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The Honors Program in English

by Chris Thomas — Posted Oct 14, 2015 11:14 AM

Marcy North or Xiaoye You
128 Ritenour Building
(814) 863-4533 and

The Honors Program in English provides the opportunity for accomplished and ambitious students to broaden and deepen their literary understanding, rhetorical skills, and creative potential through seminars and individual study.  Students take three Honors Seminars and write a Senior Honors Thesis under faculty supervision.

Required Courses:

This program formally consists of twelve credits of Honors work in English to be arranged in the following manner:  nine credits of M-level seminars within the English Department (the equivalent of 400-level courses) and three credits of English 494H (Honors Thesis in English).   M-level seminars and 494H fulfill the 400-level distribution requirements for the major; every year, the department offers a variety of M-level seminars, two or three of which fulfill specific English major literary period requirements or the diversity requirement. The Honors program does not require a student to take more credits than designated for the Major or Minor in English; it merely asks that twelve of those required credits be Honors courses.  Undergraduates can fulfill the requirements for Honors in conjunction with any other emphasis (such as Creative Writing) offered by the Department.

Recent M-level seminar topics include The Historical Novel, The Victorian Underground, Post-Racial America?, Artists and Authors, The Story Only You Can Tell, Shakespeare and 1940s War Films, Writing Revolution, and Creative Writing and Writing Creatively.

The Honors Thesis in English:

All English honors students complete a significant piece of scholarship or creative writing, usually in the summer before and fall of the senior year, and submit this thesis to Schreyer Honors College in April of the senior year.  Students work closely with faculty supervisors in planning, writing, and revising their theses.  English honors theses should be ambitious, well-researched, in-depth studies of a carefully focused topic of the student’s choosing OR (with support of appropriate faculty) sophisticated, well-developed, and carefully honed creative projects that demonstrate the student’s increasing mastery of his or her creative genre. Specific guidelines can be found in the link below.  Recent award-winning theses include a study of Walt Whitman and the natural philosopher, Lucretius; an English translation of a Brazilian novel; a collection of short stories; and a study of technology in the writing center.

Honors Thesis Requirements 2015


Paterno Fellows and Gateway Admissions:

Students who were not admitted to Schreyer Honors College as freshmen can still aspire to become Honors English majors.

Through The College of Liberal Arts, the Paterno Fellows program allows ambitious students to earn admission into Schreyer Honors College by devoting themselves to high-level academics and to fulfilling requirements in ethics, communication, service, leadership, and global awareness.  After their first two years as aspirants, successful fellows are admitted into the Honors College.

Schreyer Honors College also invites very accomplished Penn State students to apply for Gateway Admissions.  Students must have finished at least one semester at Penn State, and they must have at least four full-time semesters remaining before graduation.   Applicants must have a cumulative g.p.a. of 3.7 and an application semester g.p.a. of 3.5 or higher for rising juniors and 3.7 for rising sophomores.  English Gateway applicants should have an A- or better in English courses other than ENGL 015, 030, or 202.

Students typically apply during the spring semester (applications are available in March).  Faculty members are invited to recommend freshman and sophomore students to the honors adviser, who will advise the prospective students on Gateway admissions.