English Integrative Exercise/Comps 2013-14
DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH
SENIOR INTEGRATIVE EXERCISE 2013-14
A BRIEF HISTORY OF “COMPS”
You have no doubt heard much about “Comps” during your years at Carleton, but you may nevertheless still be uncertain about precisely what it is or what it is for. Some of the mystique of Comps may be dispelled by a little history. In days of yore, Carleton seniors took a “Comprehensive Examination” designed to test their competence across the entire field in which they had majored. The enormous expansion and increasing compartmentalization of disciplinary knowledge eventually rendered the ideal of comprehensiveness untenable, and towards the end of the twentieth century Carleton responded by trying to find ways to reinvent the exercise. In one version it was recast as an “Integrative Exercise,” designed to help seniors find connections between disparate courses, though without any longer striving for comprehensiveness. In another, it was re-imagined as independent research on a narrowly defined topic. Looking around campus, you will find versions of the exercise that draw on one or more of these historical iterations. Thus, for instance, the current edition of the college Catalog endorses the second version, arguing that Comps is designed “to help students relate the subjects they have studied in their major field,” while the college’s Academic Regulations and Procedures defines it more loosely as “a capstone experience.” Meanwhile, the ghost of the original ideal continues to haunt us in the colloquial term by which the exercise will probably always be known: “Comps.” Both of the recent versions—integrative exercise and capstone experience—were alive and well in the English Department for over two decades, from 1985-2009, as the Exam and Essay Options.
After extensive discussion, department faculty decided, in 2009, to create a new menu of Comps options available to majors. Senior majors can now choose among four options: the Colloquium Option (a group option in which participants discuss, analyze and write about a thematically coherent list of literary works); the Research Essay Option (an extended essay on a topic of the student’s own devising); the Creative Writing Option (creation of a work of literary art); or the Project Option (creation of an individual or group multidisciplinary project). The four Comps options provide majors with greater choice but also greater responsibility for successfully completing the option they choose. Some of the options have specific requirements for eligibility. All of the options have a common Comps proposal deadline early in Fall term. Students cannot change the option they have selected after their proposal has been submitted, so considerable thought should go into the choice of an option and the creation of a proposal. All of the options require students to do some kind of public presentation at a half-day Senior Symposium in spring term. Students normally take 6 credits of English 400 winter term. Please click on the links below for detailed descriptions and deadlines pertaining to each option.
Co-Directors for Colloquium Comps, 2013-14
Adriana Estill (Laird 207A, firstname.lastname@example.org, x7498)
Michael Kowalewski (Laird 210, email@example.com , x4323)
RESEARCH ESSAY OPTION, CREATIVE WRITING OPTION, PROJECT OPTION:
Coordinator of the Research Essay, Creative Writing and Projects options for 2013-14
Kofi Owusu (Laird 209, firstname.lastname@example.org, x 4319)
Look below for links to each option:
- The Colloquium Comps option offers students the chance to integrate the skills and knowledge they have acquired as English majors by reading, discussing in small groups, and writing about a list of works organized around a theme, topic, or literary question.
- The Research Essay option provides an opportunity to develop an interpretive essay on a challenging topic of the student’s own devising.
- The Creative Writing option offers students the opportunity to integrate the experience they have had of reading and thinking deeply about literature with their interest in creating their own work of literary art.
- The Project Comps option, which may be undertaken individually or collaboratively, offers a multidisciplinary approach to the comprehensive exercise, allowing students to integrate their work as English majors with areas of expertise, talent, and experience in other fields.