You are strongly encouraged to come up with your own topics. In case you’re stuck, here are some prompts:
– Why is the subtitle of McTeague “A Story of San Francisco”? Which aspects of the city do we see in this novel, and which plot developments are dependent on it? How would you compare the agency of San Francisco with that of Chicago in The Jungle, or New York in The Age of Innocence?
– Polk Street and Fifth Avenue are not just casual street names. They are social microcosms for Frank Norris and Edith Wharton. Why are these streets worth writing about? How representative are they of their respective cities?
– How is “work” organized and experienced in The Jungle? How would you compare it with work as represented by Carl Sandburg in The Chicago Poems?
– Marriage seems to be the center of gravity in Edith Wharton’s old New York, forming a tight circle of upper-class families with shared names. What are the “ramifications of New York’s cousinships”? Why does Wharton call this genteel world a “tribal” society? And why do they live “in a kind of hieroglyphic world?”