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Victorian Literature / Writing Process

Choosing a paper topic

I am exactly two classes away from completing my Masters of Arts in English with a focus on British Literature. I start my seminar in British literature class in September, and then in January I’ll complete my capstone. Both classes require that I write a publishable paper. That’s not daunting at all…

Rather than getting too worked up and letting myself feel pressured, I’m just going to apply the process I’ve developed for myself over the years. It goes something like this:

  • Make list of things within the broad parameters of the paper that interest me or that I have questions about.
  • Look for an author or a work of literature and matches my interests.
  • Do a little research to see if there’s a lot of information out there already about the work or author I’ve selected.
  • Decide if what I’m interesting in writing about has the potential to be original or tackle the topic from a different perspective.
  • Read.
  • Research.
  • Choose a question on which to focus.
  • Research some more.
  • Write.
  • Edit.
  • Revise.

Here’s the what I’m thinking so far:

  • Most of my favorite piece of literature come from the Victorian era, so it make sense to choose something to focus on from that time period.
  • In order to write something original, I need to select an author or a literary work that hasn’t been written about by everyone and their uncle.
  • I want to select a female author because I think they are generally underrepresented in the research.
  • Sensation novels were briefly popular during the Victorian era, were often written by women, and have influenced the evolution of many different genres right into the 21st century.
  • Mary Elizabeth Braddon was a prolific sensation novelist, and while some of her more popular works have been analyzed pretty exhaustively, there are a number of short stories that bare examination.
  • I’m intrigued by the story The Good Lady Ducayne which touches on issues of feminism, class, nationalism, ageism, and… vampirism!

So I have a possible work to explore and a number of broad topics to examine. Next steps:

  • Perform a close reading of The Good Lady Ducayne.
  • Identify potential topics for further research.
  • Read some of the research on M.E. Braddon.
  • Write an initial thesis with specific questions to further explore.

Sounds like a game plan. And… break!

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