Alex Harrington ’19
As the school year heads to a close, seven senior English majors look forward to their Honors Projects defenses, the culmination of a year’s work. The Honors Project is a yearlong, intensive alternative to a Capstone. Like the Capstone, Honors Projects can be an extensive work of literary criticism or creative writing. In case you’re interested in the Honors experience, The Words has the inside scoop on this year’s Honors Projects.
The Words’s own Zeena Fuleihan, a Creative Writing Major with minors in Music and Classical Mediterranean and Middle East Languages, is writing a literary fiction novel in three sections. Each section focuses “on a young woman who has some sort of ruptured relationship of home to Beirut, Lebanon in different time periods, from 1948 until 2012.” Further, the novel deals with “internal conflicts related to their identities as female, young, and in places of liminal home.” Fuleihan says she had always wanted to write about the themes covered in her work, and was inspired to follow through after writing a piece for Professor Marlon James’s Crafts of Fiction class.
Ally Moore is a Creative Writing Major with minors in Biology and Hispanic Studies. She is writing a “young adult novel about five juniors at an alternative boarding school in middle-of-nowhere, Vermont.” The narrators are “the new girl who chose the school over military academy and the boy who started mysteriously sleepwalking his first year there.” She adds that there is “magic,” “creepy greyhounds,” “unexplainable sleepwalking,” and “girls who street race.” Moore’s goal is eventually “to be a novelist with no day job,” so the Honors Project began with choosing which of her many project ideas to work on. She intends the chosen idea to be the first in a series, and she wanted to give herself the opportunity to fully set the stage for its intended successors.
John Ratz is a Creative Writing Major and Sociology Minor. His project is “about post-apocalyptic werewolves with fluid gender and sexuality.” The protagonist “is exiled from his community and turned into a werewolf, and must choose between joining the pack he falls in with or protecting people he’s known all of his life.” Ratz’s work centers on “werewolves whose biology is less stable than in traditional depictions,” explores “what the implications of these challenges are for communities clinging to survival,” and also has “pulse-pounding action.” Of the project’s origins, Ratz says the idea began as a short story written for class his first year and has been “lurking in the back of [his] mind since.”
Leon Swerdel-Rich is majoring in Classics and Creative Writing. He is “writing a science fiction screenplay about the purpose of dreams.” Set in a distant future where humans have harnessed “a marvelous energy they could only call the stuff of dreams,” people called dreamers “inherit dreams” and “work wonders.” The plot follows a storyteller who must fight off nightmares to “save humanity’s dreamers.” Swerdel-Rich has “always been fascinated by visual storytelling,” and became interested in experimenting with the medium “when writing screenplays in Peter Bognanni’s Literary Adaptation and Matthew Burgess’s Mystery Narratives courses.”
Spencer Fugate is a Literature and Classical Languages Double Major. She’s writing a project about “Syphilis and Sisyphus (or Classical Allusions) in Samuel Taylor Coleridge and E.A. Robinson.” Fugate chose the project because she “was charmed by the notion of attempting innovative readings of two eccentric figures in radically different social, political and economic environments.”
Libby Eggert, a Literature and American Studies Double Major with a minor in History, is “looking at whether the nature of war writing has changed as war has changed.” Her project focuses on Vietnam War and Iraq War fiction by American authors, and looks specifically at binaries in war. Eggert’s project began initially as an interest in unreliable narration; she knew she wanted to use Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, and her project evolved from there.
Liza Michaeli is a Literature Major and a Critical Theory Concentrator. Her project asks, “what is at stake in writing about the unsayable? How does suffering take place in language when the unsayable is submitted to analysis? What, if analysis fails… is an appropriate response to (the arrival of) the unsayable?” From the “crossroads of postmodern poetry and philosophy,” she is writing about “the exorbitant compromise involved in writing.”
The limits for what an Honors Project can be are sky high. Leon Swerdel-Rich says that “‘lostness’ is the aspect of writing” he’s been able to learn exclusively from his Honors experience. The consensus is that if you are haunted by an idea for a long term project and want to work closely with a professor to see it borne, an Honors Project might be for you. Honors defense presentations are currently underway, so look out for information about public presentations in the department. From all of us at The Words, good luck!