The MLL faculty views reading for honors as an option to be exercised by the exceptional student. Candidates for the Honors Project in MLL are required to have a minimum 3.33 GPA overall and a minimum 3.5 GPA in MLL courses. In evaluating honors candidacies, faculty will consider not only the major’s grades, but also the following: the initiative, forethought, and responsibility shown by the major in formulating the project; an eagerness to do work above and beyond that required for the regular capstone; and a demonstrated ability to pursue independent research and writing. MLL faculty members will normally identify students who have demonstrated exceptional promise in their research and language skills, and encourage them to develop an honors project. However, students who feel they meet the standards may also approach a faculty member about endorsing their intent to read for Honors.

Because honors is considered to be a departmental designation, the MLL chair is responsible for approvals and notifications. Students should copy their thesis director and the senior liaison in all correspondence with the MLL chair regarding honors.

Students interested in pursuing honors should read with particular attention the general description of departmental honors in The College curriculum section of the course catalog, as well as the timeline and other conditions listed below. For majors in all three tracks, the department leaves up to the discretion of the advisor and the student the nature of the honors project, which typically combines research with original analysis on a topic proposed by the student. Other configurations of the honors project may be considered, if the student can establish the value of the project and demonstrate sufficient preparation for undertaking it.

The honors thesis is typically written in the target language with a suggested length of 50–75 pages. Once complete, it must be defended in a formal discussion with an external examiner, the thesis director, and faculty readers. This honors defense follows an MLL departmental procedure overseen by the thesis director in order to ensure consistent standards. According to the scale of highest honors (A+), high honors (A), or honors (A-), the final grade determination thus reflects these standards across the eight disciplines of MLL.

With sufficient time (ideally, two weeks or more) before the defense, the honors director provides the external examiner and all faculty members of the MLL language discipline(s) in which the student has worked with a final version of the thesis. During the defense, the student should have the opportunity to describe the project’s scope and to explain the significance of its outcome(s). What follows is an open exchange on questions of substance and methods among the candidate, the outside examiner, the thesis director, and the faculty readers. On the basis of the written thesis and the discussion during the defense, the outside examiner determines the grade in consultation with participating faculty (and in the absence of the student). The student is then informed of the result.


Candidates for honors in MLL should adhere to the following timetable or risk being denied the opportunity to continue in honors.

Spring Semester, Junior Year

  • Students must meet to discuss with the appropriate MLL faculty member their ideas for an honors project as early as possible in their Kenyon career. They should submit a declaration of intent via email to the MLL chair, with a copy to their advisor, by the last day of classes of the spring semester of the student’s junior year. This letter of intent must be accompanied by the written endorsement of an MLL faculty member who has agreed to serve as the advisor of the student’s honors project.
  • From the time when the student informs the MLL chair of their intent to pursue an honors project, the student should keep the faculty advisor informed — in writing, if the student is abroad — of their thinking about the focus of the project. Those candidates who are spending their junior year abroad are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to acquire relevant materials which may be more difficult to find in the U.S.

Fall Semester, Senior Year

  • Students who have not declared their intention to pursue honors before the fall semester of their senior year may, upon the recommendation of their advisor, submit a formal request to the MLL chair that they be considered for honors. This request must be received by the end of the first week of September.
  • By the first week of November, students must post a prospectus for their proposed project to their digital portfolio.
    • The prospectus for the honors project consists of two parts. First, it includes a 750–1000-word description of the project, whose word limit must be strictly observed. This description should include, as well as a discussion of the subject, an explanation of its value and a statement of the thesis (what is hoped to be proven or demonstrated) and of the methodology.
    • Second, the prospectus must provide an initial bibliography, including at least 10 annotated secondary sources; the annotations will summarize the contents of each book or article and indicate its relevance to the project.
    • Before being considered by the MLL chair, the honors prospectus must be approved by the student’s advisor. Sometimes the advisor will consult with another faculty member to arrive at a decision.
    • Faculty in the relevant language discipline(s) will read the prospectus. By the end of November, the MLL chair will notify the student that their proposal has been accepted or rejected.
  • Immediately upon learning of their admittance to honors, the student will meet with their advisor to establish a series of deadlines for the completion of the honors project. These deadlines will normally follow the timetable for the departmental senior capstone closely.

Spring Semester, Senior Year

  • Students who are approved to read for honors are required to enroll in MLL 498 ("Honors Individual Study"), generally during the spring semester, for 0.5 units of credit. The senior honors enrollment form is available in the Registrar’s Office. If a student does not complete honors, they risk not receiving credit for MLL 498, which could potentially result in insufficient units for graduation.
  • Students need to submit to their advisor a substantive chapter of the honors project — constituting from 1/4 to 1/3 of the projected total paper — at a date to be determined by the student in consultation with the advisor, but typically by the end of January.
  • The remaining portion of the honors project should be submitted by the week following spring break.
  • The honors defense will be scheduled by the student and advisor in consultation with the outside examiner, and will typically be completed by the third week in April.
  • Track-II majors pursuing honors must arrange to have an oral exchange in their second language with a faculty member in that language, to be scheduled at any time during the second semester of the senior year. The topic of this interview will be chosen in advance in consultation with the faculty member conducting the interview.
  • A corrected electronic copy of the honors thesis will be submitted by the student to the library by the Friday before graduation.

Samples of Honors Projects

Recent theses titles include:

  • "The Borderlands in the Writings of Gloria Anzaldua, Julia Alvarez, and Rosario Morales"
  • "A Smooth Spanish Transition: The Spanish Press from Dictatorship to Democracy"
  • "Bards of Dissent: Social Protest through Popular Music in the Soviet Union and German Democratic Republic, 1950-1990"
  • "Translating Contemporary Russian Poetry"
  • "Les Cenelles, Anthologie Poétique de la Nouvelle Orléans, 1845: Emulation et Originalité"