English Capstone: The Novel and Its Contexts

Duncan White photograph "The "Novel and its Contexts" capstone gives ALM students the opportunity to grow and develop as literary scholars while also considering the capacity of literature to reflect, reimagine, and even change the culture and society in which it is created. Together we will read brilliant and innovative novels from the mid-nineteenth century to the present moment, and think about how they shape, and are shaped by, the historical moment in which they were written and read. We will also explore the ways different scholars have approached the novel form as students prepare for their own specialized topic of study."

— Duncan White, Faculty

About the Precapstone and Capstone

The precapstone course prepares students to write their Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) capstone project. We read novels from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that both reflected and shaped the historical moment of their creation. In doing so we attended to the history and evolution of the novel as a form while also exploring the different approaches literary critics have taken to interpreting and analyzing works of narrative fiction. As we read these novels closely, we think about how they raise pressing social, economic, and political questions, consider their circulation and reception, and reflect on the role of representation, including questions of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. By the end of the semester, students are equipped with the critical tools to embark on writing an independent scholarly research paper for their capstone project in the spring semester.

The subsequent capstone course in the spring guides students through every step of writing their independent research paper. Building on the work done in the prior precapstone course, students work through the progressive stages of writing a research paper, incorporating peer workshop feedback, and skill-building exercises to help them produce work that reaches the high standards of an academic journal article. Students write proposals, conduct a literature review, develop theses and scholarly interventions, and work through multiple drafts, before producing their final capstone paper.

Capstone Faculty

Duncan E. White, DPhil, Lecturer on History and Literature, Harvard University

Course Links

Precapstone Course: ENGL E-597 English Precapstone: The Novel and Its Contexts
Capstone Course: ENGL E-599, English Capstone: The Novel and Its Contexts