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Generating Topics for World Literature Research Papers

As noted in the assignment for this paper, you need to come up with topics that will help you ask literary questions that can be answered in your thesis statements. Although some of the texts we’ll read are very old, they can still be analyzed using fairly standard literary approaches. Here’s some advice about topics from Arguing about Literature (emphasis added):

Traditionally literary studies has…been concerned with such topics as family relations, love, freedom and confinement, justice, and journeys. Moreover, the discipline has long called attention to topics that are essentially classic conflicts: for example, innocence versus experience, free will versus fate or determinism, the individual versus society, nature versus culture [or civilization], and eternity versus the passing of time.
Over the last few years, … quite a few literary critics now consider the ways in which literary texts are often about reading, writing, interpretation, and evaluation. Critics increasingly refer to some of the following subjects in their analysis of literature:

? Traits that significantly shape human identity, including gender, race, ethnic background, social class, sexual orientation, cultural background, nationality, and historical context
? Representation of groups, including stereotypes held by others
? Acknowledgments—or denials—of differences among human beings
? Divisions, conflicts, and multiple forces within the self
? Boundaries, including the processes through which these are created, preserved, and challenged
? Politics and ideology, including the various forms that power and authority can take; acts of domination, oppression, exclusion, and appropriation; and acts of subversion, resistance, and parody
? Ways that carnivals and other festivities challenge or preserve social order
? Distinctions between what’s universal and what’s historically or culturally specific
? Relations between the public and the private, the social and the personal
? Relations between the apparently central and the apparently marginal
? Relations between what’s supposedly normal and what’s supposedly abnormal
? Relations between “high” culture and “low” (that is, mass or popular) culture
? Economic and technological developments, as well as their effects
? The role of performance in everyday life
? Values—ethical, aesthetic, religious, professional, and institutional
? Desire and pleasure
? The body
? The unconscious
? Memory, including public commemorations as well as personal memory

…By using these topics, you can general preliminary questions about the text, various issues you can then explore. (Schilb& Clifford 81-82)

Work Cited
Schilb, Johnand John Clifford. Arguing about Literature: A Brief Guide. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2014. Print.

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