The following five topics can be explored either as regular papers or as digital projects, a combination of visualization and textual analysis:
* The police and the courts appear in many of the novels that we read: The Jungle, The Maltese Falcon, The Lazarus Project. How does the representation of law enforcement differ from novel to novel, and what do these variations say about the authors and the urban landscapes they have created?
* From Bunk Johnson and Kid Ory in The Man in the High Castle, to Fats Waller in Mumbo Jumbo, to the Beatles in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, references to music seem to serve a storytelling function. Use these names of musicians as entry points to the fictional worlds of Philip K. Dick, Ishmael Reed, and Jonathan Safran Foer.
* The destroyed World Trade Center is an important connecting node, a point of convergence for many geographical locations, many layers of history. What does this interwoven network say about New York, the United States, and the place of the United States in the world?
* Both the San Francisco novel, The Kitchen God’s Wife, and the New York novel, How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents, have back stories set in other parts of the world. What do these back stories tell us about China and the Dominican Republic, and about the Chinese and Latino immigrant communities?
* History and fiction are cross-stitched in especially interesting ways in The Lazarus Project, The Man in the High Castle, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Beginning with the deaths in these novels — fictional as well as historical — explore this complex dynamics.
Once again, you are strongly encouraged to come up with your own topic. Make sure to talk to me first, so that we can frame it in the best possible way.