Honors Thesis

The Senior Thesis is a valuable component of the Honors Program.  With a major GPA of 3.5 or better, a student may elect to prepare an essay (normally 40-60 pages) of original research and interpretation under the supervision of a faculty advisor.  Students may select a topic of their choice, whether drawn from coursework completed at Penn, study or travel undertaken during a summer or abroad, or of any other inspiration.  Recent theses include the following titles:

 -- “Iconography of the Mosaics of the Cappella Palatina in Sicily of the Twelfth Century,” Dana Katz (2005)

-- "Pittura infamante: The Role and Implications of Patronage in Leonardo's Last Supper," Pamela Stewart (2004, winner of the Phi Beta Kappa Frederick Meier, Jr. prize for the best thesis at Penn)

-- “La Loïe Fuller, la fleur animée de Paris: A Study of the Performance Posters of Loïe Fuller, c.1900,” Lucy Gallun (2004)

-- “Out of Conflict, Comfort: The Social and Historical Significance of Henry Moore,” Dana Sandberg (2004)

-- “Constructing a Mechanized Modern Architecture in Post World War I Europe,” Steve Correll (2004)

-- “Courting the Collector: The Art of Donor Development,” Sarah Zilinski (2004)

Students are encouraged to start thinking about a thesis in the junior year.  An Honors Thesis requires a great deal of commitment and motivation, but it is immensely rewarding – many students find it to be the most rewarding aspect of their undergraduate career at Penn.

When considering whether to write a thesis, students should consider the following:

  • What works of art, artistic movements, or critical approaches have most interested you in your coursework? What works have raised the most questions for you, or challenged your thinking about art or society?  What are you most passionate about?
  • What special skills or opportunities have you had that you might bring to bear on your research?  For example, fluency in Spanish and a junior semester spent in Barcelona might have given you special preparation to write a thesis on nationalist art movements in 1930s Spain.  Or an internship at Sotheby’s may inspire you to investigate the Antwerp art market in the time of Rubens or twentieth-century legal protection of looted sites.
  • With whom would you like to pursue your research?  One faculty member will serve as your advisor.  Frequent meetings and discussions foster a strong collaborative spirit with faculty as a student pursues his or her research.