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 versions of Chicago they have created?
* 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. How rational are they? What effects do they have on human relationships? Can we trace a history of San Francisco through these equally intense but otherwise quite different attachments?
* The fight between Phil and Ed, vividly described in The Golden Gate, brings to mind the fight between McTeague and Marcus, and Bigger and Gus. Are these fights funny, or are they vicious? To what extent are they emblematic of the fictional worlds of Vikram Seth, Frank Norris, and Richard Wright?
* 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. Please stop by my office and brainstorm together!