Your task is to make a new and persuasive argument about material from the course by setting your claims against, in relation to, or in conversation with secondary sources. As with your explications, this essay must use close literary analysis to support the central argument, but you must also be clear about how your thesis adds to an ongoing critical conversation. Any text, author, or topic from any section of the course may serve as the focus of the final research essay, as long as you are not repeating material from Essay 1. Be careful not to let the outside sources drown out your voice: most important is that you support your argument with close reading of evidence and that you distinguish your original claims from those that have come before.
As with all academic essays, you should narrow down the focus of your paper to a very specific question that can be answered within the space allotted. Your thesis should provide a new or different way of thinking about the text(s) at hand and should be clearly supported by slow, close reading of evidence.
Your research paper should include 3 peer-reviewed secondary sources from scholarly journals or books that consider your central text, author, or gothic literature more generally. This research should allow you to articulate a major debate surrounding your topic and text and then clearly demonstrate how your thesis adds something new to that conversation. **I have cut down the word count and source requirement from the original syllabus description; you are allowed to go over this revised length and source count if you need to, but you must maintain clear and concise argumentative prose.
**A Note on Sources: All three of your sources must be peer-reviewed. Wikipedia, blogs, and other unvetted online sources should not be included in your essay — neither should book reviews or encyclopedia entries. At least one of your sources should be recent (within the last 15 years or so), in order to demonstrate that you are adding to an ongoing conversation.
We have encountered several descriptions of animals across the material from our class. Consider the role of animals in gothic literature in one or more texts on the syllabus. What does an author’s invocation of these other-than-human creatures suggest about the larger project of the text? Why are animals important to gothic?
Examine representations of marriage in one or more texts on the syllabus. What does gothic literature suggest about marriage in general, any specific aspects of marriage (housekeeping, parenting, sex, etc), or about the conventional marriage plot in literature, and why does it matter?
How do gothic authors from our class engage with acts of reading, interpretation, and/or writing? There are a number of different ways one might approach this topic, including, for instance, the way characters interpret events or each other; the role of testimony, suspicion, and belief; the enactment of meta-gothic tropes in authors’ texts, among many other possibilities.
Consider the ways in which an author from our class invokes the figure of madness in their text. What’s the relationship between gothic literature and psychological uncertainty or instability? Alternately, you might consider how any author from our class invokes feelings of anxiety, paranoia, fear, or terror in their texts. How do psychological and/or affective representations add to their projects?
Many gothic authors engage with ideas of cultural memory in a number of different ways. How do these writers evoke repressed cultural histories or traumas and to what end? How do these writers use the gothic mode to recover, or narrate the suppression of, a specific culture? What does that suggest about their larger project?
How is the state represented in one or more texts from our class? What’s the relationship between gothic and state authority and power? What does the gothic mode tell us about the political power of the state, and what form does that take? You might consider this question in relation to gothic representations of surveillance, for instance, or policing, among many other options.
Gothic texts often turn to the figure of the copy or the double to evoke feelings of horror and terror. Why? Consider the figure of the double in one or more texts from our class. Alternately, you might also approach this question by looking at the figure of repetition in a text, or an image of mirroring / reflection in one or more text from class.
Examine the role of consumerism, wealth, and/or capitalism in one or more text from our class. Is wealth or consumption scary? How and why? How do gothic writers engage with histories of racial or global capitalism in their texts? Many possibilities here.