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Essay Topics for Literature Course

Themes of The Hound of the Baskervilles

Please choose ONE of the following options and write an essay response in formal English.  You will likely have to narrow the scope of the topics before determining the thesis of your essay.

1) The Hound of the Baskervilles features medical doctors who encounter and try to explain evil.  How does the presence of these scientists contribute the thematic conflict between rational deduction and irrational terror?    

2) Unlike many of the Sherlock Holmes mystery stories, The Hound of the Baskervilles takes place in the country.  How does the atmosphere of the Devonshire countryside contribute both to the novel’s suspense and to the thematic contrast between the “civilized” world of London and the primitive environment of the moor? Research on this topic might include literary and/or historical criticism.

3) On the whole, women play conspicuously minor roles in c adventures.  Consider the role of women in The Hound of the Baskervilles. How do female characters (or, more broadly, heterosexual relations between men and women) contribute to the thematic conflict between civility and brutality?

4) How has one film adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles  modified or changed the original story, and what thematic interpretation of the text did these changes provide? Research for this topic might include film studies and literary criticism.

5) Discuss the theme of cultural and/or individual identity in Thomas King’s “A Short History of Indians in Canada”.

6) Explain the significance of the background of the American Civil War in Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” OR Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”.

7) Analyze the symptoms exhibited by the narrator in “The Yellow Wallpaper” and demonstrate or disprove the hypothesis that she suffers from a nervous disorder associated with postpartum depression.  (This assignment may require either historical and/or medical research.  Do not write about this story if your first essay discussed it.)

8) Nineteen Eighty-Four envisions a dark futuristic society, yet it also satirizes elements of post-war England.  Explain how the novel employs dystopian fantasy  to critique Orwell's own society.

9)  Examine the ways in which Nineteen Eighty-Four fulfills (or undermines) the promise of a utopian world.  What sort of “utopia” have the Party’s architects created, and why might it appear desirable to its adherents but terrifying to its opponents? 

10) What role does technology play in Oceania’s punitive system?  (You might wish to focus on one specific aspect to develop a more focused argument.)

11) Explain how and why Sinclair Ross’s story “One’s a Heifer” adopts elements of the Gothic genre to illustrate a boy’s coming-of-age.

12) Develop your own topic and thesis for an essay dealing with one of the stories covered on the syllabus.  If you choose your own topic, you must obtain my written permission (by e-mail) for the topic by March 12, 6 p.m.  Failure to do so will necessitate a resubmission of the essay. 

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