More potential dissertation topics

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

While I’m working on completing my coursework for my degree, I’m also brainstorming for and about potential dissertation topics. I know I’ve shared a few ideas with some of you in the past, but I’ve recently been thinking about a literature dissertation. I’m lucky in that my present degree leaves me fairly open to pursue interests and thereby create an individual plan of study. Though my PhD only requires 15 credits of literature (and I already have that if you look at my MA degree, plus more), I think that a literature dissertation is more likely. Though most of my coursework will be in rhetoric, writing, and research, I think a literature dissertation still makes sense. (Rhetorical analysis of literature, diaries and letters, and travel writing are just a few examples that would provide me with a dissertation with a literary focus and yet still have that rhetoric feel.)

Some ideas

  • Death, Dying, and Disease in Jose Saramago’s fiction. I’d like to do a type of cultural/social context (rhetorical analysis) reading into his works. The only drawback to this is that he wrote in Portuguese and all I’ve read are translations. I was able to do this for my MA thesis (Franz Kafka), but I don’t know if the same rules apply for dissertations.
  • The abnormal and diseased in American Supernatural fiction. I’ve always enjoyed reading so-termed “weird fiction” and I think there are many avenues left open for interpretation. A rhetorical analysis type reading would work here with a focus on the cultural and stylistic aspects. Genre might be an interesting approach as well and my whole program is pretty obsessed with genre studies. And this would be something that would work for me to rhetorically analyze the concept of evil in American fiction, too.
  • The third idea would concern letters and diaries and I’ve been thinking about Edith Wharton’s letters. This is really just a new idea and I’ve never read many of her letters (not a whole collection, anyway), so I’m still playing around. But I love Wharton’s work and life and would enjoy the project.

Literature is a good choice because I work best with texts. That is why I did my MA in literature, after all. I feel comfortable with text-heavy materials and I always have. And I’m afraid if I had to do a lot of transcribing that it would take me double the time normally allotted for a dissertation to finish. The thought of transcribing frightens me for such a large scale work.


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