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Final Paper: Comparative Treatment of a Common Theme

The purpose of this paper is to look at treatment of a common topic or theme across a set of 3 of more literary texts composed in different geographical locations and to consider both commonalities and differences and what may account for these. See the list of suggestions in the table below.

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Write a paper of 4-5 pages (1000-1250 words) analyzing the treatment of a central course topic or theme from lectures, readings, and/or discussions in relation to 2-3 texts from different countries or world geographies composed during the same or adjacent time periods. Choose from the suggestions below or get approval for your own central concept and associated set of texts. Include a Works Cited with at least 5 reputable secondary sources.

Focus your paper on a central thesis that puts forward your idea of how you see these texts in relation to each other. Draw on your observations from your own reading, course discussion, and basic research on both the texts and topic at hand. You may want to consider applying standard critical approaches that we used in the Key Text Papers to frame your discussion and thinking about the text.

Address all three of these underlying areas in your analysis:

1. Connecting themes as they appear in each of your texts (thematic emphases):

Discuss for ALL texts in your set in relation to at least two questions below. Example: perspectives on poverty: virtues of ordinary people, life-limiting circumstances, consequence of abusive systems in which people are trapped

-What common questions, issues, or concerns drive the central themes of each text? (How are they similar?)

-What are the unique understandings of common themes presented in each text? (How are they different?)

-To what extent are each of these culturally-conditioned or time-bound ways of seeing the world? (Does the text’s place in time or culture account for these differences?)

2. Literary techniques used in texts (aesthetic approaches):

Discuss for at least TWO texts in your set in relation to at least two questions below. Example: unreliable narrator in Poe story; short length due to publication in magazine, use of Gothic motifs.

-What literary techniques (plot, structure, character, narrative perspective, style, symbols, setting, etc.) are most important in each text? Give examples of how they are employed in at least 1 passage or scene from each work.

-To what extent does the physical medium of textual production and/or transmission (printing, publication format and venue, serialization, etc.) impact the techniques employed? Did the writer make choices due to practical considerations, like publishing formats, for instance?

-Do these techniques reflect common practices in the period in which the text originates or experimental for that time? Is a particular technique widely used during the time period or was it groundbreaking?

3. Visuals accompanying your text (imaginative and interpretive traces):

Discuss for at least ONE text in your set in relation to one suggested illustration type below. Example: innocence or naivete associated with childhood suggested in Blake’s illustrations to companion poems in “Songs of Innocence and Experience” OR women’s lives as depicted in illustrations for 19C novels or in PEACH BLOSSOM FAN stage productions OR guilt as illustrated in Dore’s engravings for RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER

For at least one of the texts, add one of the following illustrations and note the interpretations of the text it emphasizes or implies (add illustrations in-line in the body of your paper or in an appendix; label each one so you can refer to it in your paper).

– Illustrations of the text from print versions

– Later artist’s conceptions of a key character or scene in the text in non-print media

– Still image from a performance, stage, or film version of the text

Then comment on whether the illustration reflects understandings and concerns of the artist’s time period or the illustrator’s own time period and cultural context.

Mechanics. Papers should be double-spaced, 10-12 point standard font, organized around a thesis that presents an argument, and documented in MLA style. Your research should be based on academically reputable sources: reference sources, books, articles from academic journals, university websites, etc. (Do not use Wikipedia, Shmoop, Sparknotes, etc. for this paper; do use reference sources, Google Scholar articles, or resources from university websites. A very helpful topical reference resource is the Dictionary of the History of Ideas, available online .)

Documentation. You must include a Works Cited list for the final paper that identifies the background information and other interpretations of the text that you consulted. Include all primary texts in your Works Cited. Feel free to also include a Works Consulted page to better reflect the extent of your effort on the paper.

Integrating images and figures. If you have maps, charts, figures, illustrations, etc., please follow MLA style in terms of captioning and indicating the source. You can either embed these materials into your paper at the point of discussion (for a single image or figure) or create an appendix for multiple materials and refer your reader to the appendix at the point in the paper where you are discussing the materials. All images and figures should be labeled and their sources (print or electronic) should be attributed. Note that images and figures do NOT contribute to the overall word count for the paper.

Topical focusSuggested texts/authorsRange of locations/time periods
WomenWollstonecraft’s “Vindication of the Rights of Women,” PEACH BLOSSOM FAN, FRANKENSTEIN, 19C novelsWestern/Eastern Europe/America Romantic/18C/19C
ChildrenBlake’s “Lamb,” Wordsworth’s “Ode on Intimations of Immortality,” Grimm’s fairy tales, Victorian children’s literatureEuropean (England/Germany) Romantic/18C/19C
Industrialism and the built environmentWordsworth’s “London,” Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener,” novels by Dickens and others focused on crime and detectives, William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movementEurope/America Romantic/18C/19C
PovertyWordsworth, “We are Seven,” Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,” Blake, Browning, Wilde, Heine, Douglass’ NARRATIVE, Hardy’s TESS OF THE D’URBERVILLESEurope/America (England, Ireland, Poland) Romantic/18C/19C
Figure of the poet“Skylark” and “Nightingale” poems, RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER, Shelley’s “Defense of Poesy,” Wordsworth’s “Preface to Lyrical, Hawthorne’s “Artist of the Beautiful”Europe/America Romantic/18C/19C
Coming of ageMONKEY KING, examples from bildungsroman novels, Blake’s “Songs of Innocence and Experience,” Rosetti’s “Goblin Market”Western/Eastern Europe/America Romantic/18C/19C
GuiltRIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER, FRANKENSTEIN, Poe’s “Usher,” “Tell-Tale Heart,” “Cask of Amontillado,” or Hawthorne’s “The Minister’s Black Veil”Europe/America Romantic/18C/19C

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