- PTSD: How do various literary works refer to or depict this condition? (I’m thinking of “Dulce” and “Disabled,” but also “Why I Live at the P.O.” to some degree). When did the condition first earn a clear diagnosis? What is the history of our understanding and treatment of the condition? This paper would focus on PTSD as a condition, using the literature to explain how the condition impacts individuals.
- Veterans: What is the history of our treatment of returning soldiers? Why are some soldiers labeled members of the “Greatest Generation” while others are ostracized and ignored? How do poems like the Wilfred Owen poems and “Jundee Amerika” depict treatment of veterans? This paper would research veterans’ affairs and society’s reactions to returning soldiers from WWI to the Gulf War. The paper would use examples from the poems to demonstrate how the veterans are impacted upon return.
- Women’s Mental Health Issues: Is Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” an accurate depiction of our treatment of women’s mental health issues in the first part of the 20th century? In this paper, the student would research the mental health system in the 20th C, and perhaps investigate common diagnoses and treatments women received. This paper would focus on the woman in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” closely examining how her behavior and thoughts reflect actual conditions and treatments of her time.
- Disability: As a society, how have Americans responded to disability, traditionally? How do stories like “Recitatif,” and “Cathedral,” reflect society’s views of disability? In this paper, the researcher might investigate the Americans with Disabilities Act, the history and impetus of the Act, and how these two short stories reflect perspectives on disability.
- Marriage: What is marriage? How does literature reflect our values and ideals when it comes to marriage? This paper would investigate the history and role of marriage in culture, perhaps contrasting marriage issues and roles in Shakespeare’s time to marriage issues and expectations today. Many of our poems and short stories touch on the marriage relationship, including “To the Ladies” and “My Last Duchess,” then “Cathedral,” “The Yellow Wallpaper,” and others. How does Stanley define marriage? How does Blanche? How about Walter Lee and Ruth, or Walter Lee’s parents, Lena and the deceased Mr. Younger?
- Child Labor Laws and the Chimney Sweeper poems: What were the conditions of child laborers in London during William Blake’s time? Were there events depicted in those two poems that reflect actual circumstances for children? When did child labor laws go into effect, and what is the relationship between the laws in the UK and in the US?
- Reviving Ophelia: Exploring the role of girls in certain of the short stories, based on the best-selling book by Mary Pipher. What are the social implications of girls losing their personal identity and self-esteem when moving into adolescence and beyond? How does Alice Munro’s short story demonstrate that phenomenon? Do we see a breakdown in confidence and self-esteem in “Recititaf”?
- Race Transition in Suburban Cities in the Mid 20th Century: A Raisin in the Sun introduces the idea of race discrimination in the central aspect of the American Dream: owning your own home. Does the play reflect this time in our history accurately? This paper would research neighborhood trends in various cities, including Chicago, from about 1950 to 1970. What were some of the issues related to “race mixing” in neighborhoods? Did the incident with Mr. Linder represent actual events? What ever happened to Clyburn Park, Chicago? Did it become a “black” neighborhood? What is it like today?