Honors College Theses

Publication Date



English (B.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Pellegrino


Angus Fletcher, a neuroscientist who hung up his lab coat to earn a Ph.D. in literature from Yale, studies stories as, “a narrative-emotional technology that helped our ancestors cope with the psychological challenges posed by human biology...an invention for overcoming the doubt and the pain of just being us.” But students entering college are losing interest in this “technology.” A 2017 report by the American Academy of Arts and Science showed a “statistically significant decline” in the number of English graduates from 2011-2012 to 2016-2017. Peter Barry, Professor Emeritus of English at Aberystwyth University, may offer insight into this trend. He asserts that “There are many ways of teaching literary theory. The problem is that none of them work.”

These ideas point to a need for reimagining the presentation of stories to a new generation who not only denigrate the value of an education in the liberal arts, but also misunderstand the function of literature itself. More than simply a leisure activity, reading literature exposes us to a multiverse of ideas that are themselves multiplied by the method of engagement. This expands our understanding of the world in a way that trite themes and theory cannot. Literature is the foundational platform that supports the brain’s ability to imagine the unimaginable, experience the unexperienceable, and conceive the inconceivable. This approach supports not only the adventurer looking to become a part of the literary academy, but aspiring scientists, executives, activists, and entrepreneurs alike.