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Studies in the Novel

Dr. Nora Gilbert, University of North Texas

Journal Details

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Peer Review Policy

Studies in the Novel  requires that submitted articles be original work and non-simultaneous submissions. The editor-in-chief performs a preliminary review, determining whether to make a decision regarding an article’s suitability for this journal without peer-review. If an article is deemed unsuitable, the author receives the decision without reviewer reports. Article submissions sent for external peer review go through a double-blind review process, generally to two reviewers, who supply reports and recommendations about the article. Reviewers are free to determine their own criteria for evaluating the article, as well as the scope and extent of their feedback. Reports are supplied to the author along with the editor’s decision following consideration of the reviewers’ comments. If an author is invited to revise and resubmit, the revised draft will typically be sent to the same reviewers for evaluation. For original article submissions as well as revised article submissions, a decision is usually returned to the author within 120 days. 

To view the most recent  Studies in the Novel  Editorial Board list, please visit their website at:  

Send books for review to: [email protected]

Please send book review copies to the contact above. Review copies received by the Johns Hopkins University Press office will be discarded.

Abstracting & Indexing Databases

  • Arts & Humanities Citation Index
  • Current Contents
  • Web of Science
  • Dietrich's Index Philosophicus
  • IBZ - Internationale Bibliographie der Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaftlichen Zeitschriftenliteratur
  • Internationale Bibliographie der Rezensionen Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaftlicher Literatur
  • Biography Index: Past and Present (H.W. Wilson), vol.16, 1984-vol.28, 1996
  • Book Review Digest Plus (H.W. Wilson), Dec.1983-
  • Current Abstracts, 1/1/2000-
  • Humanities & Social Sciences Index Retrospective: 1907-1984 (H.W. Wilson), 4/15/1974-6/1/1983
  • Humanities Abstracts (H.W. Wilson), 9/1/1983-
  • Humanities Index (Online), 1983/12-
  • Humanities Index Retrospective: 1907-1984 (H.W. Wilson), 4/15/1974-6/1/1983
  • Literary Reference Center Plus, 3/1/1975-
  • Literary Reference Center: Main Edition, 1/1/1984-
  • MainFile, 1/1/1985-
  • MasterFILE: Main Edition, 1/1/1985-
  • MLA International Bibliography (Modern Language Association)
  • OmniFile Full Text Mega (H.W. Wilson), 9/1/1983-
  • OmniFile Full Text Select (H.W. Wilson), 9/1/1983-
  • Poetry & Short Story Reference Center, 3/1/1975-
  • RILM Abstracts of Music Literature (Repertoire International de Litterature Musicale)
  • Russian Academy of Sciences Bibliographies
  • TOC Premier (Table of Contents), 1/1/1995-
  • Scopus, 2003-
  • Academic ASAP, 03/1989-
  • Book Review Index Plus
  • Gale Academic OneFile, 03/1989-
  • Gale Academic OneFile Select, 03/1989-
  • Gale General OneFile, 03/1989-
  • Gale in Context: College
  • Gale in Context: Elementary
  • Gale OneFile: High School Edition, 03/1989-
  • Gale World Scholar: Latin America and the Caribbean, 3/1989-
  • General Reference Center Gold, 03/1989-
  • General Reference Centre International, 3/1989-
  • InfoTrac Custom, 3/1989-
  • Student Resources in Context, 03/1989-
  • Gale In Context: Canada, 03/1989-
  • Gale in Context: High School
  • ArticleFirst, vol.22, no.1, 1990-vol.43, no.2, 2011
  • Electronic Collections Online, vol.40, no.1/2, 2008-vol.43, no.2, 2011
  • Periodical Abstracts, v.21, n.1, 1989-v.43, n.1, 2011
  • Personal Alert (E-mail)
  • Literary Journals Index Full Text
  • Periodicals Index Online
  • Professional ProQuest Central, 04/01/1989-
  • ProQuest 5000, 04/01/1989-
  • ProQuest Central, 04/01/1989-
  • Research Library, 04/01/1989-
  • The Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature (ABELL)

Abstracting & Indexing Sources

  • Abstracts of English Studies   (Ceased)  (Print)
  • Children's Literature Abstracts   (Ceased)  (Print)
  • Index to Book Reviews in the Humanities   (Ceased)  (Print)
  • Literary Criticism Register   (Ceased)  (Print)
  • MLA Abstracts of Articles in Scholarly Journals   (Ceased)  (Print)
  • Middle East: Abstracts and Index   (Researched / Unresolved)  (Print)

Source: Ulrichsweb Global Serials Directory.

Published quarterly

Readers include: Scholars looking for incisive criticism of the novel across all periods and genres, and from all interpretive approaches

Print circulation: 122

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The Case for Reading Fiction

  • Christine Seifert

research paper on novels

It’s an easy way to build emotional intelligence.

When it comes to reading, we may be assuming that reading for knowledge is the best reason to pick up a book. Research, however, suggests that reading fiction may provide far more important benefits than nonfiction. For example, reading fiction predicts increased social acuity and a sharper ability to comprehend other people’s motivations. Reading nonfiction might certainly be valuable for collecting knowledge, it does little to develop EQ, a far more elusive goal.

Some of the most valuable skills that managers look for in employees are often difficult to define, let alone evaluate or quantify: self-discipline, self-awareness, creative problem-solving, empathy, learning agility, adaptiveness, flexibility, positivity, rational judgment, generosity, and kindness, among others. How can you tell if your future employees have these skills? And if your current team is lacking them, how do you teach them? Recent research in neuroscience suggests that you might look to the library for solutions; reading literary fiction helps people develop empathy , theory of mind , and critical thinking .

When we read, we hone and strengthen several different cognitive muscles, so to speak, that are the root of the EQ. In other words, the act of reading is the very activity—if done right—that can develop the qualities, traits, and characteristics of those employees that organizations hope to attract and retain.

High-level business leaders have long touted the virtues of reading. Warren Buffet, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, spends most of his day reading and recommends reading 500 pages a day. Entrepreneur Mark Cuban says he reads more than three hours a day. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, says he learned to build rockets by reading books . But business visionaries who extol the virtues of reading almost always recommend nonfiction. Buffet recommended 19 books in 2019; not one of the titles is fiction. Of the 94 books Bill Gates recommended over a seven-year period, only nine of them are fiction.

When it comes to reading, we may be assuming that reading for knowledge is the best reason to pick up a book. Research, however, suggests that reading fiction may provide far more important benefits than nonfiction. For example, reading fiction predicts increased social acuity and a sharper ability to comprehend other people’s motivations. Reading nonfiction might certainly be valuable for collecting knowledge, it does little to develop EQ, a far more elusive goal.

How Books Shape Employee Experiences One reason fiction works so well in the workplace is that characters, plots, and settings in foreign locales help anchor difficult discussions. The narrative allows participants to work through sensitive and nuanced issues in an open and honest manner. For example, Nancy Kidder, a facilitator with the nonprofit organization [email protected] , recalled a workplace discussion about Chinua Achebe’s short story, “Dead Man’s Path.” In the story, a Nigerian headmaster named Michael Obi fails miserably when he attempts to modernize a rural school. When discussing the story, a team leader Kidder was working with noted that after participating in the discussion along with his team, they had a new language for discussing their work: “I drove execution in this way,” said one of the team members, “but I don’t want to be a Michael Obi here.”

Authentic sharing often means just putting folks together to discuss engaging texts. Joseph Badaracco, Professor of Business Ethics at Harvard, assigns Achebe’s works, along with other titles, like Sophocles’ Antigone , The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, and Joseph Conrad’s short story “The Secret Sharer,” about a young and inexperienced ship captain who must make an important decision. Badaracco told HBR IdeaCast in 2013 that fiction provides an opportunity to complicate standard good versus evil tropes. Good literature presents characters with competing and often equally valid viewpoints. Business books, by their very nature, boil down issues until they are binary: this is right and that is not. In contrast, literature allows Badaracco’s students to see, for example, Creon’s allegiance to state and Antigone’s commitment to family and honor as equally valid positions—that cannot be easily rectified. Future business leaders won’t encounter the exact scenarios they read about, but they will be able to use an expanded ability to understand and respond to multiple competing viewpoints.

In Kidder’s experience, participants who read and discuss are more willing to tackle tough questions. Her participants have pondered questions about how we balance tradition with innovation; how we sometimes fail to see others’ viewpoints; and how we might listen to each other with more care. For instance, those seeking robust discussion about community connection might read Kindred by Octavia Butler, a science fiction novel that addresses the ways in which race shapes individual experience. Others, wanting to look at the familiar in an unfamiliar way, might read George Saunders’s short story, “Puppy,” about a child who wants a puppy only to discover that the puppy’s owner is keeping a boy on a leash. The point of reading in this way is to develop cognitive agility and acuity. It’s about reading to develop those in-demand emotional skills.

Why Reading Works Research suggests that reading literary fiction is an effective way to enhance the brain’s ability to keep an open mind while processing information, a necessary skill for effective decision-making. In a 2013 study , researchers examined something called the need for cognitive closure, or the desire to “reach a quick conclusion in decision-making and an aversion to ambiguity and confusion.” Individuals with a strong need for cognitive closure rely heavily on “early information cues,” meaning they struggle to change their minds as new information becomes available. They also produce fewer individual hypotheses about alternative explanations, which makes them more confident in their own initial (and potentially flawed) beliefs. A high need for cognitive closure also means individuals gravitate toward smaller bits of information and fewer viewpoints. Individuals who resist the need for cognitive closure tend to be more thoughtful, more creative, and more comfortable with competing narratives—all characteristics of high EQ.

University of Toronto researchers discovered that individuals in their study who read short stories (as opposed to essays) demonstrated a lower need for cognitive closure. That result is not surprising given that reading literature requires us to slow down, take in volumes of information, and then change our minds as we read. There’s no easy answer in literature; instead, there’s only perspective-taking. As readers, we’ll almost certainly find Lolita ’s narrator Humbert Humbert odious, but we are forced to experience how he thinks, a valuable exercise for decreasing our need for cognitive closure. Furthermore, the researchers point out that when we are talking about someone else’s actions, we don’t feel compelled to defend ourselves. We can have conversations that might not happen in any other context, at least not with the same level of honesty.

Investing in Reading CEOs may be reluctant to invest the kind of time, money, and energy facilitated literary reading and discussion requires, but initial reports suggest that instructor-led literature groups are useful. Marvin Riley, President and CEO of EnPro Industries, a manufacturing company, was looking for ways to enhance the company’s “dual bottom line culture.” Riley wanted to “establish psychological safety, practice collaboration, embrace an idea-meritocracy, utilize critical thinking, and above all, create high personal engagement.”

Riley invited [email protected] to work with up to 20 participants at a time over several sessions. Participants read short stories and/or novels, which they then discussed together during work hours, guided by their facilitator. Riley credits the program with increasing work teams’ candor and general ability to communicate effectively through a shared language.

While there is no specific academic data on how incorporating guided literature study into workplace training and development programming impacts employees, research on reading shows literature study to be one of the best methods for building empathy critical thinking, and creativity. Maryanne Wolf, cognitive scientist and author of Reader, Come Home , argues that “the quality of our reading” stands as “an index to the quality of our thought.” If we want better thinkers in the business world, we have to build better readers.

  • CS Christine Seifert is a professor of communication at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she teaches rhetoric, strategy, and professional writing

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100 Best Literature Research Paper Topics For Students

literary research paper topics

Literary research paper topics are among the most interesting to write about. Books are the best teachers for most learners. And, students love reading interesting literature books. But, when asked to write research papers, most students have difficulties choosing their topics. That’s because many issues can be investigated and written about.

For instance, literary topics can be about characters’ personalities in certain works. They can also be about particular characteristics of specific literary genres. Learners can also choose literary analysis topics that focus on the life story of famous writers or poets. But, regardless of what a learner opts to write about, they should choose interesting topics.

What are Interesting Literary Research Paper Topics?

Several factors make a topic interesting to write about. A topic for a research paper or a graduate thesis should generally be definite, specific, and innovative. Also, it should be interesting to research and write about. Here’s how to select interesting literature topics:

Think about something. Explore the idea to select a topic for which you can find sufficient research data from credible sources. Narrow down your subject if you find it too broad.

English literature topics can be classified into different categories. Here some of these categories and topics can be considered in each category.

Great World Literature Research Topics

Perhaps, you’ve been asked to write a literature research paper with a global perspective. Here are some of the literary analysis research paper topics that you can consider.

  • Explain how the supernatural and spirituality help in furthering the development of the plot in the Latin American literature of the early 20th century.
  • What themes are common in the Japanese poems of the early 20th century? How do they differ from those of the early 19th century?
  • Compare the early Chinese literary works and European literary works of the middle ages. How different or alike are they?
  • How were European literary works in the early 20th century shaped by the revolutionary works of Engels and Marx? What examples can demonstrate this influence?
  • Explain how the Muslim philosophers’ work of the 15th century led to new ideas and inventions across the globe.
  • Compare and contrast different anti-British works that originated in India in the 19th century with pro-colonialist works that came from England at the same time.
  • How did the nightmarish utopian future ideas of Aldous Huxley influence modern-day science fiction writers across the world?
  • Explain how the Antigone play by Sophocles deals with the conflict between the central characters while relating to the state laws and individual conscience.
  • How are the sentiments of the authors reflected in Animal Farm by George Orwell and concerns about the October Revolution?
  • Explain some of the examples of literary fiction pieces that have shaped cultures in the world. Have historic, societal, and cultural factors played some roles in shaping these literature pieces?
  • Being a prolific writer in the early and mid-19th century, Charles Dickens’s works were published in serialized forms. How and why has this approach become less fashionable?
  • Compare and contrast the early Japanese literature works and the early Chinese literature works. How do they differ in terms of values and culture?
  • Explain how comedy differs in literature across cultures. What comedy appeared in the early theatrical performances and it’s still present in modern literature?
  • Analyze chivalry and honor critically in the Green Knight and Sir Gawain. What are the qualities of these works from a similar period?
  • Compare and contrast the Odyssey and Iliad by Homer the Ancient Greek. Explain how cultures across the world have adapted the themes presented in the poem.

Top Literary topics for Research Paper

Some topics for literary analysis stand out among students. These are topics that educators recommend for students across the study levels.

  • How is literature an aspect of modern culture?
  • Explain how feminism has influenced modern literature
  • How is psychology utilized in literature?
  • Explain the major social issues that have been exposed by literary works
  • Explain the philosophical tradition of Daoism in the Chinese literature
  • Explain the roles played by death and honor in Japanese literature in the 20th century
  • Explain how the European culture influences the Mid-West literature
  • How has European culture affected modern literature?
  • Analyze the personality of Don Quixote
  • Explain how literature differs between countries.
  • Discuss poetry in the innovative ear of the 21st century
  • Examine racism in the novels of the 1960s and 1970s
  • Explain the exile’s perception in literature
  • Literature and culture? Which one affects the other?
  • How has literature addressed homosexuality?

These can also be great literary debate topics. That’s because learners can have varying opinions about them.

British Literature Research Paper Topics

Students have many topics to choose from when it comes to British literature essay topics. Here are some of the best literature topics from the works of British authors.

  • Discuss Victorian England’s picture with the works of Charles Dickens in mind
  • Discuss the theme of Orphans with the Oliver Twist character in mind
  • Explain how British Literature has influenced different cultures
  • Explain how British literature has addressed gender issues
  • Explain how King Lear highlights the differences between anti-heroes and villains
  • Explain William Shakespeare’s personality- Highlight facts and myths
  • Choose two famous British novels and then compare the characters in them
  • Explain the viewpoint of different writers about the Utopian civilization idea
  • With Harry Potter books in mind, explain why some literature books are considered classics
  • Explain how love and romantic love are presented in Charlotte Bronte’s works
  • Explain how modern literary works have been affected by the Victorian period works
  • Discuss the adultery theme in Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Who are the main characters in Lake Poets’ works?
  • Explain how violent imagery was used in World War I poetry
  • Explain talent as a theme in Milton’s on His Blindness
  • Explain innocence loss in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies
  • Explain the theme of individualism versus collectivism in Oliver Twist
  • Explain why the popularity of detective novels increased in the XIX century
  • What role did the supernatural play in Macbeth: a case study of three witches
  • Class demarcation in XVII century- The vengeance theme

American Literature Topics

Some teachers ask students to choose American literature research topics for certain reasons. If asked to write on such topics, here are some of the American literature research paper topics to consider.

  • Analyze key aspects of American ideology, particularly in the literature written before the 20th century.
  • Determine thematic concerns and literary styles of the major historical period of American literature between the colonial period and post-modernism.
  • Show the American identity uniqueness of texts
  • Propose connections between the American literature concerns and themes in the larger historical development and social issues that face the present world
  • Examine major concerns and themes that reappear across the American literature
  • Highlight the major themes in Absalom, Absalom by William Faulkner
  • Explain the African American Experience with female authors like Alice Walker, Zora Neal Hurston, and Toni Morrison
  • Explain the predominant theme in The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  • Explain how Jonathan Edwards epitomizes Puritan definitions in his sermons
  • Explain the use of historical personalities and events by Washington Irving as the background for his works
  • The Crucible demonstrates how a community can be torn apart by hysteria. Explain
  • Explain how Sylvia Plath demonstrates the social pressure faced by women in the 1960s in the Bell Jar.
  • Explain how John Knowles demonstrates the impact of war on everyone
  • Explain the strong belief in the education power by Maya Angelou as depicted in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  • Explain how Thornton Wilder conveys life as a gift in Our Town
  • Discuss the themes of anger and pity in the Grapes of Wrath
  • Explain how Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck portrays the Great Depression struggles
  • Discuss the portrayal of the unconquerable spirit in Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.
  • Plays by Eugene O’Neil are tragically realistic. Explain
  • God is humanized in The Creation poem by James Weldon Johnson. Explain

Some of the ideas here are great poetry topics. Nevertheless, they require careful research and analysis to write about.

High School Literary Essay Topics

Some topics in literature are ideal for high school essays. Here are examples of literary analysis paper topics for high school students.

  • Compare and contrast the major characters in your preferred book
  • Choose your favorite character in a book and explain your reasons for liking it
  • Please explain why the quality of a literature book is not determined by its length
  • Highlight the similarities of your favorite books
  • Discuss the top 4 authors in horror books
  • Explain why reading some books is more difficult than reading others
  • Explain what it takes to write a high-quality poem
  • Who is your favorite poet and why?
  • Explain what makes your favorite book interesting
  • Who is your favorite character in literary works and why?
  • What makes some literature books difficult to read?
  • Who are your favorite top 5 authors and why?
  • Should the age of readers be restricted to some books?
  • What is your favorite literary genre?
  • Explain why the author determines the quality of a book more than the story
  • Discuss the literary works of your favorite authors
  • Why is it important to captivate readers with the introductory chapter of a book?
  • Which book genre makes great movies?
  • Why is the work of Harry Potter so popular?
  • Explain why your favorite horror book is scary

Unique Research Topics in English Literature

Some literature research topics are unique and can be written about by learners at different study levels. Here are examples of such topics.

  • Analyze the use of literary devices in novels
  • Discuss the author’s autobiography
  • Analyze literary genres and the role played by an artist in them
  • Compare the works of a similar genre
  • Highlight the gender roles of characters in literary works
  • Social stratification and Harry Potter- Discuss
  • With Charles Dickens’ work in mind, explain the peculiarity of the bildungsroman genre.
  • Explain how The Lord of the Rings uses artificial language
  • Explain how the Sherlock Holmes image influences the world of detective fiction
  • Explain the war theme in the world literature

These are also great literary journalism topics. Nevertheless, they require extensive research to write about.

In a nutshell, students have many literary argument topics to consider. The most important thing is to choose an interesting topic that you can find sufficient data to write about. Also, don’t hesitate to check our history topics .

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Novel Essays

Montag and clarisse in the novel fahrenheit 451.

Individuals can change because of the impact of others. The book, “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury was about a firefighter name Guy Montag. Montag does the inverse from what a standard firefighter does. He starts fires as opposed to putting them out. In Fahrenheit 451 books are not normal to see and in the event that somebody is seen reading a book, the firefighters burn their homes. Rather than reading books, their society watches a lot of TV and tunes […]

Winston against the Party in the Novel 1984

In 1984, the main character, Winston Smith goes through moments where he is in need; His needs consist of physiological needs, safety, and security needs, love and belonging needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs. Winston is the main character in his novel it follows his around during this time. In 1984 Winston has his physiological met. These physiological needs include; water, pleasure, and food. Winston had taken up his spoon and was dabbling in pale-colored gravy that dribbled across the […]

Theme of Redemption in the Kite Runner

It is only normal for humans to make mistakes, but it is how the mistakes are resolved that will dictate ones’ fate. In The Kite Runner, written by Khaled Hosseini, he describes the life of a young boy named Amir whose mistake haunts him for years, and his journey to find a way to relieve the guilt he had to live with. The author demonstrates how guilt can physically and psychologically push a person to search for ways to redeem […]

The Death in “The Great Gatsby” Novel

Who Dies in The Great Gatsby What would you do if someone killed someone you loved? Myrtle Wilson is causing a major uprise in multiple deaths. Although the deaths are not all Myrtle’s fault. Myrtle has jumped in front of the car that Daisy Buchanan. Thus causing Daisy to be blamed for Myrtle’s death. Tom Buchanan is to blame for Jay Gatsby’s death. Tom has told George that Gatsby’s car is the same car that hit Myrtle. George is sure […]

How does Jack Represent Savagery in the Novel?

In the novel, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, the character, Jack, symbolizes evilness and savagery. At the beginning of the story, Jack manipulates the reader into thinking that he is a good character. This is shown when he volunteers to lead the group of boys. However, on the contrary, Jack portrays evilness throughout the book in many scenes such as when he kills the pig, chants the phrase “‘Kill the pig. Cut her throat. Spill her blood. and […]

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The Alchemist and the Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho

Literature is the mirror of the society. Literature writers always reflect the social, economic, political and cultural realities in the society and captures the same is their artistic expressions. It is on this basis the literature is the mirror of the society. Paulo Coelho in the novel The Alchemist and The Pilgrimage fundamentally offers inspiration to people to always follow their dream regardless of the circumstances that they go through. The Alchemist and The Pilgrimage are a compelling novels by […]

The Party Control in the Novel 1984

1984 is a political novel composed for the people under a totalitarian government and to give awareness for the possible risks of it. George Orwell, the author, purposefully created the book give emphasis to the rising of communism in Western countries who are still uncertain about how to approach it. He also wrote it due to having an insight of the horrendous lengths to which authoritarian governments that could possibly go beyond their power such as Spain and Russia. Before […]

The Problems in the Novel Fahrenheit 451

In the novel Fahrenheit 451 written by Ray Bradbury, which is a dystopian fiction book, illustrates how the society in which the story is portrayed in turns to chaos. The citizens of the society become afraid of the people who they should trust to keep them safe, which are the firefighters, because they burn any books that they come in contact with. In the ending of Part 1 of the book, Captain Beatty tells Guy Montag about the history and […]

Expressing Feminism in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Background Information Jane Austen was an English novelist born in Hampshire, South of England on 16th December in 1775. She was very close to Cassandra, her sister. When together, the two would share a bedroom but when apart they would write to each other almost every. After Jane’s death on 18th July 1817, her sister testified how the two loved each other, “”she was gilder of every pleasure, the sun of my life, and the soother of sorrow”” (Bendit 245). […]

Analysis of a Dystopian Novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Introduction Fahrenheit 451 is a book set in the 24th century written by Ray Bradbury which tells the story of Guy Montag who is a fireman. The book explores a dystopian world where firemen work to start fires and burn books. Dystopia is a word that is used to refer to the opposite of Utopia. Hence, it represents a world that is terrible in all ways imaginable. A dystopian novel, therefore, portrays a disastrous future. In this book, the protagonist […]

Character Foil between Darcy and Wickham in the Novel Pride and Prejudice

In order for a reader to connect to the characters in a book and understand each of their individual qualities, authors decide to use characterization. In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, she uses both direct and indirect characterization; this being, telling the reader exactly how she wants to portray a certain character, but also including characters who contrasts with other characters, most often the protagonist, in order to bring out certain qualities. This also known as character foil. One example […]

Socratic Seminar Slaughterhouse Five

How does the Vonneguts time shifting technique affect the understanding of the novel? Is there any advantage of structuring the slaughter house five in the teleporting manner? There is a linear story that emerges from the time shifting details of the novel. There is the story of Billy,? who makes his own way through time travel across the era of World War 2 toward the Dresden and show the scene of destruction. Whenever we came to the thread of the narrator, […]

Parallels between a Novel 1984 and Soviet Union

George Orwell is a politically charged author who writes novels as warning issued against the dangers of totalitarian societies. The novel is dystopian literature. A dystopian society is the not so good version of an utopian society which is pretty much a perfect world. While an utopian society IS a perfect world, a dystopian society is the exact opposite as it is dehumanizing and unpleasant in regards to trying to make everything ideal. The novel 1984 by George Orwell is […]

An Utopian Society in the Novel Animal Farm

Having power is something wanted by all, but it’s sometimes it’s the wrong people who obtain it. All around the world, signs are proving this to be true, even in literature. Classic novels which tend to address universal concerns such as too much power can change the way people view life. A classic novel such as Animal Farm which was written by George Orwell can portray how having too much power will eventually lead to the abuse of that power […]

Loneliness in Kokoro Novel

Natsume Soseki wrote Kokoro towards the end of his life in the 1910s around the time of the death of Emperor Meiji. The novel is centered on three isolated thoughtful individuals, Sensei and the narrator who have moved to Tokyo from rural areas and the narrators father a lonely man who is having difficulties adjusting to modernization who remains in the family home in the countryside. Soseki depicts in fact a melancholic new world in which people are having difficulty […]

The Novel “The Namesake” and Gogol Ganguli

The novel “The Namesake” by Jhumpa Lahiri, exquisitely captures the life events of a certain Bengali immigrant family, the Ganguli’s. The Novel captures the cultural and ethnic dilemmas that are placed upon Ashima and Ashoke Ganguli by the norms of American culture. This predicament is transferred to their first child Gogol. Gogol Ganguli is raised between the norms of American and Bengali cultural tendencies. This exposure and way of life have implemented a mental tug of war on which he […]

Multiple Points of View Paper

Anna Fitzgerald had a sister, Kate who besides having leukemia needed a kidney transplant. Anna is supposed to donate one of her kidneys to her sick sister, but apparently, she is already tired of donating organs to her. Anna did not just donate toys to her sister she also had on many instances donated blood and plasma to her in the past. Notably, Anna had been born out of a genetic engineering process which was purposely facilitated by her parents […]

Okonkwo is the Legend of the Novel Things Fall Apart

Things fall apart is a disaster novel formed by Chinua Achebe. Okonkwo, who is the legend of the novel and a champion among the most powerful men in the Ibo tribe routinely falls back on violence to make his centers appreciated. Down in his heart, Okonkwo is genuinely not a savage man, anyway his life is directed by his inside conflict, the fear of dissatisfaction and of inadequacy. Okonkwo made it a point in his life to isolate himself from […]

Ready Player One: a Science-fiction Novel by Ernest Cline

The book Ready Player One is a science-fiction novel written by Ernest Cline. It was released in 2011 and became a New York Times bestseller. This post-apocalyptic like novel takes place in 2044, after the world has been struggling through economically hard times due to environmentally degradation. The only escape in this brutal world is a virtual reality video game called OASIS that lead character Wade Watts to use advance technology to fully engage himself within the game. The creator […]

George Orwell’s Fiction Novel 1984

With new technology and advanced programs, the government is gaining more power than one may realize. George Orwell’s fiction novel 1984, depicts Oceania’s control upon it’s party members thoughts and freedom showcasing the harsh effects that it had on its population. Too much control can often lead to social repression, Winston being a product of this repressed society. The cruelty Winston is faced with serves as both a motivation for him throughout the novel and reveals many hidden traits about […]

A Political Novel 1984

1984 is a political novel composed for the humans below a totalitarian authorities and to give consciousness for the feasible dangers of it. George Orwell, the author, purposefully created the e book give emphasis to the rising of communism in Western countries who are nonetheless uncertain about how to approach it. He additionally wrote it due to having an insight of the horrendous lengths to which authoritarian governments that ought to possibly go beyond their power such as Spain and […]

Edgar Allan Poe Themes and Styles

Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19th, 1809, in Boston, Massachusetts, the child of two actors. He was then adopted by the Allan family after his father abandoned him and his mother passed away. Living in Virginia, he attended the University of Virginia for only one year, due to lack of money, and was recruited into the army by his father. His time in the army was short-lived, and he soon returned home. Soon after he married his thirteen-year-old […]

Idyllic Society in the Novel Animal Farm

In the novel Animal Farm written by George Orwell is about how the animals attempt to create their own idyllic society which based on equality among the animals. The pigs create Animalism that all the animals have to follow and live by without going against it. First, the author describes the pigs as the “cleverest of the animal and they can easily take over the farm. Secondly, the pigs rely on rules they made together to keep the animals in […]

Main Theme in John Steinbeck’s Novel of Mice

In John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men George and Lennie work at a ranch in California. They work there for a couple of weeks until Lennie accidentally kills Curley’s Wife. George then finds Lennie and kills him. Some of the characters on the ranch symbolizes loneliness. Steinbeck symbolizes loneliness through Candy, Crooks, George, and Curley’s Wife. Candy represents loneliness through his missing hand and old dog. Candy’s hand represents an old soulmate that is now gone. Candy’s dog represents […]

Have you Ever Read a John Steinbeck Novel?

His novels have made him very famous and also put Salinas, California on the map. His status has risen in Salinas as he promised. In this paper, I will be telling you about his life and why he was important. John Ernst Steinbeck was born on February 27, 1902, in Salinas, California which had a population of around 5,000 people at the time. His parents were John Steinbeck, a manager at Sperry flour mill, and Olive Hamilton, a school teacher. […]

The Kite Runner a Novel Full of Betrayals

The Kite Runner, author Khaled Hosseini is a novel full of betrayals and people seeking their redemptions. The novel is based off a major betrayal but is surrounded by other betrayals. The main character Amir betrayed his best friend Hassan and later in his life he tries to seek redemptions for past deeds. After twenty-six years, Amir returns to Afghanistan in order to redeem himself but falls short of acquiring full redemption. Amir cannot completely redeem himself due to watching […]

Things Fall Apart: Character Analysis Okonkwo

In the novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Okonkwo is considered a tragic hero. He is a well-respected man in his thirties who is a leader of his community in Africa during the 1880s. He’s very tall, strong, and well known for his accomplishments in things such as wrestling and farming. Okonkwo is driven by his fear of becoming like his father who is lazy and weak. To keep his reputation tough, he shows almost no emotion other than […]

Dystopian Novel “Fahrenheit 451”

In the dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, the government has taken measures to secure their utopian world. Things like having men going from house to house burning books because they think the knowledge in those books is dangerous to their cause. If anyone hears of someone with a book, they turn them in out of fear. The government brainwashed people into thinking books are bad, and nothing good can come out of them, just as Senator McCarthy did with Communists in […]

The Great Gatsby: Movie and Novel Adaptations

When was the last time you read a book then watched the movie? How about the other way around? Have you ever read a play, then actually seen the play? And while watching it, you find yourself saying excitedly, ohh I think I have read this part in the book, but why is the movie different from what I imagined!. Well you are not alone.That is exactly how I felt after reading Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald’s, The Great Gatsby. The […]

The Life of Gogul in the Novel the Namesake

In the novel The Namesake written by Jhumpa Lahiri, we explore the life of Gogul and his parents as they assimilate into the world of the United States after his parents immigration from India. Throughout the novel we are introduced to various topics including immigration, assimilation and even prejudice. Lahiri laces these intricate topics into her story about a young Indian man’s journey to balance both his Bengali and American lifestyles while also facing the obstacles of maturation and adulthood. […]

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A World Without Martin Amis

The small, cold shock of loneliness upon hearing of the great British comic writer’s death

A portrait of Martin Amis

Sometime in the late ’90s I went to see Martin Amis read at a branch of the bookstore chain Waterstones (long gone) in downtown Boston. It was Amis and Will Self—a proper lexically charged white-man road show.

The two authors performed elegantly, with savage aplomb, etc., and when the Q&A came round, after fielding the usual queries about where he got his ideas from and what time he got up in the morning, Amis pointed to a man at the back: “Yes …?” The man was skinny, baseball-hatted, conspicuously alone, a patina of dispossession about him. “Martin,” he said, in a voice that made everybody turn around. “I was looking at your books in the library and I noticed there are a lot of books by Kingsley Amis. I was wondering, is he a relation of yours?”

What?! Who didn’t know that Martin was the runaway son of red-faced old Kingsley? That’s Amis 101. Part of the brand. It would have been easy, so easy, pardonably easy, for Amis to reap some titters from the audience here, at this man’s expense. We were all ready for it. But he didn’t. “Absolutely,” he said matter-of-factly. “That’s my dad.” And then he moved into a genial disquisition about writerly DNA and the transmission (or not) of talent. Mere patter for him, really. But not in this context. In this context it seemed a gesture of almost extravagant respect for this estranged figure, the man at the back, the everyman reader.

Read: James Parker on Amis’s last book

The first sensation I felt upon hearing of Amis’s death yesterday surprised me: It was a small, cold shock of loneliness. I was made aware in a clinical instant of the extent to which this wired, prodigious, super-sane, democratic, and coruscatingly comic sensibility had been accompanying me and instructing me for the past 35 years. And with its sudden removal I wondered, like a child, what my world was going to be like without Martin Amis to describe it for me.

Of course in the literary sense, in the sense that most mattered (I think) to Amis, there’s been no such removal. We’ve got the novels, and the essays, and the memoirs, and the imperishable lines. You can feel their value altering and deepening, even since yesterday—a global gearshift in appreciation. He was very concerned with posterity, with his legacy, and now, on that level, the real game begins.

Read: The Amis Obsession

But there was something about having him around. His actual jangling organs of perception, his actual participation, sharing the same air, moon, politicians, makes of car, ambient cultural noise, and generally confounding conditions. Writing about tennis. Writing about Tony Blair. Writing about terrorism. Responding, with his own poetically magnified accuracy, to the experience of being alive right now.

So that’s gone, and we’re left with a moment of deprivation. Or are we? Because death diffuses, death disperses, death scatters, and if you’re lucky you can briefly catch some of that energy as it flies. It sharpens your eye; it sharpens your taste buds. That’s what Martin Amis did for readers: He made us lucky.

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Essays on Novel

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Ignatius and Irene: Partnership and Polarization

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A Theme of Fear in The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

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Transcending The Gernsback Ghetto in a Canticle for Leibowitz

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Societal Shifts in The Victorian Era: Marriage, Men, and Domesticity Analyzing Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

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Susan Sontag in November 1972.

On Women by Susan Sontag review – the reluctant feminist

Susan Sontag’s mixed feelings towards the movement that propelled her career

D id Susan Sontag like women? I’m not so sure she did, which made the arrival of feminism in the early 1970s a complicated prospect. Should she get on board or scuttle the ship? I’m not talking about the private realm, of course. She liked, loved, lusted after and admired plenty of individual women. Although she declined to identify publicly as a lesbian, most of her sexual relationships were with women. But was membership of the second sex useful to the public project of Being Sontag? Judging from the evidence here, it was an ambivalent passport, sometimes flashed at the border and sometimes disparaged.

The essays that make up On Women are from the early 1970s, just as the second wave of feminism was breaking on the shores of New York. They weren’t originally published as a book, in the manner of Against Interpretation , the collection that established her reputation as a young avant-gardiste and intellectual force in 1966. Instead, they are wayside pronouncements from a jobbing writer whose high-low trajectory ran from the New York Review of Books to Vogue. Their appearance now is a posthumous creation that, the jacket reports, brings together Sontag’s “most fearless and incisive writing on women, a crucial aspect of her work that has not until now received the attention it deserves”.

What is actually revealed by the book, and especially by the decision to organise it chronologically, is the process by which Sontag approached, assimilated, dominated and expelled disquieting material. In the earliest essays, she’s plainly late to the party. The Double Standard of Ageing is the most dated and uncertain I’ve ever heard Sontag. It’s as if she’s stepped from Warhol’s Factory back into the anxious fug of the 1950s, with her timorous pronouncements about spinsters and old maids, her sweeping descriptions of how “women” (all of them? Everywhere?) routinely lie about their age, lest they are branded sexually obsolete, “ineligible”, over the hill at 35.

Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique had been published nearly a decade earlier. Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch , Kate Millett’s Sexual Politics and Shulamith Firestone’s The Dialectic of Sex had all appeared in 1970. Why on earth was Sontag serving up such gloop? Characteristic, too, that she notes the humiliation of segregating women into Miss and Mrs without acknowledging that an alternative had already been generated by women themselves. Ms magazine had been founded two months before, and the new word was everywhere that year.

Beneath her caution lurks something stranger. Women, she reports, are kept as children, “weak”, “servile”, “parasitic”. This is the consequence of society not biology, yet the solution Sontag proposes is not revolution, separatism, protest or any other upending of the iniquitous order. Women need to stop lying about their age and wearing makeup. “Women should tell the truth.” Somehow, it is their fault after all.

A year on, and she seems to have vaulted from the margins to the vanguard. The Third World of Women was Sontag’s response to a questionnaire sent to her and five other prominent women, including Simone de Beauvoir, by the Spanish-language quarterly Libre. Here she sketches out a far more radical, which is to say rigorously doctrinaire, account of women’s liberation. The tone is firm, exacting, definitive, a little testy: a good general who has mastered the brief and digested the background reading. “Anything less than a change in who has power and what power is, is not liberation but pacification.” “The women’s movement must lead to a critical assault on the very nature of the state.”

But odd wobbles in her knowledge base remain. She advises, grandly, that women’s groups should “lobby, demonstrate, march”, suggesting raids on beauty parlours and the defacing of sexist billboards, all tactics that the women’s movement was already using. Worse, there’s still the submerged sense that somehow weak, silly women are to blame for a predicament that Sontag herself doesn’t share. This exceptionalism is familiar to the seasoned Sontag watcher, recurring, for example, in 1989’s Aids and Its Metaphors, in which she describes herself as “quite unseduced” by the fantasies about illness that terrified her fellow cancer patients, a pose debunked by her own diary.

The questionnaire essay includes a swift biography: university at 15, married at 17, divorced at 24, independent, vigorously self-confident, travelling without the shelter of a man’s name, income or physical protection. She’s a shining exception to those servile masses, and here at least she’s careful to portray this as a matter of fortune, not talent; to differentiate herself from those successful women who slam the door in the face of others, cleaving to their special status and refusing to admit the cards are stacked. If the first responsibility of the liberated woman is to live “the fullest, freest and most imaginative life she can”, the second, she declares piously, is solidarity with her sisters.

By 1975, that sense of solidarity had eroded, never to be seen on such public display again. Perhaps Sontag no longer felt threatened by feminism or thought it could provide her with useful cachet. Certainly, she’d ceased to be intellectually invested in the project. It had become more important to define herself against the backdrop of her mutinous sisters, often by using exactly the techniques she’d recently decried. Her (brilliant) essay on the Nazi film-maker Leni Riefenstahl and the aesthetics of fascism occasioned a scrap on the letters page of the New York Review of Books with the feminist poet Adrienne Rich, whose mild-voiced desire for Sontag to discover a familial connection between the grotesque object-making of fascism and patriarchy occasioned a snarling denouncement of “simple-minded … feminist plaint”.

There’s no question that Sontag is right when she says “it is surely not treasonable to think that there are other goals than the depolarization of the two sexes, other wounds than sexual wounds”. Of course, she had a right to choose her subjects. Of course, not every argument need spool back to the dominance of men over women. And, of course, feminism had – has – its simple-minded solipsism, its groupthink and hatred of defectors. But the fact remains that she wasn’t very good at it anyway.

As the Riefenstahl essay demonstrates, Sontag doesn’t come alive stylistically or intellectually unless she has cultural material with which to think. Her sentences only begin to accumulate their sonorous, unsettling meanings when she’s reading a photograph or applying the techniques of new historicism to a film, not when she’s making vacuous statements about women and beauty, terms so cavernous they echo. She can’t get purchase on the subject of sexual politics. She doesn’t possess the rage of Andrea Dworkin , her incantatory, haunted-house style. She isn’t an obsessive theoretician, a basement genius like Shulamith Firestone. Frankly, her heart isn’t in it.

What’s most noticeable about the last quarter of this book is that it starts to sound like Sontag. Her voice doesn’t quicken until it leaves the subject of women far behind. What she really wants to write about is death and history, about the multiplication of images and the sickening, suffering body as it travels through the devastations of time. Those were her subjects. This is not a very good book about women, but on Sontag herself – her machinations, her refusals – it’s as revealing as, well, a face with the makeup scrubbed off.

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What Susan Sontag Wanted for Women

By Merve Emre

Illustration of Susan Sontag

A certain anxiety besieges the critic asked to introduce a volume of earlier writings on women, lest she find the ideas expressed in them relics of a distant, less enlightened past. But the essays and interviews in “ On Women ,” a new collection of Susan Sontag ’s work, are incapable of aging badly. Though the pieces are around fifty years old, the effect of reading them today is to marvel at the untimeliness of their genius. They contain no ready-made ideas, no borrowed rhetoric—nothing that risks hardening into dogma or cant. They offer us only the spectacle of a ferocious intellect setting itself to the task at hand: to articulate the politics and aesthetics of being a woman in the United States, the Americas, and the world.

The singular glamour of Susan Sontag has done her some injustice, particularly where matters of sex and gender are concerned. Suspicious of her celebrity, and convinced that her success had rendered her immune to the plights of ordinary women, her critics have characterized her relationship to the second sex as inconstant at best and faithless at worst. Consider the poet Adrienne Rich ’s letter to The New York Review of Books , objecting to Sontag’s 1975 essay on Leni Riefenstahl, “ Fascinating Fascism .” Dismissing Sontag’s suggestion that feminists bore some responsibility for turning Riefenstahl’s films into cultural monuments, Rich noted the “running criticism by radical feminists of male-identified ‘successful’ women, whether they are artists, executives, psychiatrists, Marxists, politicians, or scholars.” It was no accident, Rich implied, that “male-identified” values were embodied not just by Riefenstahl but by Sontag. The phenomena that Sontag was drawn to in her writing—the metamorphosis of people into objects, the obliteration of personality by style, the pursuit of perfection through domination and submission—were painted with the same broad brush of patriarchy, indicting the critic attracted to them.

It’s true that Sontag didn’t quite ally herself with the radical-feminist movement. In her journal, she questioned its “inherited political rhetoric (that of gauchisme)” and its dismissal of the intellect as “bourgeois, phallo-centric, repressive.” “Like all capital moral truths, feminism is a bit simple-minded,” she wrote in her response to Rich. Yet, unless we consent to a moralizing litmus test of what it means to be a feminist, we should remain skeptical of the idea that, as Rich put it, Sontag’s writings on women were “an intellectual exercise” more than “the expression of a felt reality.” In a journal entry from 1972, Sontag noted that “women” was one of the three themes she had been studying all her life. (The other two were “China” and “freaks.”) And it was in the seventies that the subject moved to the heart of her writing.

The historical explanation is straightforward enough. The years from 1968 to 1973 were the most publicly visible stretch of the women’s movement in the United States, years that appear to us now in an energetic sequence of film dissolves: women burning bras; women marching in the streets and swaying at candlelight vigils; women distributing mimeographed sheets with topics for consciousness-raising, including equal pay, domestic violence, housework, child care, and the right to an abortion; women thumbing through copies of “ The Second Sex ,” “ The Feminine Mystique ,” and “ Sexual Politics .” Nearly every notable woman essayist opined on the movement, often by assuming a tone of cool, disdainful skepticism toward its goals and principles. Today, one reads essays like Elizabeth Hardwick’s curiously scattered “Women Re Women” or Joan Didion’s startlingly shallow “The Women’s Movement” with a vague sense of unease—or, quite simply, bafflement at their authors’ lack of fellow-feeling, their lack of interest in the conditions that touched their lives as profoundly as the lives of the women whom they condescended to so freely.

In contrast, Sontag’s essays and interviews are forceful, sympathetic, exceedingly truthful, and capacious in their imagination of what a woman is or could be. In a different world, “On Women” would have been the collection that appeared between “ Styles of Radical Will ” (1969) and “ Under the Sign of Saturn ” (1980). The work gathered here represents an overlooked half decade of Sontag’s writing, much of it undertaken between her trip to Vietnam, in 1968, and her first cancer diagnosis, in 1975. Reading the book, one realizes that its pieces are bracketed by death—that Sontag’s entire notion of women was death-ridden, haunted by an awareness of mortality. “Thinking about my own death the other day, as I often do, I made a discovery,” she wrote in her journal, in 1974. “I realized that my way of thinking has up to now been both too abstract and too concrete. Too abstract: death. Too concrete: me. For there was a middle term, both abstract and concrete: women. I am a woman. And thereby, a whole new universe of death rose before my eyes.” The spectre of death spurred her to reconsider the relationship between the individual and the collective, between the lone woman and women as a historical category. And she did so in a style that was more restrained than the flamboyant, belligerent beauty of her earlier essays, as if to speak of women as a whole required her, in part, to efface her exceptional self.

In Sontag’s essays, death assumes strange guises. Only rarely does it appear in the gruesome forms of rape and murder and slavery, as she imagined in her journal. (A tantalizing entry contains notes for an essay, never written, that she wanted to call “On Women Dying” or “How Women Die.”) Sometimes, as in “The Third World of Women,” her extraordinary 1972 interview with the leftist quarterly Libre , death was the will to self-annihilation of the entire global order, whose ideology of unlimited growth went hand in hand with “ever-increasing levels of productivity and consumption; the unlimited cannibalization of the environment.” Women and men alike were ensnared by this desire to accumulate—but women were additionally oppressed by the institution of the nuclear family, “a prison of sexual repression, a playing field of inconsistent moral laxity, a museum of possessiveness, a guilt-producing factory, and a school of selfishness.” The fact that the family was also the source of apparently unalienated values (“warmth, trust, dialogue, uncompetitiveness, loyalty, spontaneity, sexual pleasure, fun”) only increased its power.

In articulating this double diagnosis, Sontag was careful to distance herself from the rhetoric of the socialist and Marxist feminists of the era; there is, throughout the interview, a noticeable allergy to political radicalism, and a deep conviction that work may be a source of pride, affirmation, and distinction. Yet she also understood, just as those feminists did, that the integrity of the family depended on the exploitation of women’s unwaged, domestic labor. “Women who have gained the freedom to go out into ‘the world’ but still have the responsibility for marketing, cooking, cleaning, and the children when they return from work have simply doubled their labor,” she insisted. Liberation from death into life required a revolution that would overthrow the authoritarian moral habits that kept the division of labor—men at work, women in the home—intact.

Most often, however, death appears in these essays as the slow erosion of one’s sense of self, the painful contraction of life’s possibilities. Sontag described it with terrible clarity in “The Double Standard of Aging”: “Growing older is mainly an ordeal of the imagination—a moral disease, a social pathology—intrinsic to which is the fact that it afflicts women much more than men.” Day by day, the horizon of one’s potential dimmed and receded. The body began to bear the signs of its diminishment, exposed as a traitor to the vision of the firm, unlined self that was forged in youth. Yet the vision was itself traitorous to women. “Beauty, women’s business in this society, is the theater of their enslavement,” Sontag wrote. “Only one standard of female beauty is sanctioned: the girl.” Women were not permitted to change, were not allowed to cast off their smooth innocence and docility in favor of wisdom, competence, strength, and ambition. The essays in “On Women” make clear that, for Sontag, the oppression of women presented an aesthetic and narrative problem as well as a political and economic one.

Does beauty pose a problem for feminism? Perhaps the better question is: Does beauty pose a problem for how women imagine their futures? What would it mean to be liberated from beauty’s conventional images, its stock stories? It is always a little embarrassing for a beautiful woman to write about physical beauty, for she must serve as both the subject and the object of her judgments. But it is just as embarrassing, if not more, for her to admit that her beauty has started to fade: for her beauty to define her now not by its startling presence but by its absence. Sontag was thirty-nine, on the cusp of forty, when she wrote “The Double Standard of Aging”—one of the only personal details she reveals throughout “On Women.” She was in her early forties when she wrote the two short essays on beauty, “A Woman’s Beauty: Put-Down or Power Source?” and “Beauty: How Will It Change Next?” “To be sure, beauty is a form of power. And deservedly so,” she wrote. Yet it was a power that had always been conceived in relation to men: “not the power to do but the power to attract.” In this sense, it was a power that negated itself. It could not be “chosen freely,” nor could it be “renounced without social censure.”

In her quest to place women in a fresher and more empowered relation to beauty, Sontag was aided by her long-standing suspicion of beauty writ large, as a judgment of people, art, and experience. It was a suspicion she first aired formally in “Notes on ‘Camp,’ ” in which she implied that the alliance brokered between beauty and mass civilization had authorized a certain predictability of taste. In “On Women,” that alliance secured the oppression of women by holding them to standards of self-presentation that are at once too flexible, too quick to essentialize the whims of the market and its aesthetic values, and too rigid, incapable of bestowing recognition upon those who were old, loud, ugly, unfeminine, disabled. If, as Sontag argued, beauty had been “abridged in order to prop up the mythology of the ‘feminine,’ ” then a more shocking and forgiving definition of beauty required unsexing it, violently. Beauty would no longer be subject to the approval of men; it would appropriate the masculine to do women’s bidding for them.

Camp is the hidden nerve running through the essays in “On Women.” Initially conceived of by Sontag as apolitical, it emerges here as the privileged sensibility of a politics of feminist liberation. If camp meant going against the grain of one’s sex by engaging in a “robust, shrill, vulgar parody” of gender, as she described it in her interview with Salmagundi , then there is something fantastically campy in her imagination of the politics of consciousness-raising. She encouraged women to think of themselves as actors in a “guerrilla theater,” in which they would perform the following acts in the most exaggerated and contemptuous manner possible:

They should whistle at men in the streets, raid beauty parlors, picket toy manufacturers who produce sexist toys, convert in sizeable numbers to militant lesbianism, operate their own free psychiatric and abortion clinics, provide feminist divorce counseling, establish makeup withdrawal centers, adopt their mothers’ family names as their last names, deface billboard advertising that insults women, disrupt public events by singing in honor of the docile wives of male celebrities and politicians, collect pledges to renounce alimony and giggling, bring lawsuits for defamation against the mass-circulation “women’s magazines,” conduct telephone harassment campaigns against male psychiatrists who have sexual relations with their women patients, organize beauty contests for men, put up feminist candidates for all public offices.

“Women will be much more effective politically if they are rude, shrill, and—by sexist standards—‘unattractive,’ ” Sontag proposed. “They will be met with ridicule, which they should do more than bear stoically. They should, indeed, welcome it.” Welcoming it helped neutralize the sexist condemnation of men. But it was also the first step toward eradicating the ideological division of men and women along lines of sex—for Sontag, the ultimate end of feminist revolution. “A society in which women are subjectively and objectively the genuine equals of men . . . will necessarily be an androgynous society,” she wrote. She did not value separatism, the aggressive policing of the boundaries of who was or was not a woman. She valued the right to plural forms of being, the right to her many fractured selves. She envisioned an aesthetic and political integration that would, in the final analysis, result in the obliteration of “men” and “women” as categories of identity. Then there would be no need for women to establish a private culture, no need for them to seek rooms of their own. “It’s just that they should be seeking to abolish,” she concluded.

It is the interviews that stand out as the secret treasures of “On Women,” for it is the interviews that make the most space for a plurality of style and thought that mirrored Sontag’s belief in the plurality of the self. “To be an intellectual is to be attached to the inherent value of plurality, and to the right of critical space (space for critical opposition within society),” she wrote in her journal. In the interviews, one finds a voice that is rigorous still, but bolder and freer and more gladiatorial in its pronouncements. We hear, once more, the eager combativeness of her earlier essays. We hear, too, her willingness to respond, challenge, qualify, speculate; her refusal of easy answers or offended pieties. We feel the hunger that drove her to keep thinking. And we feel, across the great and growing distance of time, the force of her demand that we never stop thinking alongside her. ♦

This is drawn from “ On Women .”

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‘On Women’ collects Susan Sontag’s crisp, cutting work about feminism

In these essays and interviews, sontag was concerned with both limiting and expanding the scope of the battle against sexism.

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The great French writer Colette once speculated that “certain highly complex human beings” are marked by their “mental hermaphroditism.” The fabled essayist Susan Sontag was among them. She was a woman, but she dressed in the glamorously genderless garb of an intellectual celebrity and wrote on the weighty topics usually reserved for her male peers. In her journals, she mused that “to be an intellectual is to be attached to the inherent value of plurality.”

At her best, Sontag refused to truncate herself in the interest of legibility or to simplify her thinking in the service of easy answers. At her worst, she was dodgy and noncommittal. For the duration of her romance with the photographer Annie Leibovitz, which lasted from 1989 until Sontag’s death in 2004 , she never publicly identified as a lesbian. An acquaintance, the formidable critic Terry Castle, recalls that Sontag’s “usual line (indignant and aggrieved) was that she didn’t believe in ‘labels.’” It is easy to see why this cliché might have rankled queer activists — and why “labels” might belong in scornful scare quotes. But whether Sontag’s silence was misguided as a matter of political strategy, it was part and parcel of her earnest commitment to androgyny as a higher form of life.

“The aim of struggle should not be to protect the differences between the two sexes but to undermine them,” she writes in “ On Women ,” an indispensable new volume edited by her son, David Rieff. The seven reflections on feminism that make up the book — some of them essays, some interviews — were published in various venues in the early 1970s, but most have since become difficult to track down. The only version of “The Double Standard of Aging” that I could find when I searched several years ago was a smudgy scan on a website of dubious legality. Sontag is best known as a meticulous critic of high culture, but there is a reason I was so desperate for a copy of her bracing meditation on the “humiliating process of gradual sexual disqualification” that women undergo as they age. Her writing on modernist novels and foreign-language film is erudite, challenging and occasionally ponderous; her writing on women is crisp and cutting. Heretically, I prefer the latter.

In “On Women ,” Sontag is concerned with both limiting and expanding the scope of feminism. Limiting, because she opposes the movement’s incursion into every facet of discussion. “Fascinating Fascism,” a probing appraisal of Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, would be a bit of an outlier in the book, if not for the exchange with the poet and feminist theorist Adrienne Rich that it so famously prompted. In a letter to the editor of the New York Review of Books , where the piece first appeared in 1975, Rich faulted Sontag for neglecting to emphasize the connection between fascism and patriarchy. “One is not looking for a ‘line’ of propaganda or a ‘correct’ position,” she wrote, as an unconvincing prelude to doing just that. Sontag’s reply is satisfying in the manner of neatly arranged shelves, efficiently packed suitcases and other emblems of exactitude. In response to Rich’s question as to how the “same mind” could have produced both “Fascinating Fascism” and more explicitly feminist writings, she replied: “Easy. By addressing itself to a different problem, with the intention of making a different point.” In a 1975 interview in the literary magazine Salmagundi , also included in “On Women,” she clarified:

I’d like to see a few platoons of intellectuals who are also feminists doing their bit in the war against misogyny in their own way, letting the feminist implications be residual or implicit in their work, without risking being charged by their sisters with desertion. I don’t like party lines. They make for intellectual monotony and bad prose.

But Sontag’s belief that feminism was not the be all and end all of intellectual life did not mean she was a tepid ally. In one of the most exhilarating passages in “On Women,” she roars:

Women should lobby, demonstrate, march. They should take karate lessons. They should whistle at men in the streets, raid beauty parlors, picket toy manufacturers who produce sexist toys, convert in sizable numbers to militant lesbianism, operate their own free psychiatric and abortion clinics, provide feminist divorce counseling, establish makeup withdrawal centers, adopt their mothers’ family names as their last names, deface billboard advertising that insults women, disrupt public events by singing in honor of the docile wives of male celebrities and politicians, collect pledges to renounce alimony and giggling, bring lawsuits for defamation against the mass-circulation ‘women’s magazines,’ conduct telephone harassment campaigns against male psychiatrists who have sexual relations with their women patients, organize beauty contests for men, put up feminist candidates for all public offices.

Feminism may not be the only appropriate topic of conversation, or the answer to every question, but it must nonetheless be imported into even the most intimate sanctums. “Liberal” feminism, which operates at the level of public policy, is powerless against the sexism that is “expressed on all levels of human interchange, not just in laws but in the detail of everyday life.” Sexism of this sort prevails “in forms of politeness and in the conventions (clothes, gestures, etc.) which polarize sexual identity, and in the flow of images (in art, news, and advertising) which perpetuate sexist stereotypes.” It seeps, like a gas, into every crevice of consciousness.

One set of norms that particularly worried Sontag — and to which she devoted three of the essays in “On Women” — concerns beauty, which is “women’s business in this society” as well as “the theater of their enslavement.” The indignity of aging in a culture that fetishizes female youth is not unrelated to class, as Sontag acknowledges. But even if economic justice could equalize access to the creams and poultices purported to reverse the creep of the years, it could not overturn the widespread conviction that “only one standard of female beauty is sanctioned: the girl. ”

Another problem that remains impervious to legal and economic solutions involves the fraught influx of women into the workforce. Sontag maintained that the crux of the issue was not only that women did not have the means to support themselves (and thereby escape their abusive husbands), but also that they tended to flock to stereotypically feminine occupations. “The colonialized status of women is confirmed and indeed strengthened by the sexist division of labor,” by women’s ghettoization in jobs that are “public transcriptions of the servicing and nurturing roles that women have in family life.” Work must therefore become “fully desegregated sexually.”

It is a delight to watch such an agile mind slicing through the flab of lazy thinking. To those who claim that women have different natures than men, Sontag replies succinctly: “The argument from ‘nature’ is self-confirming. Individual lives which do not confirm the argument will always be taken as exceptions, thereby leaving the stereotypes intact.” To those who “deny they believe these differences make women inferior,” Sontag responds:

Their argument is as dishonest as the separate-but-equal argument once used to defend the legal segregation of the races in schools. For the specific content of these supposedly innate differences between women and men imply a scale of values in which the qualities assigned to women are clearly less estimable.

The aim of feminism must be to “abolish the mystique of ‘nature,’” she wrote, to “work toward an end to all stereotyping of any kind.” The wholesale abolition of gender is our only hope of escaping its cruelties and curtailments.

Whether Sontag’s defiant uncategorizability strikes you as subtlety or evasiveness depends on your stomach for uncertainty. “No position can be a comfortable one or should be complacently held,” she said in the Salmagundi interview. The most important debates of the era must remain knotty, “unresolved.” For my part, I prefer conclusiveness in argument — but in life, I am greatly moved by the image of a world in which everyone has the chance to embody the “mental hermaphroditism” that allowed Colette and Sontag to be so intricate, so multiple, so ample and so whole.

Becca Rothfeld is the nonfiction book critic for The Washington Post.

By Susan Sontag

Edited by David Rieff

Picador. 184 pp. $16

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  • How to write a literary analysis essay | A step-by-step guide

How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay | A Step-by-Step Guide

Published on January 30, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on September 2, 2022.

Literary analysis means closely studying a text, interpreting its meanings, and exploring why the author made certain choices. It can be applied to novels, short stories, plays, poems, or any other form of literary writing.

A literary analysis essay is not a rhetorical analysis , nor is it just a summary of the plot or a book review. Instead, it is a type of argumentative essay where you need to analyze elements such as the language, perspective, and structure of the text, and explain how the author uses literary devices to create effects and convey ideas.

Before beginning a literary analysis essay, it’s essential to carefully read the text and c ome up with a thesis statement to keep your essay focused. As you write, follow the standard structure of an academic essay :

  • An introduction that tells the reader what your essay will focus on.
  • A main body, divided into paragraphs , that builds an argument using evidence from the text.
  • A conclusion that clearly states the main point that you have shown with your analysis.

Table of contents

Step 1: reading the text and identifying literary devices, step 2: coming up with a thesis, step 3: writing a title and introduction, step 4: writing the body of the essay, step 5: writing a conclusion.

The first step is to carefully read the text(s) and take initial notes. As you read, pay attention to the things that are most intriguing, surprising, or even confusing in the writing—these are things you can dig into in your analysis.

Your goal in literary analysis is not simply to explain the events described in the text, but to analyze the writing itself and discuss how the text works on a deeper level. Primarily, you’re looking out for literary devices —textual elements that writers use to convey meaning and create effects. If you’re comparing and contrasting multiple texts, you can also look for connections between different texts.

To get started with your analysis, there are several key areas that you can focus on. As you analyze each aspect of the text, try to think about how they all relate to each other. You can use highlights or notes to keep track of important passages and quotes.

Language choices

Consider what style of language the author uses. Are the sentences short and simple or more complex and poetic?

What word choices stand out as interesting or unusual? Are words used figuratively to mean something other than their literal definition? Figurative language includes things like metaphor (e.g. “her eyes were oceans”) and simile (e.g. “her eyes were like oceans”).

Also keep an eye out for imagery in the text—recurring images that create a certain atmosphere or symbolize something important. Remember that language is used in literary texts to say more than it means on the surface.

Narrative voice

Ask yourself:

Is it a first-person narrator (“I”) who is personally involved in the story, or a third-person narrator who tells us about the characters from a distance?

Consider the narrator’s perspective . Is the narrator omniscient (where they know everything about all the characters and events), or do they only have partial knowledge? Are they an unreliable narrator who we are not supposed to take at face value? Authors often hint that their narrator might be giving us a distorted or dishonest version of events.

The tone of the text is also worth considering. Is the story intended to be comic, tragic, or something else? Are usually serious topics treated as funny, or vice versa ? Is the story realistic or fantastical (or somewhere in between)?

Consider how the text is structured, and how the structure relates to the story being told.

Think about why the author chose to divide the different parts of the text in the way they did.

There are also less formal structural elements to take into account. Does the story unfold in chronological order, or does it jump back and forth in time? Does it begin in medias res —in the middle of the action? Does the plot advance towards a clearly defined climax?

With poetry, consider how the rhyme and meter shape your understanding of the text and your impression of the tone. Try reading the poem aloud to get a sense of this.

In a play, you might consider how relationships between characters are built up through different scenes, and how the setting relates to the action. Watch out for  dramatic irony , where the audience knows some detail that the characters don’t, creating a double meaning in their words, thoughts, or actions.

Your thesis in a literary analysis essay is the point you want to make about the text. It’s the core argument that gives your essay direction and prevents it from just being a collection of random observations about a text.

If you’re given a prompt for your essay, your thesis must answer or relate to the prompt. For example:

Essay question example

Is Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” a religious parable?

Your thesis statement should be an answer to this question—not a simple yes or no, but a statement of why this is or isn’t the case:

Thesis statement example

Franz Kafka’s “Before the Law” is not a religious parable, but a story about bureaucratic alienation.

Sometimes you’ll be given freedom to choose your own topic; in this case, you’ll have to come up with an original thesis. Consider what stood out to you in the text; ask yourself questions about the elements that interested you, and consider how you might answer them.

Your thesis should be something arguable—that is, something that you think is true about the text, but which is not a simple matter of fact. It must be complex enough to develop through evidence and arguments across the course of your essay.

Say you’re analyzing the novel Frankenstein . You could start by asking yourself:

Your initial answer might be a surface-level description:

The character Frankenstein is portrayed negatively in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein .

However, this statement is too simple to be an interesting thesis. After reading the text and analyzing its narrative voice and structure, you can develop the answer into a more nuanced and arguable thesis statement:

Mary Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as.

Remember that you can revise your thesis statement throughout the writing process , so it doesn’t need to be perfectly formulated at this stage. The aim is to keep you focused as you analyze the text.

Finding textual evidence

To support your thesis statement, your essay will build an argument using textual evidence —specific parts of the text that demonstrate your point. This evidence is quoted and analyzed throughout your essay to explain your argument to the reader.

It can be useful to comb through the text in search of relevant quotations before you start writing. You might not end up using everything you find, and you may have to return to the text for more evidence as you write, but collecting textual evidence from the beginning will help you to structure your arguments and assess whether they’re convincing.

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To start your literary analysis paper, you’ll need two things: a good title, and an introduction.

Your title should clearly indicate what your analysis will focus on. It usually contains the name of the author and text(s) you’re analyzing. Keep it as concise and engaging as possible.

A common approach to the title is to use a relevant quote from the text, followed by a colon and then the rest of your title.

If you struggle to come up with a good title at first, don’t worry—this will be easier once you’ve begun writing the essay and have a better sense of your arguments.

“Fearful symmetry” : The violence of creation in William Blake’s “The Tyger”

The introduction

The essay introduction provides a quick overview of where your argument is going. It should include your thesis statement and a summary of the essay’s structure.

A typical structure for an introduction is to begin with a general statement about the text and author, using this to lead into your thesis statement. You might refer to a commonly held idea about the text and show how your thesis will contradict it, or zoom in on a particular device you intend to focus on.

Then you can end with a brief indication of what’s coming up in the main body of the essay. This is called signposting. It will be more elaborate in longer essays, but in a short five-paragraph essay structure, it shouldn’t be more than one sentence.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, protagonist Victor Frankenstein is a stable representation of the callous ambition of modern science throughout the novel. This essay, however, argues that far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as. This essay begins by exploring the positive portrayal of Frankenstein in the first volume, then moves on to the creature’s perception of him, and finally discusses the third volume’s narrative shift toward viewing Frankenstein as the creature views him.

Some students prefer to write the introduction later in the process, and it’s not a bad idea. After all, you’ll have a clearer idea of the overall shape of your arguments once you’ve begun writing them!

If you do write the introduction first, you should still return to it later to make sure it lines up with what you ended up writing, and edit as necessary.

The body of your essay is everything between the introduction and conclusion. It contains your arguments and the textual evidence that supports them.

Paragraph structure

A typical structure for a high school literary analysis essay consists of five paragraphs : the three paragraphs of the body, plus the introduction and conclusion.

Each paragraph in the main body should focus on one topic. In the five-paragraph model, try to divide your argument into three main areas of analysis, all linked to your thesis. Don’t try to include everything you can think of to say about the text—only analysis that drives your argument.

In longer essays, the same principle applies on a broader scale. For example, you might have two or three sections in your main body, each with multiple paragraphs. Within these sections, you still want to begin new paragraphs at logical moments—a turn in the argument or the introduction of a new idea.

Robert’s first encounter with Gil-Martin suggests something of his sinister power. Robert feels “a sort of invisible power that drew me towards him.” He identifies the moment of their meeting as “the beginning of a series of adventures which has puzzled myself, and will puzzle the world when I am no more in it” (p. 89). Gil-Martin’s “invisible power” seems to be at work even at this distance from the moment described; before continuing the story, Robert feels compelled to anticipate at length what readers will make of his narrative after his approaching death. With this interjection, Hogg emphasizes the fatal influence Gil-Martin exercises from his first appearance.

Topic sentences

To keep your points focused, it’s important to use a topic sentence at the beginning of each paragraph.

A good topic sentence allows a reader to see at a glance what the paragraph is about. It can introduce a new line of argument and connect or contrast it with the previous paragraph. Transition words like “however” or “moreover” are useful for creating smooth transitions:

… The story’s focus, therefore, is not upon the divine revelation that may be waiting beyond the door, but upon the mundane process of aging undergone by the man as he waits.

Nevertheless, the “radiance” that appears to stream from the door is typically treated as religious symbolism.

This topic sentence signals that the paragraph will address the question of religious symbolism, while the linking word “nevertheless” points out a contrast with the previous paragraph’s conclusion.

Using textual evidence

A key part of literary analysis is backing up your arguments with relevant evidence from the text. This involves introducing quotes from the text and explaining their significance to your point.

It’s important to contextualize quotes and explain why you’re using them; they should be properly introduced and analyzed, not treated as self-explanatory:

It isn’t always necessary to use a quote. Quoting is useful when you’re discussing the author’s language, but sometimes you’ll have to refer to plot points or structural elements that can’t be captured in a short quote.

In these cases, it’s more appropriate to paraphrase or summarize parts of the text—that is, to describe the relevant part in your own words:

The conclusion of your analysis shouldn’t introduce any new quotations or arguments. Instead, it’s about wrapping up the essay. Here, you summarize your key points and try to emphasize their significance to the reader.

A good way to approach this is to briefly summarize your key arguments, and then stress the conclusion they’ve led you to, highlighting the new perspective your thesis provides on the text as a whole:

By tracing the depiction of Frankenstein through the novel’s three volumes, I have demonstrated how the narrative structure shifts our perception of the character. While the Frankenstein of the first volume is depicted as having innocent intentions, the second and third volumes—first in the creature’s accusatory voice, and then in his own voice—increasingly undermine him, causing him to appear alternately ridiculous and vindictive. Far from the one-dimensional villain he is often taken to be, the character of Frankenstein is compelling because of the dynamic narrative frame in which he is placed. In this frame, Frankenstein’s narrative self-presentation responds to the images of him we see from others’ perspectives. This conclusion sheds new light on the novel, foregrounding Shelley’s unique layering of narrative perspectives and its importance for the depiction of character.

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Literature Research Paper Topics: 250 Top Ideas


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Are you looking for an engaging literary research paper topic? Whether you're writing a college-level essay or a master's thesis, the right literature research paper topics can make all the difference. They range from exploring particular genres or authors to examining the use of language in literary works. By researching these topics, you will gain a greater understanding of the ideas, improve your critical thinking skills, and learn to appreciate the nuances. This article will explore such literature topics for research and open up endless possibilities for analysis and interpretation, ranging from classic to modern-day texts. Are you ready to choose a trending topic and write a paper that will win your professor’s heart? 

What Are Literary Research Paper Topics?

Literary research paper topics focus on a particular literary work, such as a book, poem, novel, play, or story. They provide a great starting point for researching the specific aspect you're planning to explore for a better perception of the idea and help to eliminate any artificial facet. Literary research topics may analyze a single text, compare different writings by the same author, or contrast different authors' styles.  Common literature topics for research papers comprise symbolism, characterization, themes, plot structure, historical context, point-of-view analysis, biographical contexts, and intertextual connections. These research paper topics may also focus on how an author has been interpreted or evaluated over time, analyzing the critical reception of their works and examining any changes within literary canonization. Additionally, these topics can explore how literary works intersect with other disciplines, such as philosophy, psychology, sociology, politics, or economics.

Characteristics of Good Literature Research Paper Topics

Literary research paper topics are usually considered good when they are:

With these important characteristics of literary topics for research papers in mind, you're ready to start writing!

How to Choose a Literature Research Paper Topic?

Choosing a literature research paper topic can be daunting, but with careful thought and planning, you're sure to find the perfect one. In order to do this, you need to complete the following:

With these tips, you can find the perfect literary research paper topic! Don’t have time for reading piles of books? Get professional help with research paper writing from StudyCrumb and have your study completed by a real pro.

List of Literature Research Paper Topics

A list of literature topics for research offers a wide range of literary-related issues that can be explored and studied for your project. It includes ideas that could spark your creativity and help you choose the best title. Whether you're interested in exploring the works of Shakespeare or examining modern literature, this list of literary research paper topics has something for everyone!

Interesting Literary Research Paper Topics

If you are interested in classic books or modern trends, these ideas can be a fascinating starting point for your project. They include theories, criticism, comparison, and specific authors or genres. Besides providing an analysis of the work, a literary research paper topic could also comprise examining different themes. Explore the following interesting literature topics for your project:

Great Literature Research Paper Topics

A list of great literature research topics provides a variety of ideas related to literary works. These research topics in literature can offer an exciting starting point for your English paper:

Unique Literature Research Paper Topics

Unique literature topics for research papers can help students explore new concepts and gain a deeper understanding of their subject. Below are rare literature paper topics for you to review:

Spotted any ideas for your literature research paper? Now it’s time to compose your study. Leave us ‘ do my research paper ’ notice and get a professional writer to work on your project. 

Controversial Literary Research Paper Topics

Controversial literary research topics can provide students with an opportunity to explore complex and sometimes contentious issues related to literary texts. Find below a controversial literary research paper topic for your dream English project!

Fresh Literature Research Paper Ideas

Coming up with fresh ideas for literature research topics can be daunting. Students may want to look at the works they have studied or venture outside the traditional reading list and explore different authors and genres. Some literature research paper ideas comprise studying how certain authors influenced the literary movement, analyzing how language has been used throughout history, or examining gender, race, and class representations from a literary text. Here is a perfect list of fresh ideas!

Literature Research Paper Topics for Students

For students looking for research topics in literature for study, there is a wide variety of options available. Depending on the level and course, they might focus on analyzing particular authors, literary movements, or genres, exploring the use of language throughout history, or examining representations of gender, race, and class in books. You also need to study literary devices and their effects on readers when exploring literary topics for a research paper . Below are examples of literature topics for different students:

Literature Research Paper Topics for High School

These are literature topics to research, specifically tailored to high school students. They involve exploring the influence of literary work on culture, analyzing a single author's literary movement or genre, or investigating language use throughout history. This list of research topics in literature for high school provides an original starting point for your literary project!

Literature Research Paper Topics for College Students

These titles entail more serious and in-depth scrutiny than a high school literary paper. A college-level literary research paper topic provides students with a broader range of analysis. It encompasses looking at literature as a form of political commentary to get its relationship with other art forms. Below are literature research paper topics for college students:

Literary Research Paper Topics by Categories

Research paper topics for literature by category offer an exclusive and stimulating perspective on literary analysis worldwide. They can be grouped into literary movements, authors, and genres, as well as topics related to language and history. If you are interested in European, American, and English literature topics, these ideas will help you find the perfect literary research paper topic for your project.

World Literature Research Paper Topics

Research paper topics for world literature allow students to explore literary works from any part of the world, including texts written in English, Spanish, and other languages. Below is a list that provides original world literature research topics for any project:

American Literature Research Paper Topics

In research paper topics for American literature, you examine the works of early American writers and poets, as well as those from later periods. Here is a list of American literature topics for your paper!

British Literature Research Paper Topics

In British literature research topics, you explore works from early British writers to contemporary authors. Ideally, research topics for British literature should encompass works written by authors from all eras, including Medieval, Renaissance, and modern. Here is a list of English literature research paper topics for your perfect essay!

Did you know that you can generate a bunch of title ideas using our Research Paper Topic Generator ?

European Literary Research Paper Topics

European literature research paper topics offer an excellent opportunity to explore the works of European authors. They allow you to study and analyze the academic traditions and cultures of some of Europe's most influential writers. You can find such literary research paper topic ideas in the list below:

Literature Research Paper Ideas by Periods

You may aspire to find literature topics for research papers from different historical periods. This involves studying literature from various cultures or eras, such as ancient, medieval, or modern ones. These ideas also cover the examination of themes and symbols used in writings and scrutinizing characters and their development through various works. Other topics include the exploration of texts from a political perspective in relation to their historical contexts. These ideas contain some literary research topics from various periods:

Ancient Literary Research Paper Topics

There are many exciting options to consider if you're looking for ancient literature research paper topics. They can be studied with regard to history, culture, art, and philosophy. To gain more insight, you could explore the works of Homer, Henry James, Virgil, and the Mahabharata, or old Egyptian writings, such as The Iliad and Odyssey . Below is a list of ancient literature topics for research you can choose from.

Read more: History Research Topics for Students 

Medieval Literature Research Paper Topics

The medieval literary study provides a unique opportunity to explore literature research topics of the Middle Ages. From Beowulf to The Canterbury Tales , these works offer insights into this era's cultural beliefs and values. Here are such literary topics for research papers to focus on:

Renaissance Literary Research Paper Topics

The Renaissance literature research paper ideas explore works of literature during the Renaissance era, which spanned from the 14th to the 17th century. They focus on the themes, authors, and literature of this period to provide a better understanding of how literary works have evolved within this timeframe and their impact on our current literature. Some of the most influential figures who contributed immensely to writings during this era were William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes. If you are interested in researching this period, you can consider a literature research paper topic from the list below:

Romantic Literature Research Paper Ideas

Romantic literature emerged during the late 18th century and flourished throughout the early 19th century in Europe. It is characterized by its focus on emotion and depictions of nature. This movement had a lasting impact on literary works and has been highly influential. Research topics in literature can explore the writings of authors such as Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and William Wordsworth. Here are some ideas related to romanticism:

Modernist Literary Research Paper Topics

Modern literature emerged during the early 20th century until the end of World War II. It is characterized by a rejection of traditional conventions and focused on experimentation with form. This movement had an unprecedented impact on literature research topics and is highly influential today. If you are looking for literary topics for research papers that focus on modernism, consider exploring the following:

Current Literature Research Paper Ideas

Current literature paper topics can look at the latest trends. They include exploring contemporary works such as Harry Potter by J.K Rowling and Stardust by Neil Gaiman. These topics may also involve analyzing social media's effects on literary writings. If you are looking for current literary topics for a research paper, consider the following:

In case you need more paper topics, feel free to browse our blog. We have a wide arsenal of ideas starting from philosophy research paper topics to education research paper topics .  

Bottom Line on Literature Research Paper Topics

Literature topics for research can explore a wide range of themes and works. Whether you are looking for visionary ideas about poetry, fiction, or books from different eras, there is no shortage of literature paper topics to choose from. To narrow down your focus and find the best idea for your project, consider researching literary movements, reading widely, and thinking about the areas that interest you most.  Literature topics for research papers should be chosen based on students' interests and areas of expertise. By conducting in-depth research, you will gain a greater appreciation for literary work and its impact on society. With this article as a guide, you can take the time to find a topic that speaks to you and create an engaging research paper.

We would like to remind you that our professional writers are available 24/7 and will be glad to help you. StudyCrumb provides the best research paper writing service quickly and efficiently. Fill out the form on our website, and don't worry about anything else.


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221 Awesome Literary Research Paper Topics To Choose From

literary research paper topics

Are you looking for the best literary research paper topic or wondering how to choose a topic for a literary research paper? You are at the right place. The hardest part of doing research is getting an ideal topic. Once, you get a great topic you are good to go.

We have a great number of best-rated expert writers that can provide well-done professional papers. As students in college, we understand that high payment rates can be frustrating, that’s why we offer cheap prices for high-quality work. We offer the best help with research papers to get top grades. Browse through this variety of topics to find the best fit for you.

Literature Research Topics

Getting an ideal literature research paper topic can consume a lot of time. In this category, you will get some of the best literature research topics.

Interesting Literature Topics

Did you know that there are interesting literature topics? They deal with the evolution of literature and how it has grown till the present time. Thinking of literature topics for research paper is challenging, so here are some more options.

Literature Topics for a Research Paper

In this category, you will get a wide variety of literature topics that you can use for your research. A well-written research paper will help you get top grades.

Literature Research Paper Topics

In this category of research paper topics, you get to relate one phenomenon with the other. They are also based on some well-known novels. When thinking of literary topics for research paper, consider your scope of knowledge and interest in the topic.

English Literature Research Paper Topics

In English literature, it focuses on how various novels, classics, or books are written to explain a certain phenomenon. Here are some literature topics that you can start with:

Topics in Literature

Literature requires full concentration to get to the bottom of a certain phenomenon. We have simplified the topics to make it easier for you to do your assignment in college.

Research Topics in English Literature

In this category, there are comparison topics that you can analyze for your research. These are based on well-known books and novels in English.

Literature Topics for Research Papers

These are some of the best literature topics for research papers. They require minimal effort to submit a well-written research paper.

Literary Topics for a Research Paper

Literary topics are diverse. This can make it hectic to choose an appropriate one for your research paper.

Research Topics in Literature

These research topics are based on various societal aspects and impacts on the world. They also deal with people’s emotions and behaviors in different contexts.

Literature Paper Topics

Here are some of the best literature paper topics that you can use for your research. As long as you narrow down the research topic, getting relevant information will be easy.

American Literature Research Paper Topics

Finding an ideal research paper topic in America’s context can consume a lot of time. Here you will find simplified topics for your research paper.

Literature Research Paper Topics for College Students

Are you a college student looking for an ideal literature research paper? Here are some topics for you!

Literature Review Topics Examples

Do you know how to do a literature review on various topics? Try any of this and see your proficiency in the sector.

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How to Research a Novel: 7 Tips

Ernest Hemingway said writers should develop a built-in bullshit detector. I imagine one reason he said that is because readers have their own BS indicators. They can tell when we writers are winging it. We have to know well the worlds in which our characters act. Readers don't have to believe the story really happened, but they need to believe it could have happened. So with that in mind, I offer a few thoughts on research for fiction.

1) You can't do too much research.  In the military, we often say time spent gathering intelligence is seldom wasted. The same concept applies in writing a novel. You never know what little detail will give a scene the ring of authenticity. In a college creative writing class, I wrote about how a scuba diver got cut underwater, and in the filtered light at depth, the blood appeared green. Though the professor didn't think much of that particular story, he did concede he liked that detail. In fact, he said, "The author must have seen that." And indeed, I had.

(11 ways to assist a friend in promoting their new book.)

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Guest column by Tom Young , author of the military thrillers The Mullah's Storm and Silent Enemy . His newest novel, The Renegades , was released by Putnam in July 2012. As an instructor flight engineer, Young flies with the West Virginia Air National Guard, and he has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is a former writer and editor for the broadcast division of the Associated Press. You can find Young's website at .

2) You can write what you know. We've all heard it before. Experience may be a cruel teacher, but it is a thorough one, and experience is the purest form of research. Things you've done in life (like scuba diving) can inform your writing in surprising ways, even if your characters aren't doing those same things. When I watch the old Star Trek shows, I can tell the creator of those stories knew something about how a military flight crew works together. He understood the dynamics of a chain of command, how a commander learns the strengths and weaknesses of his team, how those team members communicate and work together. Turns out that Gene Roddenberry flew B-17 bombers in World War II. Roddenberry, of course, never flew a starship. But he knew from experience how the crew of a starship might interact.

3) You can do research on the cheap. If you can't visit an exotic location, you can pick up the phone and ask questions. The worst that can happen is somebody thinks you're crazy and they hang up. Then you just call somebody else. (Believe me; I used to be a reporter, and I've learned a lot by asking questions.) You can visit a museum, or a museum's website. Develop an eye for small details.

(Tom's written for the blog before. See his previous column, "The Advice I Needed as a New Writer But Never Got." )

4) You can find anything on YouTube. Seriously. But you have to know your topic well enough to know how to search for it. In The Renegades , I have a character whose lungs collapse from a bullet wound. I wanted to find out how a medic would treat that condition. Sure enough, someone had posted on YouTube a video with detailed instructions on how to perform a needle decompression.

5) You can find things anywhere. You're a writer, so keep pen and paper within reach during all waking hours. You might get an idea from a news story on television, a song on the radio, or a Tweet from a friend. About a year ago, I was driving along on a warm day, listening to the radio with the windows down. An oldies station played "Wind of Change," the Scorpions' 1990 ballad hailing the end of the Cold War. I hadn't heard that song in a long time, and I cranked it up loud. The power chords brought back memories of flying relief missions to Bosnia while based at a disused Cold War alert facility in Germany. Not really a pleasant memory--for Bosnia, the end of the Cold War brought something worse. But that flashback from early in my military career inspired a scene in the novel I'm working on now.

6) You can use all your senses. Find out what things taste like, smell like, feel like. Say, for example, you set your novel in Warsaw. Maybe you can't afford to go to Warsaw, but you can go to a Polish restaurant. (See item number three above, about doing research on the cheap.) As you write one of your scenes, include a line about the texture and flavor of something your character eats. You've just made your writing more alive and authentic.

(Hate writing synopses? Here are nuts & bolts pointers for you.)

7) You can leave some things out. If you do thorough research, you'll find more material than you need, and no reader likes a data dump. In my own writing, I could bore you to death with the details of aircraft and weapons. But a very good creative writing professor once advised me to let the reader "overhear" the tech talk. Say, if my character punches off a HARM missile, that might sound authentic and pretty scary. But scary would turn to dull if I stopped the action to tell you that HARM stands for High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile, which homes in on anti-aircraft missile radars. Who cares? The damn thing goes boom.

Since I began this discussion with a quote from a literary heavyweight of the twentieth century, I'll end it with another: Ezra Pound said literature is news that stays news. And a novelist has nearly the same obligation for accuracy as a news writer. Your made-up world must ring true. Not even fantasy writers can completely escape reality; the old Star Trek episodes sometimes referred to real science, which made them more believable within their context. Though we invent tales that didn't really happen, we drape them over a framework of real-life facts.

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research paper on novels

research paper on novels

The Best Reviewed Essay Collections of 2021

Featuring joan didion, rachel kushner, hanif abdurraqib, ann patchett, jenny diski, and more.

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Well, friends, another grim and grueling plague year is drawing to a close, and that can mean only one thing: it’s time to put on our Book Marks stats hats and tabulate the best reviewed books of the past twelve months.

Yes, using reviews drawn from more than 150 publications, over the next two weeks we’ll be revealing the most critically-acclaimed books of 2021, in the categories of (deep breath): Memoir and Biography ; Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror ; Short Story Collections ; Essay Collections; Poetry; Mystery and Crime; Graphic Literature; Literature in Translation; General Fiction; and General Nonfiction.

Today’s installment: Essay Collections .

Brought to you by Book Marks , Lit Hub’s “Rotten Tomatoes for books.”

These Precious Days

1. These Precious Days by Ann Patchett (Harper)

21 Rave • 3 Positive • 1 Mixed Read Ann Patchett on creating the work space you need, here

“… excellent … Patchett has a talent for friendship and celebrates many of those friends here. She writes with pure love for her mother, and with humor and some good-natured exasperation at Karl, who is such a great character he warrants a book of his own. Patchett’s account of his feigned offer to buy a woman’s newly adopted baby when she expresses unwarranted doubts is priceless … The days that Patchett refers to are precious indeed, but her writing is anything but. She describes deftly, with a line or a look, and I considered the absence of paragraphs freighted with adjectives to be a mercy. I don’t care about the hue of the sky or the shade of the couch. That’s not writing; it’s decorating. Or hiding. Patchett’s heart, smarts and 40 years of craft create an economy that delivers her perfectly understated stories emotionally whole. Her writing style is most gloriously her own.”

–Alex Witchel ( The New York Times Book Review )

2. Let Me Tell You What I Mean by Joan Didion (Knopf)

14 Rave • 12 Positive • 6 Mixed Read an excerpt from Let Me Tell You What I Mean here

“In five decades’ worth of essays, reportage and criticism, Didion has documented the charade implicit in how things are, in a first-person, observational style that is not sacrosanct but common-sensical. Seeing as a way of extrapolating hypocrisy, disingenuousness and doubt, she’ll notice the hydrangeas are plastic and mention it once, in passing, sorting the scene. Her gaze, like a sentry on the page, permanently trained on what is being disguised … The essays in Let Me Tell You What I Mean are at once funny and touching, roving and no-nonsense. They are about humiliation and about notions of rightness … Didion’s pen is like a periscope onto the creative mind—and, as this collection demonstrates, it always has been. These essays offer a direct line to what’s in the offing.”

–Durga Chew-Bose ( The New York Times Book Review )

3. Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit (Viking)

12 Rave • 13 Positive • 1 Mixed Read an excerpt from Orwell’s Roses here

“… on its simplest level, a tribute by one fine essayist of the political left to another of an earlier generation. But as with any of Solnit’s books, such a description would be reductive: the great pleasure of reading her is spending time with her mind, its digressions and juxtapositions, its unexpected connections. Only a few contemporary writers have the ability to start almost anywhere and lead the reader on paths that, while apparently meandering, compel unfailingly and feel, by the end, cosmically connected … Somehow, Solnit’s references to Ross Gay, Michael Pollan, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Peter Coyote (to name but a few) feel perfectly at home in the narrative; just as later chapters about an eighteenth-century portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds and a visit to the heart of the Colombian rose-growing industry seem inevitable and indispensable … The book provides a captivating account of Orwell as gardener, lover, parent, and endlessly curious thinker … And, movingly, she takes the time to find the traces of Orwell the gardener and lover of beauty in his political novels, and in his insistence on the value and pleasure of things .”

–Claire Messud ( Harper’s )

4. Girlhood by Melissa Febos (Bloomsbury)

16 Rave • 5 Positive • 1 Mixed Read an excerpt from Girlhood here

“Every once in a while, a book comes along that feels so definitive, so necessary, that not only do you want to tell everyone to read it now, but you also find yourself wanting to go back in time and tell your younger self that you will one day get to read something that will make your life make sense. Melissa Febos’s fierce nonfiction collection, Girlhood , might just be that book. Febos is one of our most passionate and profound essayists … Girlhood …offers us exquisite, ferocious language for embracing self-pleasure and self-love. It’s a book that women will wish they had when they were younger, and that they’ll rejoice in having now … Febos is a balletic memoirist whose capacious gaze can take in so many seemingly disparate things and unfurl them in a graceful, cohesive way … Intellectual and erotic, engaging and empowering[.]”

–Michelle Hart ( Oprah Daily )

Why Didn't You Just Do What You Were Told?

5. Why Didn’t You Just Do What You Were Told by Jenny Diski (Bloomsbury)

14 Rave • 7 Positive

“[Diski’s] reputation as an original, witty and cant-free thinker on the way we live now should be given a significant boost. Her prose is elegant and amused, as if to counter her native melancholia and includes frequent dips into memorable images … Like the ideal artist Henry James conjured up, on whom nothing is lost, Diski notices everything that comes her way … She is discerning about serious topics (madness and death) as well as less fraught material, such as fashion … in truth Diski’s first-person voice is like no other, selectively intimate but not overbearingly egotistic, like, say, Norman Mailer’s. It bears some resemblance to Joan Didion’s, if Didion were less skittish and insistently stylish and generated more warmth. What they have in common is their innate skepticism and the way they ask questions that wouldn’t occur to anyone else … Suffice it to say that our culture, enmeshed as it is in carefully arranged snapshots of real life, needs Jenny Diski, who, by her own admission, ‘never owned a camera, never taken one on holiday.’” It is all but impossible not to warm up to a writer who observes herself so keenly … I, in turn, wish there were more people around who thought like Diski. The world would be a more generous, less shallow and infinitely more intriguing place.”

–Daphne Merkin ( The New York Times Book Review )

6. The Hard Crowd: Essays 2000-2020 by Rachel Kushner (Scribner)

12 Rave • 7 Positive Listen to an interview with Rachel Kushner here

“Whether she’s writing about Jeff Koons, prison abolition or a Palestinian refugee camp in Jerusalem, [Kushner’s] interested in appearances, and in the deeper currents a surface detail might betray … Her writing is magnetised by outlaw sensibility, hard lives lived at a slant, art made in conditions of ferment and unrest, though she rarely serves a platter that isn’t style-mag ready … She makes a pretty convincing case for a political dimension to Jeff Koons’s vacuities and mirrored surfaces, engages repeatedly with the Italian avant garde and writes best of all about an artist friend whose death undoes a spell of nihilism … It’s not just that Kushner is looking back on the distant city of youth; more that she’s the sole survivor of a wild crowd done down by prison, drugs, untimely death … What she remembers is a whole world, but does the act of immortalising it in language also drain it of its power,’neon, in pink, red, and warm white, bleeding into the fog’? She’s mining a rich seam of specificity, her writing charged by the dangers she ran up against. And then there’s the frank pleasure of her sentences, often shorn of definite articles or odd words, so they rev and bucket along … That New Journalism style, live hard and keep your eyes open, has long since given way to the millennial cult of the personal essay, with its performance of pain, its earnest display of wounds received and lessons learned. But Kushner brings it all flooding back. Even if I’m skeptical of its dazzle, I’m glad to taste something this sharp, this smart.”

–Olivia Laing ( The Guardian )

7. The Right to Sex: Feminism in the Twenty-First Century by Amia Srinivasan (FSG)

12 Rave • 7 Positive • 5 Mixed • 1 Pan

“[A] quietly dazzling new essay collection … This is, needless to say, fraught terrain, and Srinivasan treads it with determination and skill … These essays are works of both criticism and imagination. Srinivasan refuses to resort to straw men; she will lay out even the most specious argument clearly and carefully, demonstrating its emotional power, even if her ultimate intention is to dismantle it … This, then, is a book that explicitly addresses intersectionality, even if Srinivasan is dissatisfied with the common—and reductive—understanding of the term … Srinivasan has written a compassionate book. She has also written a challenging one … Srinivasan proposes the kind of education enacted in this brilliant, rigorous book. She coaxes our imaginations out of the well-worn grooves of the existing order.”

–Jennifer Szalai ( The New York Times )

8. A Little Devil in America by Hanif Abdurraqib (Random House)

13 Rave • 4 Positive Listen to an interview with Hanif Abdurraqib here

“[A] wide, deep, and discerning inquest into the Beauty of Blackness as enacted on stages and screens, in unanimity and discord, on public airwaves and in intimate spaces … has brought to pop criticism and cultural history not just a poet’s lyricism and imagery but also a scholar’s rigor, a novelist’s sense of character and place, and a punk-rocker’s impulse to dislodge conventional wisdom from its moorings until something shakes loose and is exposed to audiences too lethargic to think or even react differently … Abdurraqib cherishes this power to enlarge oneself within or beyond real or imagined restrictions … Abdurraqib reminds readers of the massive viewing audience’s shock and awe over seeing one of the world’s biggest pop icons appearing midfield at this least radical of American rituals … Something about the seemingly insatiable hunger Abdurraqib shows for cultural transaction, paradoxical mischief, and Beauty in Blackness tells me he’ll get to such matters soon enough.”

–Gene Seymour ( Bookforum )

9. On Animals by Susan Orlean (Avid Reader Press)

11 Rave • 6 Positive • 1 Mixed Listen to an interview with Susan Orlean here

“I very much enjoyed Orlean’s perspective in these original, perceptive, and clever essays showcasing the sometimes strange, sometimes sick, sometimes tender relationships between people and animals … whether Orlean is writing about one couple’s quest to find their lost dog, the lives of working donkeys of the Fez medina in Morocco, or a man who rescues lions (and happily allows even full grown males to gently chew his head), her pages are crammed with quirky characters, telling details, and flabbergasting facts … Readers will find these pages full of astonishments … Orlean excels as a reporter…Such thorough reporting made me long for updates on some of these stories … But even this criticism only testifies to the delight of each of the urbane and vivid stories in this collection. Even though Orlean claims the animals she writes about remain enigmas, she makes us care about their fates. Readers will continue to think about these dogs and donkeys, tigers and lions, chickens and pigeons long after we close the book’s covers. I hope most of them are still well.”

–Sy Montgomery ( The Boston Globe )

10. Graceland, at Last: Notes on Hope and Heartache from the American South  by Margaret Renkl (Milkweed Editions)

9 Rave • 5 Positive Read Margaret Renkl on finding ideas everywhere, here

“Renkl’s sense of joyful belonging to the South, a region too often dismissed on both coasts in crude stereotypes and bad jokes, co-exists with her intense desire for Southerners who face prejudice or poverty finally to be embraced and supported … Renkl at her most tender and most fierce … Renkl’s gift, just as it was in her first book Late Migrations , is to make fascinating for others what is closest to her heart … Any initial sense of emotional whiplash faded as as I proceeded across the six sections and realized that the book is largely organized around one concept, that of fair and loving treatment for all—regardless of race, class, sex, gender or species … What rises in me after reading her essays is Lewis’ famous urging to get in good trouble to make the world fairer and better. Many people in the South are doing just that—and through her beautiful writing, Renkl is among them.”

–Barbara J. King ( NPR )

Our System:

RAVE = 5 points • POSITIVE = 3 points • MIXED = 1 point • PAN = -5 points

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Title: imagebind: one embedding space to bind them all.

Abstract: We present ImageBind, an approach to learn a joint embedding across six different modalities - images, text, audio, depth, thermal, and IMU data. We show that all combinations of paired data are not necessary to train such a joint embedding, and only image-paired data is sufficient to bind the modalities together. ImageBind can leverage recent large scale vision-language models, and extends their zero-shot capabilities to new modalities just by using their natural pairing with images. It enables novel emergent applications 'out-of-the-box' including cross-modal retrieval, composing modalities with arithmetic, cross-modal detection and generation. The emergent capabilities improve with the strength of the image encoder and we set a new state-of-the-art on emergent zero-shot recognition tasks across modalities, outperforming specialist supervised models. Finally, we show strong few-shot recognition results outperforming prior work, and that ImageBind serves as a new way to evaluate vision models for visual and non-visual tasks.

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Fresh Air Weekend

Fresh air weekend: 'master gardener' star joel edgerton; humorist samantha irby.

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Joel Edgerton plays a horticulturist with a secret past as a white nationalist in Master Gardener. Magnolia Pictures hide caption

Joel Edgerton plays a horticulturist with a secret past as a white nationalist in Master Gardener.

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

Actor Joel Edgerton avoids conflict in real life, but embraces it on-screen: Edgerton stars as a horticulturist with a secret past as a white nationalist in Master Gardener. He says director Paul Schrader challenged him be "less of an actor" in the role.

Move over Studs Terkel: Obama's on the job in Netflix's modern take on 'Working': Hosted by the former president, this documentary series puts a new spin on Terkel's influential 1974 book of interviews, cataloging the concerns of people on all levels of the economic scale.

'Quietly Hostile' is Samantha Irby's survival guide (of sorts): Irby shares almost everything in her new book of essays, Quietly Hostile but, she says, "If I can't have a conversation with a stranger about the thing that I wrote, I won't put it in a book."

You can listen to the original interviews and review here:

Actor Joel Edgerton avoids conflict in real life, but embraces it on-screen

Move over Studs Terkel: Obama's on the job in Netflix's modern take on 'Working'

'Quietly Hostile' is Samantha Irby's survival guide (of sorts)


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Ronald Steel, Critic of American Cold War Policies, Dies at 92

In essays and books. he saw the U.S. postwar era as a series of misadventures spawning unwise wars. He also wrote the definitive biography of the journalist Walter Lippmann.

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A portrait of a man with gray hair looking intensely into the camera. He is wearing a gray wool blazer, striped shirt and purple tie.

By Robert D. McFadden

Ronald Steel, a historian who derided America’s Cold War foreign policies as a succession of misguided adventures and wrote a definitive biography of Walter Lippmann, the dean of 20th-century foreign policy realism, died on Sunday in Washington. He was 92.

The death, at a nursing home, was caused by complications of dementia, said his longtime physician and friend, Michael Newman.

A bookish, small-town boy from Illinois who became a soldier, wanderer, translator, diplomat, journalist, author and professor, Mr. Steel since the early 1960s had been one of the nation’s most prolific critics of America’s master plans for navigating a perilous, changing world. He often examined his subjects through prisms of biography and magazine profiles of those who shaped foreign policies.

In the high-stakes game of global chess, Mr. Steel infuriated presidents, secretaries of state and other national leaders with astringent yet sparkling essays that filled seven books and hundreds of commentaries in The New Republic, The New York Times and The New York Review of Books. He also taught at Yale, Princeton, the University of Southern California and other colleges.

His best-known book, “Walter Lippmann and the American Century” (1980), was the story of the most influential journalist of his age, who was a founding editor of The New Republic and a confidant of presidents from Woodrow Wilson to Lyndon Johnson, and who reached millions with syndicated columns that argued for a foreign policy of pragmatism rather than a global crusade against Communism.

One of the most discussed political biographies of its time and a best seller, the Lippmann biography won the National Book Critics Circle Award for general nonfiction, Columbia University’s Bancroft Prize and The Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History, and was a finalist for the National Book Award and the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for biography. Its critical reception was divided, largely along political lines.

Basically, Mr. Steel insisted that Washington’s strategy for dealing with Moscow — the postwar “containment doctrine” that defined American policy toward the Soviet Union for four decades — had been wasteful and deluded, spawning costly wars in Korea and Vietnam and obsessions with national security that left Americans no more secure, prosperous or free than the rest of the world.

The American diplomat in Moscow George F. Kennan articulated that doctrine in the journal Foreign Affairs in 1947, proposing “a policy of firm containment, designed to confront the Russians with unalterable counterforce at every point where they show signs of encroaching upon the interests of a peaceful and stable world.” President Harry S. Truman made it official as “the Truman Doctrine.”

“The watershed event of the Truman presidency was certainly the Korean War,” Mr. Steel wrote in a retrospective commentary in The New Republic in 1992. “It transformed the vague rhetoric of the Truman Doctrine into a blueprint for interventions against communism that set the precedent in Vietnam and the proxy wars of the Reagan era.”

In his first book, “The End of the Alliance” (1964), Mr. Steel argued that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was already obsolete five years after its birth in 1949 and that it should be dissolved as a way of stepping back from what he regarded as the growing prospect of a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union.

In “Pax Americana” (1967), he warned of an obsession with “the Communist menace.” The title came from a 1963 speech by President John F. Kennedy urging Americans to reflect on their Cold War attitudes, asking: “What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war.” The historian Henry Steele Commager called the book “the most persuasive critique of American foreign policy over the last 20 years.”

As many Americans debated and eventually soured on the Vietnam War, some scholars began to question whether the United States had become a counterrevolutionary power committed to the defense of a global status quo. Mr. Steel extrapolated on that point in his review, in The New York Times, of Neil Sheehan’s book “A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam” (1988).

“Vietnam is the graveyard of an image we held of ourselves: America as the defender of the oppressed,” Mr. Steel wrote. “In Vietnam we were confronted with ourselves as an imperial power, fighting not for democracy but to demonstrate that Communist-led ‘wars of national liberation’ were not the wave of the future.”

Even after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Mr. Steel contended, in “Temptations of a Superpower” (1995), that American foreign policy remained incoherent because, he wrote, it was based on activism by presidents promoting their own political interests and causes, and because America still viewed itself as a global policeman, determined to guarantee stability around the world.

Lauding the book, Alan Tonelson, a fellow of the Economic Strategy Institute at the time, wrote in The New York Times Book Review : “In a political climate where the labeling of all dissenting foreign policy voices as ‘isolationist’ is praised in the news media as responsible leadership, Mr. Steel’s essay is a rare example of clarity, wisdom and intellectual integrity.”

Mr. Steel, in “New Perspectives Quarterly” in 1997, sounded yet another warning.

“The disappearance of the rival superpower, which was also the ideological challenger, has not resulted in any contraction of American global goals,” he wrote. “The ‘free world’ has now been extended to virtually the entire world as anti-communism, in American geopolitical strategy, has been replaced by the amorphous concept of global order.”

Ronald Lewis Sklut was born on March 25, 1931, in Morris, Ill., the older of two sons of Abe and Beatrice (Mink) Sklut. His father, a Jewish immigrant from Russia, owned a clothing store. Ronald and his brother, Bruce, attended public schools in Morris, 30 miles southwest of Chicago.

“I did a lot of reading, but mostly in secret so that I wouldn’t be considered bookish by the regular guys,” Mr. Steel wrote in an autobiographical sketch for the reference book World Authors after adopting the nom de plume Ronald Steel in about 1960. “I was also aware, as one of the few Jews in a very small farm town, that this was considered an extremely odd and exotic thing to be.”

He graduated from Northwestern University in 1953 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and English and earned a master’s degree in political economy from Harvard in 1955. Fluent in French when drafted by the Army, he was posted to a general’s staff in Paris. After his discharge, he joined the Foreign Service and was a vice consul in Hamburg in 1957-58. Returning to New York, he became the editor of Scholastic Magazines from 1959 to 1962.

Later in the 1960s he lived in Paris and London, translated French books on European politics and business affairs, and wrote his first two books. He also wrote articles on American foreign policy for The New York Review of Books, many of them collected in an ironically titled volume, “Imperialists and Other Heroes: A Chronicle of the American Empire” (1971).

Mr. Steel began working on his biography of Mr. Lippmann in the early 1970s. It took nearly a decade, a task complicated, he said, by Mr. Lippmann’s reluctance to reveal “personal” aspects of his life.

Anthony Lewis, in The Times, called the Lippmann book “candid and balanced,” adding, “Steel does not flinch from unpleasant facts or critical judgments.”

But Joseph Epstein , the former editor of The American Scholar, called it “a catalog of revisionist presuppositions, assumptions and notions” and “scarcely more than a checklist of Walter Lippmann’s opinions.”

In “Partial Payments: Essays on Writers and Their Lives” (1989), Mr. Epstein took Mr. Steel to task as a writer and historian. “In foreign policy, Steel’s point of view is that of a revisionist, which means he believes that the past 40 years or so in American foreign policy have been a period of imperialist intention,” with the United States seeking “world hegemony.”

He added: “Steel views the Cold War as more the fault of the United States than of the Soviet Union, and in his own journalism he has shown a great impatience with what he construes to be the screen of moral babble, paranoia and simple hypocrisy behind which American policy has operated.”

Mr. Steel’s last book, “In Love With Night: The American Romance with Robert Kennedy” (2000), attacked what he called myths about the senator that arose after his assassination in Los Angeles during the 1968 presidential primaries — that “had he lived and become president, he would have quickly ended the war in Vietnam, brought Black and white Americans together, alleviated poverty and discrimination, and achieved a more just and humane society.” Mr. Steel said “there is little, beyond hope and need, to lead us to believe” that R.F.K. would have achieved such goals.

Starting in the early 1970s, Mr. Steel taught at Yale, the University of Texas, Wellesley College, Rutgers University, U.C.L.A., Dartmouth, George Washington University, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, the University of Paris, the American Academy in Berlin and Princeton. He taught at U.S.C. from 1986 until he retired in 2008.

He is survived by his brother, Bruce Sklut. Mr. Steel’s cognitive impairment progressed in 2016, and since then he had lived at the Sunrise nursing home Sunrise on Connecticut Avenue in Washington.

He had kept an apartment in Washington for years, and rarely visited his hometown in Illinois.

“I lived in New York and Paris and London, and in a dozen other places across the globe that for a time I called home,” Mr. Steel told World Authors. “All those places shaped me in one way or another. But somewhere along the way I also stopped trying to escape from the small town. Confinement, I’ve come to think, lies more in the head than in the place.”

Alex Traub contributed reporting.

An earlier version of this obituary referred incorrectly to Walter Lippmann’s involvement with The New Republic. He was a founding editor, not the founder.

An earlier version of this obituary misidentified the institute where Alan Tonelson was a fellow when he reviewed Mr. Steel’s book “Temptations of a Superpower.” It is the Economic Strategy Institute, not the Economic Policy Institute.

How we handle corrections

Robert D. McFadden is a senior writer on the Obituaries desk and the winner of the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for spot news reporting. He joined The Times in May 1961 and is also the co-author of two books.


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