieu of a prospectus, please complete this Project Rationale form by March 28.  *Use your blog to discuss and share interesting projects already out there or potential projects you’re thinking of exploring.*

Below you can see examples of WSU student projects.  Please feel free to comment here with questions or ideas.

Best projects by students in past courses:

1. ENG 7021: The Eighteenth Century Media Matrix (Fall 10)

World of the Dunciad by Donald Naggie
“The purpose of this site is to provide a user friendly version of the Dunciad.  It is a selectively annotated version of Pope’s 1728 Dunciad in Four Books … [that]centers mostly on the historical places and personages that in a Dantesque fashion crowd its pages.  There are also some general explanatory notes and references to classical sources.”

The Beaux’ Stratagem: A Play Guide by Kristi Banks
“[This] play guide to accompany George Farquhar’s The Beaux’ Stratagem. . .offers a collection of information and resources that might help to illuminate the play. I have conceived of and constructed the site as a sort of dramaturgical or educational reference tool, offering a quick resource for information that may prove tricky to come by, or tedious to collect.”

The Development of British Children’s Literature in the 18th-Century by R.C. Thorsby
“The development of English children’s literature took huge strides forward during the 18th-century, especially in Britain.  This site intends to serve as a compendium of influential texts, authors, and scholars that helped shape the development of children’s literature during this period.”

Equiano’s World by Liz Goetz
A mapping of Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative. Clicking on the title downloads a .kmz file that requires  Google Earth to open.

2. ENG 7024: Rise of the Novel (Winter 10)

Adeline’s Journey:  An Investigation into Radcliffe’s Use of Location in Romance of the Forest by Kimberly Majeske
This site not only literally “maps” the Gothic, but it also collects period maps–and draws conclusions about the use of place in the novel.

The Tristampedia Project by Andrea Silva
This is an irreverent approach to reading and understanding this strange, quirky novel.

18c Architecture and Gardens by Claudia Ross
This site is designed to help students understand architectural theory and practice in eighteenth-century structures and gardens in order to understand the novels of the period.

3. Undergraduates:

Jane Austen: A Study in Film,  Jane Austen course (Winter 11): “>On this site you will find movie reviews on several adaptations of Jane Austen’s work along with some background information to help the viewer understand the world of Jane Austen”

Laughing with Jane Austen: A How To, Jane Austen course (Winter 11): “This website is for those who wish to indulge in Jane’s quick wit. It allows the reader to fully comprehend Jane’s remarkable satire and knack for creating humorous situation in 18th century society.”

Copyright, Copyleft, Copywrong,  History of the Book course (Fall 09): video examing the politics of copyright law

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