In the spring semester of senior year, Wittenberg English majors will register for English 405: Senior Exercises, a one-credit course. Designed to allow graduating seniors to demonstrate their mastery of foundational concepts and skills in the major, English 405 consists of two parts:
* A written comprehensive examination, and
* An oral presentation at the Senior Symposium.
Because there are no class meetings for English 405, course credit is granted after the successful completion of these activities.
Critical Dates and Deadlines for English 405
TBA; Watch your e-mails for details
The Goals for English Senior Exercises
* To celebrate the academic accomplishments of our seniors.
* To encourage intellectual dialogue and community across the department.
* To assess the core critical thinking and research skills of the English major.
* To model academic engagement for younger students.
The English Comprehensive Examination
The English Comprehensive Exam is generally administered the third Saturday in January and is a four-hour long exam consisting of three parts. Part One will prompt you with questions about the common text for that year. This first section is open-book. Part Two involves close reading of a poem, short story, prose passage from a larger work, or an excerpt from a play. In Part Three you will address a broad “synthetic” question that will ask you to think of literature in a variety of examples across periods, nationalities, and genres. Senior Comprehensives will be held this semester from 9:00 AM-1:00 PM on January 23, 2010 in Hollenbeck Hall, Rooms 124 and 131.
The Senior Symposium
On Friday, April 23, 2010, senior English majors will each give a 20-minute oral presentation based on an essay originally written for one of their 300-level literature classes. The audience for each presentation will be a panel of three Wittenberg English professors, at least three other seniors who are also presenting, and any other Wittenberg students who would like to attend. (We assume that all senior English majors will be in attendance at panels other than their own). The faculty panel will have a chance to ask questions after the presentation and discuss ideas and reactions with the student presenter before assigning a grade. Although the choice of the essay is up to each student, the English department has set the following guidelines:
* The presentation must be based on a critical analytic essay (rather than a work of fiction, poetry, journalism, professional writing, or autobiography).
* The presentation must pose an arguable thesis about a work of literature.
* The presentation must include some close attention to specific passages in the literary work that support and illustrate the thesis.
* The presentation must include at least three scholarly sources discussed within the presentation itself.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I decide which of my essays to present?
The Coordinator of English 405, Professor Fitz Smith, will be offering an evening workshop for senior English majors on Wednesday, February 3 at 4:00PM in Hollenbeck 124 to help students answer just this question. In the meantime, think of an essay you’ve written in a 300-level literature class at Wittenberg that you have strong feelings about and would enjoy revising and polishing for the Senior Symposium. Your professor’s response to your original essay can help you judge its quality (although the grade on the essay will not be disclosed to the faculty panel at the Senior Symposium). You may decide to present an essay based on a class you’ll be taking the spring semester of your senior year, but keep in mind that the Senior Symposium falls several weeks before the end of the semester (when most research essays are due).
May I use an essay from a 200-level literature class?
No. We want the Senior Symposium essay to reflect the research and critical thinking skills that develop in upper-division literature classes.
How about a portion of my Honors Project?
Absolutely. But remember that the length of the presentation is only 20 minutes, so you’ll need to present only a portion of your project.
What do I do once I’ve decided on an essay?
The title and abstract will be included in a booklet announcing the topics of the senior presentations as well as their times, locations, and the names of the faculty panel members. All Wittenberg English classes will be cancelled on the day of the Senior Symposium to accommodate the presentations and allow interested students to attend.
What’s an “abstract”?
The presentation abstract is a carefully written summary of your essay that captures the main point you want to make about a work of literature and includes a correctly formatted Works Cited page. Although brief (no more than 150 words), the abstract provides a written snapshot of your project for your audience. Professor Hinson will also conduct a workshop on writing the abstract on Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 4:00PM.
Do I just read my essay at the oral presentation?
Probably not. The Senior Symposium is designed along the lines of an academic conference where scholars from various fields share their research. A conference presentation is based on a written text (rather than an outline or series of note cards) but not slavishly tied to that text. This means that presenters at the Senior Symposium should bring a more or less complete essay to the podium (which helps relieve some performance nervousness). But they should know their manuscripts well enough to look up from the page, make eye contact with their audience, and use voice and body language to make ideas come alive in the room. Think of it as a teaching opportunity, a chance to draw your audience in to the excitement you feel about the text you’re studying. We’ll schedule a workshop by the Oral Communication Center for you to help with presentations.
Will there be accommodations for students with special needs?
Yes. We’ll work with you (and your academic advisor) to make reasonable accommodations for any documented disability.
Can I invite my friends?
Absolutely, your friends are welcome. Also, the English department will host a party at the end of the Senior Symposium to honor graduating seniors and acknowledge their work in the oral presentations. We’d love to have friends and family members join us for this celebration.
Will I be the only presenter for my faculty panel?
No. Once we know the topics for the Senior Symposium, we’ll organize presentation groups based on similar themes, national literatures, or literary periods. In most cases, each presentation group will consist of four student presenters, three faculty members, and several other interested students.
What if I fail the oral presentation?
This is very unlikely—given that you’re presenting one of your best essays as an English major—but it could happen. The grade for English 405 is based on the average of the written exam and the oral presentation. In the oral presentations, each of the three faculty members will fill out a grading rubric (see below) and assign a score to each presenter. Those three scores will be averaged to establish the grade for the presentation. That grade will then be averaged with the grade of the written comprehensive exam to establish the final grade for English 405—which will appear as a one-credit letter grade on the student’s transcript.
Where can I get help with my presentation?
Professor Smith will be lead two evening workshops during the spring semester of 2010 and the Oral Communications Center will lead a third. The preliminary topics for the workshops are as follows:
* Selecting and Revising the Senior Essay (Professor Smith):
Wednesday, February 3, 2010 at 4:00 PM, Hollenbeck 124
* Writing the Abstract for the Senior Essay (Professor Smith):
Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 4:00 PM, Hollenbeck 131
* Tips for Presenting the Senior Essay (Oral Communications Center): To be announced.
You may also want to work with your academic advisor or the professor of the course in which you first wrote the essay. In most cases, that professor will be an excellent resource for you as you consider how best to revise and develop your original essay.
How much revision should I do?
That’s hard to say. In some cases, students will need to revise aggressively to fit a longer essay into the time limit of a 20-minute oral presentation (that translates to a 10 page manuscript). Some students may need to restage or reposition the essay’s thesis to make it more accessible to an audience that’s hearing (rather than reading) the essay for the first time. Some may choose to take the end comments of the professor who originally read the essay to heart and strengthen weak points, tighten loose transitions, develop new insights, or refine lumpy prose. Again, Professor Smith will address these issues at the first Senior Symposium workshop in February.
Am I required to meet with the professor for whom I originally wrote this paper?
No, but it is strongly encouraged. Moreover, you are encouraged to meet with your professor before midterm.
Am I required to turn in a copy of my paper?
Yes, you must submit a copy of the paper you plan to read to Professor Smith by 4:00 PM, Friday, April 16, 2010, one week in advance of the actual Symposium.