Senior Project in Liberal Studies

Course Outline: Fall and Spring Semester 2013-14

LBST 400 Y13N01 (Nanaimo) & Y13X01 (Courtenay)

A. Introduction

LBST 400 is a six-credit course, running through both the Fall and Spring semesters. It enables students to write a significant thesis (8,000 words) as part of the Major in Liberal Studies. While the thesis you develop and produce as part of this course will be your own, the course is also geared in such a way as to offer you peer and faculty support to enhance the imaginative, research, critical, and writing skills needed to complete the senior project. The grade you receive in this course will come largely from the completed project itself (which will be evaluated by two faculty), but your participation in the course, the various submissions (topic proposal, bibliography, outline) and the final presentation will also be evaluated and counted in the final grade you receive (see below for details). The oral presentation takes place at the annual Liberal Studies Spring Conference.

No meeting times will be scheduled in the timetable (although you must register for the course if you intend to complete the senior project). A meeting will be held for all participants at each location (Nanaimo, Courtenay) in early October (details TBA): here you may discuss ideas for your projects, get peer feedback on your draft proposals, offer others ideas for their projects and ask questions about the course. You will also be assigned a supervisor, with whom it is your responsibility to discuss the project at regular intervals. It is highly recommended that students form study/support groups to help one another complete the project.

Before deciding whether to enroll in LBST 400, you should reflect on whether you are confident of your ability to develop and sustain a coherent project of this length, requiring depth in critical analysis, careful attention to relevant prevailing scholarship and creative contribution to the field. The key is to find a project that will sustain your interest over the course of two semesters. Feel free to consult faculty for advice.

The senior project is especially recommended for (though not restricted to) anyone contemplating graduate studies, as it presents a valuable introduction to the usual mode of learning in that context, from the demands it places upon one's initiative to the joys of completing a significant and challenging project. The project itself will be useful as a sample of your academic writing that may be offered in support of an application to a graduate studies program.

Some students may be completing a senior project towards a major in another discipline. The Liberal Studies Department may agree to treat a senior project for another department as fulfilling the requirement for the project in Liberal Studies. Students interested in this option should contact the Chair of Liberal Studies (Maureen Okun) as soon as possible in August to ensure that the necessary agreements are made between the two departments involved.

NOTE: All written submissions must be typed or printed: under no circumstances will handwritten submissions be accepted.

B. Assignments and Grades

Your performance in LBST 400 will be evaluated according to the following scheme:

Participation and Diligence: 5%
Revised Topic Proposal: 5%
Working Annotated Bibliography: 5%
Project Outline: 5%
Thesis Draft: 5%
Final Project: 60%
Final Annotated Bibliography: 10%
Presentation: 5%

Note: Your Participation and Diligence mark will be assigned on the basis of your attendance and contribution to the October group meeting, your ability to meet deadlines, and your interaction with your supervisor. The supervisor may assign specific tasks not included in the list below: if so, your performance in these tasks will be considered in the mark for Participation and Diligence.

Marks for the revised topic proposal, working bibliography, outline, and draft will be assigned on the basis of how complete and understandable the relevant document is.

At the end of the Spring semester, you will receive a single letter grade for the work completed during the year. All final projects will be evaluated by your supervisor and a second reader from the department.

C. General Requirements for the Senior Project

Whatever topic you choose to write on, it must be approved by your supervisor, according to the procedures outlined below, in order to ensure that your project can be completed and that it is connected to the Liberal Studies experience. As with other long essays, your paper should demonstrate independent, considered, and clearly articulated thought against the background of relevant scholarship in your chosen area. This means that it must present and defend YOUR views, justified by reference to, or by contrast with, prevailing views encountered within material covered in Liberal Studies and in any relevant scholarship. The essay may, but need not, contain an expanded version of some other assignment you have completed during the program, including the third-year Long Essay. In designing a topic that is appropriate for this assignment, you may wish to consider one of the following models:

  • Comparing and evaluating the contributions of two course texts that comment on the same issue (e.g., "Plato and Marx on the Problem of the Family and the Equality of Women"; "Hobbes and Rousseau on the Centralization of State Power"; "Shakespeare and Wollstonecraft on Freedom and Service")
  • Tracing the history of the "solution(s)" offered over time to some particular problem falling under one of the themes touched on in the program (e.g., "Notions of the Self from Sophocles to Nietzsche"; "Living in Diversity: Ancient Models and Modern Theories"; "Metaphors of Nature in Western Poetry")
  • Examining one of the issues encountered in the program by using the treatment given it by one of the program texts to illuminate a contemporary approach (including, perhaps, your own) to this issue (e.g., "Images of Women: Penelope in the Twentieth Century"; "Love in the New Millennium: A Metaphysical Conceit?")
  • A detailed examination of a single program text or some issue raised by a single program text (e.g., "Hobbes: From Mechanics to Politics"; "Images of Renewal in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight ")
  • Comparing, by reference to specific examples, the approaches of two different disciplines (e.g., philosophy, science, literature, sociology, fine arts) to some particular issue (e.g., "The Function of Metaphor in the Natural and Social Sciences"; "Understanding Human Nature: The Roles of Literature and Philosophy"; "Images of Love in Renaissance Art and Poetry")
  • A comparative study of how certain myths or metaphors have appeared in western culture in various forms such that when we compare two versions of the same story we gain insight into significant similarities from one age to the next (e.g., "The Transformations of Eve"; "The Modern House of Atreus").

These models are suggestions only . You are encouraged to come up with your own overall essay structure. As a guideline, please note that the teaching team will NOT approve topics that fall into any of the following categories:

  • topics that have no apparent connection with anything we have studied in the four semesters of the program
  • topics for which there appears to be insufficient research material
  • topics that are too slight to sustain a long research essay
  • topics that are too big to be treated adequately in 8,000 words
  • topics that no member of the department feels competent to supervise

Within this general framework, the choice of topic is up to you. We encourage you to be creative in your choice and to settle on a topic that is manageable and in which you can sustain an interest for the better part of a year.

D. Draft and Final Topic Proposals

Deadlines: Draft topic proposal due Monday, September 23, 2013; final topic proposal due Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The first stage in the preparation of your senior project should take place over the summer. You should be brainstorming and exploring potential topics. When you come back to VIU, you should have in hand a draft topic proposal, consisting of a paragraph or two describing the topic you would like to work on. It should contain the following:

  • A thorough characterization of the topic, including, for example, a list of questions that might be explored.
  • A list of texts to which you think your essay will make reference.

The topic of your essay will, of course, evolve. However, it must remain within the bounds laid down in your topic proposal unless agreement on the variation is obtained from your supervisor. The topic proposal must be typed, double-spaced, and handed in to Maureen Okun by September 23 (this can be done via an e-mail attachment). It will be used as the basis for assigning you a supervisor, who will make comments on the proposal and return it to you for revision. You are also encouraged to seek feedback from peers (whether in LBST 400 or other Liberal Studies courses). The revised topic proposal must be submitted by October 15 , after the group meeting which will be scheduled for a date before then (TBA), and it will be submitted to your supervisor (you will have a supervisor by this point). It must be then be approved by your supervisor (or else revised until approved) and will be the proposal to receive a mark.

Here is a sample draft topic proposal:

I propose to write an essay on the relationship between Wordsworth's political ideas and his poetic practice. What I wish to explore is the connection or lack of connection between Wordsworth's Romantic style in his lyrics and the political climate of the late eighteenth century. My main purpose is to try to understand better the notion of the early Wordsworth as a Romantic poet. Was he doing something quite new? Or was he bringing to a culmination some of the most characteristic features of the Enlightenment? How are Wordsworth's early lyrics informed by a political view already a generation old? In what sense is it perhaps rather misleading to see in early Wordsworth a decisive break with eighteenth-century poetic style and political thought?

The main focus of this essay will be on Wordsworth's early lyrics (especially Lyrical Ballads ) and the Preface to Lyrical Ballads . In addition, I want to consider some of Wordsworth's prose essays written about the same time. I will probably make reference to Pope's Essay on Man and, possibly by way of contrast, to Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France . Among important secondary works I shall consult are T.E. Boenhedd's Wordsworth and the Worth of Words: Poesy, Value, Action and I.M. Ajeenyoos' Po(e/li)tics: From Westminster Bridge to Charing Cross via Finchley Road .

E. Working and Final Annotated Bibliographies

Deadlines: November 4, 2013/April 11, 2014

An annotated bibliography is not simply a list of sources: it also contains an explanation, in each entry, of that text's relevance to the topic on which you are working. The explanation does not have to be long, but it does have to be accurate and must clearly indicate to a reader what the work in question is about and what purpose you intend to make of it in completing your project. The works themselves will form the background of research against which you will write your essay. You will likely emend the bibliography as you go further in the writing process, but it is important to begin with a substantial survey of relevant sources. This requires serious reading during September and October, as not everything you read may turn out to be relevant.

When you hand in the completed project, it should be accompanied by a revised and updated final annotated bibliography in the same format.

F. Working Notes

Deadline: November 25, 2013

At this point in the development of your project, you must give your supervisor a copy of your reading notes and any other written materials you have produced as you have been working. These will not be marked for content, but will provide your supervisor an opportunity to advise you on whether you are at an advanced enough stage in your work—and if not, on how to get there—as well as on the preparation of the next submission, the outline.

G. Outline

Deadline: January 27, 2014

You will have been meeting with your supervisor and peers during the Fall to work on refining your topic area into a manageable and focused project for your essay. The next step is to prepare an outline of the proposed essay, detailing the sections into which it will be divided, again for approval by your supervisor. The outline should contain the following:

  • The (at least tentative) thesis for which you intend to argue
  • A more elaborate re-working of the topic proposal that narrows it down into a focused thesis and is more specific about the questions you will explore and the works you intend to use
  • A detailing of the sections into which the essay will be divided, and the purpose of each section
  • If your working annotated bibliography has been revised, a copy of the latest version.

The following is a plan for producing a sample outline based upon the above sample topic proposal:

I intend to argue that Wordsworth should be regarded as a poetic conservative, in keeping with his considered political views.

Despite some evidence, both in Lyrical Ballads and in some of his more political prose essays, that Wordsworth in his youth was both a political and intellectual radical, a deeper examination of these works (alongside a comparison with two major contemporaries in the field of poetry), reveals the hidden reactionary behind the veil of innovation. This impression is even more strongly reinforced by comparing Wordsworth to Burke.

In order to support this view of Wordsworth, I will consider and attempt to refute two main alternative interpretations, that he is politically radical (Boenhedd) and poetically Romantic (Ajeenyoos), showing the fallacy in each of these views. This discussion must be preceded by a partial account of the political context in which Wordsworth was writing.

Introduction: explanation of topic and thesis (include some detail)

Section 1: The reception of Lyrical Ballads (1789)

an analysis of the responses (include some detail)

the political climate in England at the time, its relevance to the responses (include some detail)

a discussion of how the responses reveal less about Wordsworth than about the aspirations of those making them (include some detail)

Section 2: Wordsworth as a Romantic Innovator

a comparison with Blake (include some detail)

a comparison with Coleridge (include some detail)

fallacy of the Ajeenyoos interpretation (include some detail)

Section 3: Wordsworth as an Enlightenment Radical

Wordsworth's essays (including Preface to Lyrical Ballads ) (include some detail)

the political dimension of Wordsworth's poetical practice (include some detail)

Wordsworth and Burke: the reactionary revealed (including a refutation of Boenhedd) (include some detail)

Conclusion: Poetry and Politics (include some detail)

H. Draft Submission

Deadline: March 10, 2014

The actual writing of the essay should begin no later than January and should continue through the Spring semester. You will work closely with your supervisor at this time to guarantee that you complete the senior project before the final submission deadline. The first stage of this process is to submit a rough draft upon which your supervisor will make final consultative comments. (It is highly recommended that you get thorough feedback from your peers prior to this stage.) You may, with the agreement of your supervisor, submit more than one draft of the essay, but the draft the supervisor has in hand by March 10 is the last draft your supervisor will respond to in detail. After you have received this draft with your supervisor's comments, you will spend the remaining weeks of the semester completing your project for presentation and marking.

I. Final Submission

Deadline: April 11, 2013

The final submission date is final. It will be waived only on the presentation of documented proof of a medical or other emergency. The final annotated bibliography is due on the same day.

J. Presentation at Spring Conference

At the Conference (April 8-10, 2014) at the end of the Spring Term, you will be required to offer to your colleagues in Liberal Studies a short presentation of your project. You should speak for 15-20 minutes and allow at least a further 10 minutes for discussion.

K. Final Note on Plagiarism

Plagiarism is a serious academic offence and, under VIU's Student Conduct Policy, can result in severe disciplinary measures. Students found guilty of plagiarism may be assigned an "F" for the work involved or for the course. Plagiarism resulting in the failure of a course will be reported to the Dean and to the Registrar. Students committing a second offence may be suspended or expelled from the University.

Plagiarism is appropriating the work of another person (including the words, the ideas, or the language of another person) and passing it off as the product of your own efforts. To avoid a charge of plagiarism, ensure that you give proper references not only to passages of texts that you quote directly but also to ideas that you paraphrase, as well as to phrases coined by someone else and used by you.

Students should be aware that plagiarism is surprisingly easy to detect and expose. They should also be aware that faculty have at their disposal powerful Internet tools that enable them easily to detect passages which have been plagiarized from the Web and many other sources. If you are at all unclear as to what constitutes plagiarism, please speak to your supervisor.

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