History And Literature Harvard Thesis Statement

History & Literature Prizes:

  • Edward Chandler Cumming Prize for the senior thesis of highest distinction.
  • Oliver-Dabney Senior Prize for a senior thesis of high distinction.
  • Barbara Miller Solomon Prize for a senior thesis of high distinction.
  • John Clive Prize for a senior thesis of high distinction on a topic in the field of Britain.
  • Perry Miller Prize for a senior thesis of high distinction on a topic in the field of America.
  • David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies Prize for a senior thesis of high distinction in the field of Latin America.

Harvard College Prizes:

The following prizes are described in greater detail (and their deadlines are provided) in the Prize Office’s online listings. Other prizes listed there may also be relevant to History & Literature students.

  • Kwame Anthony Appiah Prize: For the most outstanding thesis relating to the African diaspora.
  • Helen Choate Bell Prize: A prize for the best essay (5,000-10,000 words) on a subject in American literature.
  • Lillian Bell Prize in History: Awarded to a student for the best paper on the Holocaust or other major twentieth-century event involving human tragedy. 
  • Boston Ruskin Prize: A prize for the best essay on the life, work, or interests of John Ruskin. The “interests of John Ruskin,” as revealed in his writing, include the following: aesthetics, medieval and renaissance culture, Romantic and Victorian literature, and Greek myths. 
  • Bowdoin Prize for Undergraduates: Open to all undergraduates who are residents at the University, for essays on any subject (no more than 7,500 words, including notes and references). 
  • The Class of 1955/Robert T. Coolidge Undergraduate Thesis Prize in Medieval Studies: A prize for the best senior thesis on any topic in Medieval Studies. 
  • The Eugene R. Cummings Senior Thesis Prize in LGBT Studies: A prize for the best thesis on a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender Studies topic from any department or program at Harvard. The thesis should focus on LGBT subject matter, rather than touching on LGBT issues tangentially. 
  • Luisa Vidal de Villasante Award: Awarded by the Department of Comparative Literature for the best essay by a student, graduate or undergraduate, on any subject in the field of Comparative Literature; preference is given to subjects dealing in some way with Spanish Literature and/or language, either in themselves or in relation to other literature and/or languages.
  • Senior Thesis Prize in Ethnicity, Migration, and Rights: This prize recognizes the best senior thesis on the topics of ethnicity, human rights, indigeneity, and migration, including but not limited to theses on topics in Asian American Studies, Latino Studies, and Native American Studies. 
  • Reverend Peter J. Gomes Prize in Religion and Ethnicity: A prize awarded annually to the Harvard College senior who has demonstrated social responsibility through public service and potential for distinguished contributions to the public good. 
  • James R. and Isabel D. Hammond Prize: A prize awarded for the best Harvard undergraduate senior honors thesis related to Spanish-speaking Latin America. 
  • Thomas T. Hoopes Prize: Multiple prizes awarded to outstanding senior theses. 
  • Kathryn Ann Huggins Prize: For the most outstanding thesis on a topic relating to African American life, history, or culture.
  • Joan Morthland Hutchins Thesis Prize in Latino Studies: For the best thesis on a subject concerning Latinos (either recent immigrants or established communities of Latin American descent in the United States). 
  • Dorothy Hicks Lee Prize: For an outstanding thesis on African American literature. 
  • Jonathan M. Levin Prize for Teaching and Social Justice: An award to the most promising undergraduate who intends to become a public school teacher.
  • Kenneth Maxwell Thesis Prize in Brazilian Studies:  A prize for the best Harvard College senior thesis on a subject related to Brazil.
  • The Committee on Medieval Studies Undergraduate Essay Prize: A prize for the best paper on any topic in Medieval Studies by a student in Harvard College. 
  • The Noma-Reischauer Prize in Japanese Studies: A prize for the best undergraduate essay on a Japan-related topic.
  • Norton Writer’s Prize: For an outstanding essay (1,000– 3,000 words) written by an undergraduate; any excellent writing done for an undergraduate writing class will be considered (national competition). 
  • Winthrop Sargent Prize: A prize for the best essay on Shakespeare, no longer than 20–25 double-spaced pages (not including endnotes). 
  • Philippe Wamba Prize: For the best senior thesis in African Studies. 
  • Selma and Lewis Weinstein Prize in Jewish Studies: Awarded to the Harvard College student with the best essay on a Jewish theme.

Who can give me advice about my academic plans?

Your tutor is your main academic adviser in the concentration. In addition, all students are welcome to meet with the Director of Studies, Associate Director of Studies, and the Assistant Directors of Studies at any time.

Who teaches in History & Literature?

Browse the History & Literature faculty profiles, which include tutors’ fields, research interests, publications, office hours, and contact information.

Who reviews and approves my course selections each semester?

History & Literature concentrators discuss course selections with their academic advisers at the beginning of each semester, and after that conversation advisers approve their students' course selections. In addition, students in the spring semester of the sophomore year and the fall semester of the junior year also discuss their plans with a member of the Committee on Instruction. 

Can I change fields?

Yes! Every year a few History & Literature concentrators change fields. Contact one of the Assistant Directors of Studies to discuss your planned change.

Who should I speak to about problems with my Advising Report in my.harvard?

The Assistant Directors of Studies would be happy to help! Over the summer, the Assistant Directors of Studies review the transcripts of rising juniors and seniors, and they can check to make sure that the Advising Report is working properly.

If I believe a course that is not specifically listed ought to count toward a particular requirement, what should I do?

If there is a course not on the Courses that Count that you wish to count for credit in your Field of Study, you are welcome to submit a Petition to the Committee on Instruction. 

Can I count a Freshman Seminar toward a requirement in History and Literature?

Yes, but you must petition the course and submit the syllabus. Because freshman seminars are graded SAT or UNSAT, it will not factor in your concentration grade point average.

If I take more than the required courses in my field, can I choose which ones count for concentration credit?

No. All courses that are listed for your field on the list of Courses that Count will be marked as concentration courses on your transcript and will be used in the calculation of your concentration grade point average.

How can I complete History & Literature's language requirement?

History & Literature's language requirement (which is distinct from the College's foreign language requirement) asks our students to work towards reading proficiency in another language.  This requirement can be fulfilled in a number of ways, including literature courses in which the readings are done in the target language, tutorial-based language classes, or the completion of a language citation.  For further information about how to complete this requirement, you can consult the Language Requirement page or get in touch with the Associate Director of Studies.

How can I arrange an independent study within History & Literature?

With the permission of the Director of Studies, and staff permitting, HL91: Individual Reading and Research courses on selected topics in History & Literature can be arranged. These courses must be taken for a letter grade.

What if I have concerns about tutorial?

History & Literature tutors are eager to hear your feedback about tutorials, and they are open to your suggestions for changes and improvements. In addition, feel free to contact the Director of Studies regarding any questions or concerns.

Can courses “double count” to meet both Gen Ed and History & Literature requirements?

Yes. There is no limit to the number of courses that can count for both Gen Ed and concentration requirements.

Can courses “double count” to meet both History & Literature and secondary field requirements?

Yes, but only one course can count for both secondary field and concentration credit. 

If I get a C+ or lower, will the course count for History & Literature?

Yes, but your concentration GPA needs to be a 3.0 or above in order to be a candidate for honors in the concentration.

As a transfer student from another college, can I receive any credit toward degree requirements in History & Literature for previous course work?

Yes! You will receive credit toward fulfillment of requirements for those courses that are (1) approved for Harvard credit by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and then (2) approved for History & Literature credit through a petition to the Committee on Instruction; however, the grades will not count toward your concentration GPA. 

If I transfer into History & Literature from another Harvard concentration as a junior, can I get credit for a sophomore tutorial taken in another department?

Yes, this is frequently possible. Discuss your next steps with the Director of Studies.

My courses are intersecting in interesting ways, and I would like to hand in one long paper for two of my courses. Should I?

If you want to do this, you must secure your instructors’ written permission; in these cases, many instructors quite understandably require extremely ambitious papers, which are intellectually satisfying but time-consuming. Be sure to secure permission from both instructors before undertaking such a project. Be prepared for the fact that one of your instructors might refuse this request. Consider writing two different papers drawing on the same materials—an important intellectual exercise that is sometimes more satisfying than the one long paper.

Can I get credit for a Summer School course?

For a Harvard Summer School course, you probably can, but you will need to petition it. See one of the Assistant Directors of Studies.

If, because of a leave of absence or a term of study abroad, I am a second-term senior in the fall, can I postpone submitting my thesis until the following March by registering during the spring term “solely for the completion of degree requirements”?

The Registrar’s office does not allow this.

What if I need an extra term to fulfill requirements?

Contact your Allston Burr Assistant Dean.

Can I spend time abroad?

Yes! History & Literature strongly encourages interested students to study abroad. Students interested in studying abroad should first investigate possible programs at the Office of International Education, then meet with our Associate Director of Studies to discuss their plans. 

Can I have a joint concentration, combining History & Literature with another concentration?

Yes! Students may create a joint concentration combining History & Literature with another department or program if they offer strong intellectual grounds for doing so. History & Literature must be the primary concentration in any joint plan of study, except when the student plans to pursue a creative senior project. In that case, the department providing artistic training may be the primary concentration. Students interested in a joint concentration should discuss their plans with the Director of Studies.

Can I complete a secondary field as a History & Literature Concentrator?

Yes! Students are welcome to pursue a secondary field in addition to their concentration in History & Literature. Only one course may count for both the secondary field and the concentration. 

Can I combine History & Literature with a teacher education program?

Yes! History & Literature concentrators may also pursue the Undergraduate Teacher Education Program (UTEP). Students interested in UTEP should meet with the Director of Studies to discuss their plans.

What happens if I’ve been away from Harvard and the requirements for my field changed while I was gone?

Normally, you will be allowed to complete your work in History & Literature under the guidelines that existed when you entered the program. Contact the Director of Studies for more information.

How can I find titles of previous theses?

Take a look at our Senior Thesis Archive, found on the right sidebar of our Meet Our Concentrators page.Here you'll find lists of prize-winning theses stretching back to 1983, as well as all senior thesis titles from the past few years. Recent copies of theses that won the Hoopes Prize are on a shelf just inside Lamont Library, and copies of all theses that received two (or more) readings of magna or above are in the Harvard Archives. You will find them listed in HOLLIS.

Does my thesis have to be interdisciplinary?

Depending on the subject you choose, your thesis may be primarily a work of historical research or primarily a work of literary criticism. However, all History & Literature theses should draw in some way on the interdisciplinary training students have received in tutorials. The more historical theses should always be attentive to the textuality (e.g., representational and rhetorical strategies, structure, genre, language, etc.) of historical documents, and the more literary theses should be attentive to the historical contexts and agency of literary texts.

Can I do a “creative” project for my thesis—a historical novel, for instance?

While History & Literature students are encouraged to think creatively as they research and write their senior theses, genres conventionally grouped under the rubric of “creative” writing—novels, plays, poetry—do not meet the requirements for the senior thesis. The senior thesis in History & Literature is usually a researched critical essay that demonstrates an argument through analysis of relevant primary and secondary sources, but joint concentrators may pursue a creative senior project if they receive artistic training in the other field of study. Students interested in a joint concentration should discuss their plans with the Director of Studies.

What if I can’t turn my thesis in by 4 p.m. on the due date?

The 4 p.m. deadline on the thesis due date is firm. There are no exceptions without a dean’s permission. Students submitting theses after the 4 p.m. deadline will receive credit for HL99, but the thesis will not be sent out to readers for evaluation and the student will not be eligible for concentration honors.

If I decide that I do not want to write a thesis, what do I do?

If a concentrator does not complete the senior thesis or does not receive an honors evaluation on the thesis, the Committee on Degrees will recommend that the student graduate with a non-honors degree in History & Literature. The student must still complete the course requirements for the degree. To receive credit for HL99: Senior Tutorial, students not completing a thesis must first secure the permission of the Director of Studies to withdraw from candidacy for honors and then submit two twenty-page papers (one each semester) or one forty-page paper (by the last day of classes in the spring term).

Who takes the oral examination?

All students in History & Literature who are eligible for an honors degree recommendation, have completed a thesis, and have a concentration GPA of at least 3.0 take oral examinations at the end of their final semester. 

Does History & Literature count final term senior grades in the calculation of honors?

Final term course grades are not available in time to be included in honors calculations by the History & Literature concentration. The College, however, will include these grades in calculating your College honors. 

Can I designate which courses are included in the calculation for honors?

No. The grades of all listed courses will count except those taken at another institution and summer school courses not taken at Harvard or on a Harvard program.

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