Multicultural and Transnational Literatures

Devoted to MTL at ECU and beyond

Reflections on the Thesis Prospectus

Planning a Thesis Prospectus

I prefer simply designed projects, especially for M.A. theses.  Pick a subject, identify the main criticism, divide the subject matter into three or four parts.  There you have it.  I like short prospectuses (prospecti?) that can serve as usable roadmaps for writing.

Ok, subject:  single author?  One typical pattern is X-Idea in the work of Author A, with three different books by the author providing the chapter divisions.   Or you have a single controlling idea with which you approach an author and find three different aspects of the idea or whatever.

I’ve been prepping to teach the Middle Eastern Lit course, so here’s what I’m thinking about:

Women’s architectural spaces in contemporary Middle Eastern Lit.  That’s the idea right now.

Division:  Cairo Roofs, Reading Rooms, Women Only.  I thought about taking three novels that I like that all have interesting interior spaces inhabited by women.  Instead, I think I’m going to go with three uses of architectural space.

Ok, so I’m going to imagine a thesis sentence to start off my prospectus.  For now, it’s not going to be poetry!  Much of the characterization of women in contemporary Middle Eastern fiction hinges directly on the interior spaces in which they live: finding solitude on a rooftop garden, for example.  The critic Smith argued “such and such,” and Jones believes that “such and such.”

Unlike those critics, I plan to focus on those liminal spaces–balconies and roofs and courtyards—that frame the lives of the dramatis personae.

Chapter one will discuss novels A and B and their use of the roof as a place of refuge for women.

Chapter two will show the power of women’s reading together, unveiled.  Chapter three will discuss novels C and D that show women in transgressive spaces.  Finally, this thesis will conclude that some of the richness and complexity of women’s experience is encoded in the architectural settings in the novels.

So here’s the basic pattern for a prospectus:

Articulation of the subject

Tentative thesis claim (or question)

Scholarly opinion on the subject (example or two)

Division into three chapters:

Chapter One will . . .

Chapter Two will . . .

Chapter Three will

Works Cited:  Here just have 8-10 items that represent the most important and recent relevant criticism



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