Academic Writing: Categories
Literature Research Papers Examine Author, Technique, Genre, Era
Literature research papers often inspire panic, but this need not be your reaction. With a clear understanding of the instructor goal, you can submit a literature research paper that shows off your understanding of the material and methods of analysis.
Although the course may determine the assigned book, you have the choice of how to approach the assigned subject. Here are some ideas to consider:
Literature research term papers referencing other works by the same author
Compare, looking for similarities and differences in, for example,
- Subject (who does what to whom and why),
- Setting (city/rural, one locale or several, USA/Britain/Mars, indoors/outdoors, school/orphanage/country house/rooming house)
- Characters (who they are and what they do/say/feel)
- Structure (straightforward narrative, flashbacks, interior monologue)
- Message (anti-war, feminism, for example)
- Symbols (e.g., the bull in Gilgamesh, the ocean in Moby Dick)
Thus, for example, you might compare leading men in Thomas Hardy’s work, or the re-appearance of the tubercular, sweet female character in Charles Dickens’ books, or isolated, wild settings in the works of the Bronte sisters.
Research papers in literature considering the work in the context of time and place
Examine thinking and writing from the same time period. As an example, what information can we glean from titles published contemporaneously with Pride and Prejudice?
A quick look reveals the Gothic mystery, The Monastery of St. Columb. This inspired Austen’s scathing later satire: Northanger Abbey. Connect the two to show Austen’s influences from her era and surroundings.
Use your paper to research literature from a specific political or other theoretical perspective, for example:
- Deconstructionist (If you cannot decode Jacques Derrida unassisted, avoid this approach: http://prelectur.stanford.edu/lecturers/derrida/deconstruction.html)
Be cautious about such murky and turbulent waters, however. Your literature research paper can compare works within a genre or subject.
Does the work fit a widely recognized type/genre, for example? (http://ethemes.missouri.edu/themes/850 for a basic review)
- The Hero’s journey (Theseus, Harry Potter) http://www.mcli.dist.maricopa.edu/smc/journey/ref/summary.html for a discussion of this concept.
- The ‘marriage plot’ (Austen, Bronte) http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2011/09/25/jeffrey-eugenides-on-his-new-novel-the-marriage-plot.html: interview with author of a novel about marriage plot novels and the people who study them.
- The picaresque novel (Don Quixote, Tom Jones, The Expedition of HumphryClinker, Huckleberry Finn) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/459267/picaresque-novel.
Of course, always structure clearly and cite carefully!