Literary Topics for Research Papers

By Cheryl Carpinello
A literary-analysis research paper, the layers, the literarure
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Write a research paper that will engage the reader by focusing on a work of literature or an author. A literary analysis offers an opportunity to explore in depth the meaning or purpose of a work and the influences on an author. In addition, a literary analysis explores the layers rather than the surface of a written work.

Influence of Historical Events

Write a literary analysis that shows the influence that historical events had on an author and the literature he wrote. An example of this is World War II and William Golding&rsquo;s &ldquo;Lord of the Flies&rdquo; or T.H. White&rsquo;s &ldquo;The Once and Future King.&rdquo; Writers like Charles Dickens were also influenced by historical events. Show the connection between Dickens&rsquo; &ldquo;A Tale of Two Cities&rdquo; and the French revolution as well as living conditions in France at the time. Research other historical events like disasters, government interventions, wars, the Great Depression and even peace declarations to connect to writers and their works.

Influence of Writer&#039;s Background

Write a literary analysis that shows the influences a writer&rsquo;s background had on the literature he wrote. An example of this is Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn and how his life in communist Russia influenced all of his works, including the &ldquo;The Gulag Archipelago&rdquo; and &ldquo;One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.&rdquo; Emily Dickinson&rsquo;s life influences are seen throughout all of her poetry. William Faulkner&rsquo;s works were influenced by his life in the South.

Development of Theme

Write a literary analysis showing the author&rsquo;s development of theme. Incorporate plot structure with a discussion of symbols and the use of literary devices like foreshadowing, similes and metaphors. An example of this is Joseph Conrad&rsquo;s &ldquo;Heart of Darkness.&rdquo; Explain how the plot structure of the novel is tied into the symbols of light and dark, savage and civilized and the metaphor of the snake. Another example is John Steinbeck&rsquo;s &ldquo;East of Eden&rdquo; with its extensive use of the Biblical story of Cain and Abel, which is implemented symbolically to drive the plot.

Character Development

Write a literary analysis detailing the author&rsquo;s development of one or more characters. Explore how the character is revealed through internal and external characterization. An example is Dostoyevsky&rsquo;s character Raskolnikov from &ldquo;Crime and Punishment.&rdquo; Readers see the evil deep inside Raskolnikov through his eyes, but also see the goodness in him through Sofya&rsquo;s comments and responses. Another example is Steinbeck&rsquo;s pair of characters Lenny and George from &ldquo;Of Mice and Men.&rdquo; The interaction between these characters along with their own thoughts and comments allow readers to understand the motivations behind their actions, especially when George kills Lenny.

Author&#039;s Style

Write a literary analysis focusing on the style of the author. Determine what literary devices the author uses repeatedly in several of his works and the effect on the reader. An example is Homer&rsquo;s use of epic similes in &ldquo;The Iliad&rdquo; and &ldquo;The Odyssey.&rdquo; This type of research paper requires more time from the writer because more than one work must be read.

About the Author

Cheryl Carpinello has taught high school English for 20 years. Her writing instruction has included analytical essays, persuasive essays, and major persuasive research papers. She has also published a middle grade novel, "Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend," which introduces young readers to Arthurian Legend.