The following five topics can be explored either as regular papers or as digital projects, a combination of visualization and textual analysis:
* Lawyers, the police, and the courts appear in all three Chicago novels that we read: The Jungle, Native Son, Humboldt’s Gift. How does the representation of law enforcement differ from novel to novel, and what do these variations say about the authors and the fictional worlds they create?
* McTeague and his canary, Gutman and the Maltese falcon, Liz and her cat Charlemagne: these human/ nonhuman bonds seem to be a key feature in the three San Francisco novels. What accounts for these attachments? How rational are they? What effects do they have on human relationships? Does it make any difference whether the nonhuman partner is animate or inanimate?
* The destroyed Mercedes in Humboldt’s Gift is an important connecting node, a point of convergence for many geographical locations, many layers of history. What does this interwoven network say about Chicago, about the United States, and about 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 the immigrant communities in these cities?
* Marriage looks quite different in Edith Wharton’s New York, Saul Bellow’s Chicago, and Vikram Seth’s San Francisco. Comment on the different guises this venerable institution takes, and its complex relations to its environments.
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.