MA Supervision — including proposal and defence

Students who are interested in any aspect of American culture or literature, especially from the late 18th century to the present, or who want to work on feminism, gender or queer studies in relation to American texts or films, or who wish to write on American cinema, are encouraged to submit proposals for MA theses.

I also welcome students interested in genres such as the fantastic, the gothic/horror, melodrama, adventure or science fiction and students with an interest in cultural studies issues such as race, class, politics, or the postcolonial. Mémoires with a special focus on critical theory are also invited, as well as eco-criticism, neo-Marxism, and gender studies. Finally, students wishing to write about African American or Native American literature and culture are welcome.

Basic Guidelines for Mémoires

Your mémoire should be 60-80 pages long, and should focus on approximatively 3 main texts (max), and examine these texts in light of a particular approach or argument or issue. Following the Research Methodology course in Spring is strongly recommended. However, there is no single formula for how to write a master’s thesis — each one is original and unique and a reflection of your own interests and academic experience. It is possible to write a mémoire on a single text, if it is very long or very dense, and it is possible to write on more than 3, but you want to be sure you allow yourself time and space to do in-depth analysis and not just a rushed survey. The best thing is to come talk to me once you have some first ideas!

Guidelines for the proposal

The proposal should be the result of considerable research. In fact, once you have written your proposal you are usually ready to start writing — and the proposal serves as a kind of outline and foretaste of your introduction. The proposal consists of a section where you explain what you want to do and why and how — which texts, what topics, and what argument you expect to have. You can explain why you chose these texts and what you hope to show or prove. You should also have a breakdown of the chapters at the end of this section, with a paragraph or a few lines at least explaining what each chapter will be about. A timeline of completion — by when you plan to do everything — would be helpful. And the second part of the proposal is a complete and annotated bibliography of the books and articles you have consulted, with brief notes on each about what they were about and how important they will be (or not) to your analysis.

Guidelines for the defence (discussion) of the mémoire

The defence consists of a short (15 minutes) presentation by you of your memoire, but not so much the content and argument, but rather the process of writing it, including how you came to the topic, how you narrowed it down to your corpus, what challenges you faced and changes you needed to make as you were writing, and basically how the writing unfolded. Then you need to explain what you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the memoire, as you see them, as a reader of your own text. Not what you intended to do but what the result actually is. Then the expert begins with a feedback about the general strengths and weaknesses of the memoire, and they see it, and asks you questions, during which I usually interweave my own questions before finishing up with a general feedback of my own. You are welcome to use powerpoint slides for the presentation but it is not required. You are also invited to have an interesting and relevant image on the cover of the memoire when you create the final, bound version, but it is not required.