Alexa Turczynski, Contributing Writer
Every weekday for the next week and a half, three to five of the 37 senior English majors will present their Senior Novel projects, their final task as English majors.
Having dedicated a semester of junior year to studying a particular poet for their Junior Poet projects, senior English majors perform a similar task with a novel. They will share the fruits of that study at their panels throughout the coming days.
“Each student chooses a novel not covered in class and—over the course of the semester—becomes an authority on its form, ideas and critical context by crafting a substantive and original work of narrative analysis and research presented in a public forum in April,” explained Dr. Debra Baldwin, this year’s Senior Novel professor.
Students choose the novel that most interests them from a list of titles given to them over Christmas break. From there, the work of sorting through the various information and sources on the novel is primarily left to the students.
“We wrote a variety of different essays on the novel, assessing the narrative and style as well as the action, and wrote annotated bibliographies. We also had several conferences with Dr. Baldwin,” said Halley Chavey, who chose All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren. “I chose [it] because when I picked it up I was immediately intrigued by narrator’s voice. He’s very conversational. I knew that I could definitely enjoy spending a lot of time reading his work and studying his character.”
Each senior’s choice reflects part of what he or she has taken from the English major.
“The most rewarding aspect has been exploring the beautiful complexity of my novel: comedy, tragedy, illumination, light, history, self-fashioning, love, friendship, family, grief, trauma, oh my!” said Elizabeth Lynch, who chose Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated.
Lynch’s love for literature has also carried into other aspects of her education.
“My favorite part of being an English major is the integrative education I’ve received,” Lynch said. “I’ve found that in nearly every class I take, my forays into literature and poetry give me a deeper understanding and a more synthetic approach to the knowledge I gain.”
The seniors find their experiences beneficial not only in academics but also in other areas of their life.
“The most rewarding and enjoyable aspect of the process has been in the discussions with friends who are fans of the novel, and the many readings of the novel that they take,” said Joseph Mazza, who chose Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. “Being an actor, I am grateful for my experiences as an English major, which have deepened my understanding of storytelling, story structure, and the characters that reside in the imaginations of great writers and filmmakers, which are then brought to life by the work of actors.”
Following the presentations, seniors will refine their essays into publishable forms by May.
“Several students have had their senior essays subsequently published or presented them professionally at conferences,” Baldwin said.
Before publishing, however, and after all their intensive work, the seniors present their essays to a panel of professors and to their fellow students. The seniors, as well as Dr. Baldwin, encourage other students to attend.
“The presentations are fun and interesting in and of themselves—but they also capture the heart of a UD education, which fosters independent thinkers,” Baldwin said.