The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, is a novel that follows the lives of several black maids in 1960’s Jackson, Mississippi. It was written in 2009, so it’s still too new to be considered a part of the canon. The Maids, and a young white college grad named Skeeter, come together to write a tell-all book about working as a colored maid in the deep South. Their union for a common purpose is critical to the plot of the novel because their choices could severely damage their somewhat “peaceful” small town lives. The novel forces us to look at differences between society for white people and black people in the 1960’s South. It begs us to ask questions exploring race, identity, agency, and the cultural and societal constructs, that were all a central part of why segregation existed in the first place.
I read the book in High school, and have since, always considered the novel one of my favorites. My memory of the book is a bit cloudy now, so I want to read it again. I like that it explores the inequalities of the time, as well the unique relationships between black nannies and the white children they looked after. I think those relationships are so important in the novel because it draws attention to the inconsistencies of institutionalized racism. In my research I expect to find articles discussing the roles of African American women versus White women, problems with Identity, social norms defining racism, and it’s cultural constructs. I have found five articles exploring themes in the novel on Google scholar, and several more through the College of Charleston library database. A couple examples of the articles I’ve found include Kathryn Stockett Is Not My Sister and I Am Not Her Help by Duchess Harris and Regulating Race on the Toilet in Kathryn Stockett’s The Help by Christopher Lloyd.
I’ve chosen Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell as the focus of my research. Published in 2004, the book connects widely different genres and writing styles from 19th century travel logs to post-apocalyptic fiction in a way that is somewhere in between a pastiche and an anthology.
The reason I chose this book is that I’m very interested in post-modernism though my understanding of the concept is still a bit hazy. This book is interesting in that it draws from the writes styles of different time periods (including predictions of future styles in two cases) and the clichés and tropes of those time periods to play on the reads expectations. Most of my research then would be to explore the possible origins of those clichés, or at least some texts that may have influenced the style used in each section of the book.
Edgar Allan Poe’s short story The fall of the House of Usher.
In this story our unnamed narrator goes to aid an ill friend, Roderick, at his house. The house is ill kept and vacant except for his friend and his sister. The two of them both suffer from some strange but different illness. The sister dies and is buried in a tomb below the house. The friend quickly spirals into a distressed state that culminates in his death when the falsely dead sister creeps into the room of the narrator and Roderick and the two siblings die together. The narrator is aghast at witnessing this and runs from the house.
This story in American Literature is known to be a prominent example of a Gothic tale. The story embodies key elements identified with Gothic Literature. These being a twisting of nature imagery and natural spaces, especially one’s associated with Transcendentalism. The story also covers the themes of isolation and despair. I read this story in my American Literature (207) course and was intrigued by the way the story manages a narrative path in an ambiguous and surreal style. I was also interested in the popular romance that people have with this sub-genre of literature and why it is so fascinating to readers and critics.
Poe is an iconic writer of poetry and short stories. I would like to explore why this genre has such a fascination with readers and how such a sub-genre style manifested during the transcendentalism movement. I think my research would help me understand Poe’s influences from the times he lived in to his continuation of a previous literary dialogue. Poe’s popularity will aid me in having a large number of resources to draw from. The difficulty will be having to digest and pinpoint the best selections to use.
For my project, I have chosen In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O’Brien. This is a novel which was written in 1994. From what I can tell from word of mouth and from having done a small amount of research on the topic, this novel is not canonical (although O’Brien’s more famous novel The Things They Carried could be considered to be at least approaching acceptance into canon). This book tells the story of a war veteran, John Wade, who returns home from the Vietnam War to his home and wife and, after a span of time, decides to run for political office. After a harrowing election in which horrifying stories about him from the Vietnam War emerge, John loses the election. He and his wife, Kathy, take some time away from the public and go to live in a small home by a lake. Suddenly, Kathy disappears. Over the course of the novel, O’Brien leaves the reader constantly guessing as to who is guilty for Kathy’s disappearance and what could have happened to her. Additionally, in a theme consistent to the rest of his writing, O’Brien feeds off of his own experience as a Vietnam veteran to narrate the horrors of war and the impact they had not only on John, but on humanity. I chose this novel because I have never encountered a more powerful or unique narration style than that which O’Brien employs to lead the reader in intricate (and often emotionally taxing) circles. I read this book in my senior year of high school and continue to be in awe of the masterpiece that O’Brien created in this work. Furthermore, its emotional impact on me was truly significant. I truly think that this is the best novel I have read, and I am really looking forward to studying O’Brien’s masterful writing and amazing narration in a more in-depth fashion. There are definitely resources which will be adequate to work with this novel. In the Lake of the Woods is a literary masterpiece in my eyes, and I can’t wait to work with it.
I have chosen to write my research paper on More Than This, a novel by Patrick Ness, published on September 5th, 2013. It is too new to be in the canon and it is based on the present day. This novel reviews many topics such as life after death, sexuality, and family. The main character Seth, commits suicide because of his depression after his family finds out he is gay and he wakes up in what it seems like his own personal hell. I read this when I was in high school and it had a big impact on how I see myself. I was questioning my sexuality around the time I read this and with finding out the main character was gay, it made it easy for me to relate to it and find a sort of underlying significance. It made me realize that I had never really read a book with a strong lead character that was not heterosexual. This really bothered me at the time because while I was growing up I didn’t have many options for representation and I feel like this is part of the reason it took me so long to come to terms with my sexual orientation.
I would like to work on this for my research paper because I find it interesting that while Seth’s sexuality is an important aspect of his life, it isn’t the focal point of the story. I would like to analyze why it is so important for queer youth to have natural LGBT characters portrayed in fiction, society, and everyday life. Since this book is not a part of the canon and is fairly new, I would have to find other scholarly sources relating to LGBT representation in the media. While looking at these resources I have found multiple different positive outcomes of representation ranging from acceptance, exploring your sexuality, and having some type of an escape from reality.
The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort
The Wolf of Wall Street describes the captivating life of Jordan Belfort, a conniving sociopath who uses his intelligence and wits to convince people to buy penny stocks. He knows they will not make any money, but sees nothing wrong with it as he continues to rake in the cash from others’ misfortunes. This story deals with the downside to capitalism, the American Dream, psychological issues of a pathological liar, and the concept of karma realized. The text is an autobiography written by Jordan Belfort that was published in October of 2007. It is not canonical, due to the fact that it is too recent of a book to be put into the canon. Some of the key themes and also main concerns of the novel are stock chopping, egotism, greed, and hunger for power.
I first heard of this story through the movie under the same name, so I was compelled to watch the movie first. The way the movie portrays his rise and fall really entertained me, so I figured the book would be just as riveting an experience due to the fact that they cut out portions for the movie. I expect to gain more insight into Wall Street through the longer tale of the novel, understanding what leads people to become like Belfort and how they get away with something like this for so long. As I went into my preliminary research, I already found multiple sources just discussing the movie based on the book, but when taking into account the subject matter and main themes and concerns for my argument, I found that there are plenty of options when researching things like corruption in Wall Street, egotism, and the act of stock chopping. Jordan Belfort did so many despicable things that researching all of them will surely allow for 10 different sources of information.
Text: No Country for Old Men
Author: Cormac McCarthy
No Country for Old Men is a 2005 novel by Cormac McCarthy. Revolving around the events that follow a drug deal gone wrong close to the Mexican-American border, the plot follows the intertwined lives of three main characters (Llewelyn Moss, Anton Chigurh, and Ed Tom Bell). It contains themes of fate, free will, justice, higher law, evil, and the human struggle with morality. As for it’s regard to the canon, No Country for Old Men is too new of a novel to officially be declared a canonical text.
I saw the Coen brother’s 2007 film adaptation of the novel in high school and ever since then I have wanted to read and studied it more in depthly. I was fascinated by the deeper themes and how boldly the film played with ideas of morality and am excited to explore them as McCarthy presents them in the novel. I expect to analyze these heavy themes and attempt to understand, through research, what McCarthy’s intended meaning his novel is. I aim to understand what themes McCarthy has interwoven in his novel and what he wants his audience to gain from them and his characters. I want to evaluate these themes in relation to the characters in attempt to connect their relationship to these themes (like morality) with ours. In my preliminary search of No Country for Old Men in the MLA International Bibliography, I found over five hundred academic journal articles in relation to theme and over four hundred in relation to characters. Using a narrowed down pick of these articles and the tools I have acquired in class, I expect to develop more than just and understanding of how themes relate to the characters but also where we can see these things represented and questioned in my own life and what McCarthy is prompting his audience to ask themselves after reading No Country for Old Men.
The text that I will use as the center for the “Big Project” is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. The text is an American, Modernist, Fictional novel produced in 1925. Published in the 20th century, scholars consider The Great Gatsby a relatively new addition to the American canon and American English classrooms use this text as an example of the “great American” novel. The main concerns of the novel revolve around the main character, Jay Gatsby’s, relationships with the residents of the East Egg and the narrator of the novel, Nick Carraway. The Great Gatsby covers the themes of “the American dream”, classism, and desire, while exploring gender roles within society through the main characters. I want to work with this novel, because I enjoy the way the author presents the themes of the text to the reader; also, the imagery and language that Fitzgerald uses to convey setting and mood within scenes causes me to feel a connection to various characters throughout the story, especially Gatsby, Daisy, and Nick. Also, when I read this novel for the first time, a few years ago, the text instantly became one of my favorite novels within the canon. With new experiences and opinions, I intend to re-read the novel with a new mindset, keeping the skills acquired from The Theory Toolbox in mind. Through the research for this project, I expect to gain a new perspective regarding the character’s actions and reactions to the conflicts within the novel. While searching the MLA International Bibliography, I found various academic journal articles that focused on gender, race, desire, identity, and sexuality with the text as the primary subject. For example, Goldsmith’s article “White Skin, White Mask: Passing, Posing, and Performing in The Great Gatsby” relates Gatsby’s extravagant parties to the dramatic process of creating a racial identity. Using the tools of theory that the class studies, I expect to notice additional conflicts in the text that were not discussed as heavily as other subject matter in the text; for example, race in Gatsby’s era, the agency the characters have within their contexts, or the relationship between sexuality and identity in the text.
The Text I Chose Is – “The Chronicles of Narnia” series
By: C. S. Lewis
“The Chronicles of Narnia” is a seen book series written by Clive Staples Lewis starting in 1950 with “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe”. It follows stories and events of a magical land and its interactions between both people from outside the world and from within. Its main message told throughout the course of the seven separate novels is that of doing the right and moral thing, preaching the necessity of family, friends and loyalty, and most of all heroism in its many forms. As for its prevalence in the Canon, it is considered one of the classics of literature, though its more prevalent on the list of children’s classics, and it is on the reading list for many English classes in schools throughout the west and on the book shelves of many children’s rooms.
Though it’s main audience is children “The Chronicles of Narnia” also appeal to a wide range of ages, demographics and backgrounds not only for its adventurous and magical storytelling but also for its deeper meanings, symbolisms, themes and classical allusions. It’s these deeper meanings, that I would like to explore throughout the project as well as the meanings effects on both the text and the readers. I read the first two novels in sixth grade and grew up with the stories overall and since then I’ve been fascinated with the many and many deeper messages and morals the series seems to teach, so when confronted with this project the series came to my mind simply because it gave me a chance to look at the fundamental judgments of what’s right and wrong that it passes to its readers and how those lessons seem echoed in our society as well. When looking up the text in the MLA Database, here at the College of Charleston I was meet with two hundred and twenty-two results upon first search alone. Then I found seven thousand four hundred and ninety results when checking with Google Scholar. Many of these results supported my opinions on the deeper layers that exist below the surface of this twentieth century fairy tale.
Even though the Knight escapes the death penalty in “The Wife of Bath’s Tale”, it appears that he is forced to marry the older maiden that revealed the secret of women’s desires to him. The older woman interprets the marriage as compensation for the secret, while the Knight views the request as torture, until she becomes beautiful due to his submission to her will. The woman states, “I am your owne love and eek your wife. I am she which that saved hath your lif, And certes yet ne dide I you nevere unright. Why fare ye thus with me this firste night? Ye faren like a man had lost his wit” (pg 80, lines 1091-1095). Consider the knight’s agency within this tale, does he have any? Use the text to show examples of the knight’s agency, or lack of agency, regarding his marriage to the woman and his decision to pursue the queen’s request in exchange for his life.