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Paper Topic Ideas for Final Essay

Page history last edited by Alan Liu 10 years, 3 months ago

 

The longer essay for the course should address works on our syllabus from Structuralism on (though earlier material may also figure in your argument).  You may want to deal with two or more authors; or you may want to deal with one author in a way that opens out into broader issues.  In any case, your essay should be grounded in the texts.  I am looking for penetration of thought coupled with some evidence of range (translation for the latter: a sense that you have done a fair amount of the reading and have developed a "cognitive map" of the field).  The ideal essay, in my mind, is one that focuses tightly on an interesting problem but also opens out into broader implications.

 

The following are examples of paper topics.  You are free to invent your own topics.

 

  1. Write an essay on theory as a prose form or writing style in which you use one or more aspects of form to illuminate some important aspect of theory from structuralism on.
  2. Much of the theory you have read has been in translation.  Write an essay on how the theory we have studied helps us understand the concept or practice of translation.
  3. Theory from structuralism on often deemphasizes the status of the individual author in favor of seeing literary (and other) works as part of a larger structure, discourse system, culture, etc.  Some theorists even question the existence of the author or human agent as traditionally understood.  (This trend is related to the earlier position of the formalists that it is the language of literary works and not the author's "intention" that matters.)  Yet, paradoxically, there are so many charismatic theorists with "star," "cult," or "guru" status in recent French and American theory.  Write an essay about this paradox and what it reveals about the nature or function of recent theory.
  4. Discuss the relation between European and American theory.
  5. Write an essay in which you explore French feminist theory further than we were able to in class (e.g., the relations between the concepts of the body, women, and language).
  6. Write an essay on the relation between any two of the following concepts in literary theory from structuralism on: Nature, Society, Culture, History, Language.
  7. Write an essay in which you use literary theory to interpret any distinctive aspect of our state of California--its history, society, language, culture, popular culture, etc.  (Consider, for example, what you could do with Disneyland, Hollywood, traffic, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, ethnic or linguistic diversity, etc.)
  8. Write an essay on the relation between twentieth-century science and twentieth-century literary theory.  You may want to focus on a particular aspect of each (e.g., quantum mechanics and New Criticism or deconstruction).  What is fundamentally similar, and different, between these two arenas of human thought?
  9. Today there is much interest among humanities scholars in studying the relation of humans and culture to the environment, the biosphere, animals,  etc.  Write an essay that uses some aspect of the theory we have read from structuralism on to discuss some aspect of life (or bios) in this larger sense.  For example, what methods or lessons from theory might help us understand what an "animal" is, or what "environment" is?
  10. Choose a theorist (or theorists) from our syllabus from structuralism on and write an essay that answers the question: "How would he or she have understood the Internet?"

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