Topics for research papers and essays

Top 100 Literary Topics for Research Papers and Essays

Overview

As a university student, you are likely to be assigned several research papers and essays. There is nothing more daunting than the task of choosing a topic for your paper or essay. So, we have compiled this list of 100 topics that might help with narrowing down your search!

This post includes literary topics that would make excellent research papers or essays for any class in college-level English literature. Topics range from specific texts to general themes in literature. We hope you find our list helpful with all your writing endeavors!

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Tips for Brainstorming Essay Writing Prompts

1) Writing a good research paper will require extensive research. Read up on the topic and highlight any facts or statistics that catch your eye.

2) Write down any questions that come to your mind while doing this research. Also, add any thoughts from class discussions or lectures.

3) Brainstorm connections between facts, questions, and your initial thoughts.

4) Write down any exciting connections you find between sources of inspiration for your essay.

The list below provides a variety of possible topics for essays in English literature courses. This list includes short answer prompts that focus on specific texts and more general literary themes that you can apply to multiple texts.

Topics on Making Connections in Literature

1. How does the landscape of a story or novel influence its narrative and themes?

2. Analyze how a character’s flaws are both assets and detriments to the protagonist.

3. An author’s treatment of her female characters in a text has changed over time. Discuss this shift and its relationship to larger social changes.

4. Discuss the relationship between a work of fiction and other texts from its historic period.

5. Use two poems to analyze an issue or theme in history, philosophy, art, or politics.

6. What is the significance of the setting in a text? Give examples from at least two texts to support your thesis statement.

7. Discuss the influence culture and history have on an author as a writer.

8. How does the relationship of two texts or their authors reflect changes in literature, society, or thought?

9. Compare and contrast how two works use different approaches to convey central messages about humanity.

10. What kind of language do you notice when reading fiction? How does the language you notice help create tone, setting, and mood?

11. What are some common themes of American literature written before 1950? How do these texts reflect American sentiment during this period?

Interesting Literature Topics on Ancient Literature and Classical Studies

Here are some interesting literature topics for classical and ancient literary texts. Choose an interesting topic, and then expand it a bit to give yourself enough material for your research paper.

1. The Dark Side of the Moon: ancient literature on insanity

2. How to have sex in ancient Rome

3. Ancient Greek Love Poetry: Sappho’s Lyrics, Homer’s ‘Illiad’ and Plato’s ‘Phaedrus.’

4. The Literatures of Mesopotamia

5. Xenophon of Ephesus: The man who sold his wife

6. Ancient Greek and Roman Novels

7. The Literatures of Rome, Part 1: Livius Andronicus to Horace

8. The Literatures of Rome, Part 2: Virgil to Ovid

9. The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours

10. The Literatures of Renaissance Italy, Part 1: Dante Alighieri’s Commedia (The Divine Comedy) and Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron

11. The Literatures of Medieval and Renaissance England, Part 1: Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

World Literature Research Topics

1. Discuss how the author’s opinions on a specific issue, such as religion or politics, are reflected in the text.

2. Use two poems to analyze an issue or theme in history, philosophy, art, or politics.

3. Analyze the interplay between individuals and society in at least two texts from different cultural contexts.

4. What is the significance of symbolism in a text? Give examples from at least two texts to support your thesis statement.

5. How does the setting influence plot and characters?

6. What are some common themes of American literature written before 1950? How do these texts reflect American sentiment during this period?

7. Discuss how an author’s treatment of her female characters in a text has changed over time. Discuss this shift and its relationship to larger economical changes.

8. Does the author’s style or tone reinforce their opinion about a topic? Give examples from at least two texts to support your thesis statement.

9. Discuss the influence of history on literature.

10. How does the landscape of a story or novel influence its narrative and themes?

Literature Research Paper Topics for College Students

1. Discuss how history influences a writer’s writing style.

2. How has technology influenced literary production? Give examples from at least two texts, or apply a theory about technology and literary output to one of your texts.

3. Discuss ‘Anxiety (Death)’ – Nightwood by Djuna Barnes

4. What is the significance of form in a literary text? Give examples from at least two texts to support your thesis statement.

5. How does the setting affect characterization?

6. Compare and contrast two different narrative structures and discuss their impact on an audience.

7. Discuss how language use shapes character, theme, or plot in literature.

8. How might studying literature enhances our understanding of the world? Give examples from at least two texts to support your thesis statement.

9. What is character? How does it play an essential role in literature, and how has it evolved over time?

10. Discuss the significance of structure used for dramatic texts such as plays or screenplay.

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Interesting Topics on Western Literature

1. Discuss the social and historical context of “Sappho’s Poem” by Anne Carson.

2. In what ways does satire demonstrate truths? Discuss at least two texts in which it appears, or use one text to explain your answer.

3. How is technology changing the environment? Use examples from at least two texts, or apply a theory about technology and the environment to one of your texts.

4. Discuss how gender is portrayed in literature through the lens of sexuality, race, class, or religion.

5. How does “The Lottery” demonstrate the use of symbolism? Use examples from at least two stories, or apply a theory about symbolism to one of your stories.

6. How does a text’s treatment of the natural world reflect its characters, themes, and overall tone? Use examples from at least two texts to support your thesis statement.

7. What is the significance of a character’s name in literature? Explain how it shapes character or theme.

8. Define ‘Classics’ and discuss their significance for contemporary literature.

9. Discuss the ways in which literature reflects and/or distorts history.

10. How does the structure of writing convey meaning? Use examples from at least two texts to support your thesis statement

Literary Analysis Essay Topics on American Literature

1. Discuss ‘The Animal Farm’: A Fairy Story by George Orwell

2. Discuss how the author’s opinions on a specific issue, such as religion or politics, are reflected in the text.

3. Analyze how a character’s flaws are both assets and detriments to the protagonist.

4. Aristocracy – ‘Rights of Man’ by Thomas Paine (Discuss)

5. What is the purpose of dialogue? Discuss at least two texts where you can see the author using this technique.

6. How has an author’s treatment of her female characters in a text changed over time? Discuss this shift and its relationship to larger social changes.

7. Compare and contrast how two works use different approaches to explore a character’s inner conflict or some other aspect of human nature.

8. What is the significance of symbolism in a text? Give examples from at least two texts to support your thesis statement.

9. Discuss how culture and history influence an author as a writer.

10. What kind of language do you notice when reading fiction? How does the language you notice help create tone, setting, and mood?

Literary Topics on Literature Essay

1. What is the significance of symbolism in a text? Give examples from at least two texts to support your thesis statement.

2. Discuss ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’ by Zora Neal Hurston.

3. Discuss the influence of history on literature.

6. What are some common themes of British literature written before 1950? How do these texts reflect British sentiment during this period?

7. How does history influence American literature? Give examples from at least two texts to support your thesis statement.

8. Compare and contrast the Arts and Crafts Movement with the Renaissance.

9. How does the landscape of a story or novel influence its narrative and themes?

Literary Argument Topics on Modern Culture

1.  Discuss the influence of modern society on the protagonist’s behavior in “Night” by Elie Wiesel.

2. George Orwell used the backdrop of World War II to highlight and criticize self-serving, corrupt, and inhumane societal hierarchies in Animal Farm. Discuss how the author creates multiple voices for characters within a text through their words, actions, and dialogue in Animal Farm.

3. Discuss the influence of technology and social media on modern society as represented in “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut.

4. Discuss how “The Lottery” critiques societal norms through its portrayal of community-driven violence.

5. Discuss the satiric tone that defines “The Lottery” as it critiques societal norms.

6. Discuss how technology is used to dehumanize characters within the text and its effect on the modern reader.

Literary Research Paper Topics for Modern Literature

1. What are the major themes of Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales”? How would you describe them to someone who has never read this classic?

2. The modern novel is often written with a single narrative perspective and is often written in chronological order with a linear plotline. Examine at least two works of modern fiction that break these conventions. How do they break them? Do you like their approach better than the typical modern plotline and perspective?

3. What is the message of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald? Is this a tragic story? Why or why not?

4. Describe how the events in Frankenstein by Mary Shelley unfold. What is the author trying to convey?

5. The Canterbury Tales and Frankenstein are both old literary works that have been modernized in recent years. How do these new versions compare to their originals?

6. Discuss what happens with Hester Prynne at the end of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. What do you think happens to her? What does this tell us about Hawthorne’s view of adultery and social norms?

7. In Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, what is the importance of Shakespeare’s works? How are they used throughout the novel?

8. Examine a modern work that deals with time travel in the following contexts: scientific breakthrough, magical influence, or social and cultural themes.

9. Discuss the modernization of biblical stories in such works as ‘The Ten Commandments’ by Cecil B DeMille and Noah by Darren Aronofsky. Compare and contrast these versions to their sources material (i.e., biblical text).

10. Compare and contrast the modern works The Help by Kathryn Stockett and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

American Literature Research Topics for Essays

1. How has the theme of freedom been used in American literature?

2. How does Toni Morrison use African-American dialect to convey essential points about the characters and themes of her writing?

3. What is an example of satire in American literature?

4. Why do you think many early poets wrote about their experience as the unrecognized “other”?

5. What is an example of a modern American literary movement?

6. Why do you think the Romantic period witnessed such a high number of female poets, given that women were not considered educated or respected during this time?

7. Analyze the use of humor in Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn.”

8. How does the protagonist of J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” experience alienation?

9. Discuss Zora Neale Hurston’s use of dialect in her writing.

10. What is an example of metafiction in American literature?

Latin American Literature Essay Topics

Latin American literature reflects a unique blend of cultures and diverse histories. Here are some essay topics that you can use in writing your research paper;

1. Discuss how the Latin American Boom writers work to present a new reality within their novels.

2. To what extent, if any, is Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “A Hundred Years of Solitude” an allegory for the recent history of Columbia?

3. Compare and contrast how magical realism is used in Jorge Luis Borges’s “Ficciones” and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”

4. Analyze how Octavio Paz uses nonfiction, fiction, and sexuality to explain his own philosophy in his novel “El Laberinto de la Soledad.”

5. Write about how religion and politics are intertwined in selected novels by Latin American authors.

6. Discuss the presence of surrealism within Latin American literature.

7. Analyze three works of Julio Cortazar to explain how he uses metafiction to explore multiple planes of existence and reality.

8. In what ways does Ciro Alegria use writing as a method of coping with the political events that have shaped Latin American history?

9. How do Roberto Bolano’s short stories critique consumerism and capitalism in contemporary society?

10. What is Donoso’s intention in depicting Corina as a witch who embodies repressed sexuality in his novel “The Obscene Bird of Night?”

Literature Research Topics on William Shakespeare’s Plays

Choose a topic in the following list of literature research topics and use it to write your research paper;

1. Early Tragedies of Shakespeare

2. Love in Shakespeare’s Plays

3. The Merchant of Venice: Analysis and Review

4. Early Comedies of Shakespeare

5. Critical Review of Romeo and Juliet

6. Description of All’s Well That Ends Well by W. Shakespeare

7. A Comparison between Three Main Characters of Two Plays, Othello (By William Shakespeare) and Twelfth Night (By William Shakespeare and Francis Beaumont)

8. The Tragedy of Macbeth, by William Shakespeare

9. A Comparison of Two Plays: ‘Hamlet’ (By Shakespeare) and ‘The Crucible’ (By Miller)

10. Motifs in As You like It

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World Literature Research Topics on European Literature

Here are some world literature research topics you can choose from for your research paper;

1. “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

2. “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

3. Dante’s Inferno: ‘A Journey through Hell’

4. How does naturalism present itself in selected works from different European authors?

5. ‘Barriers to Love and Marriage’ – Romeo and Juliet, ‘Pride & Prejudice’, and Le Morte d’Arthur

6. Analyze the use of symbolism in “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost.

7. Using at least one example from each work, compare how ancient Greek mythology is used as a theme or backdrop for two works of literature.

8. Discuss how the natural world is used as a symbol or motif in dramatized works.

9. The use of religious symbolism and themes in selected works.

10. How does allegory present itself within select plays from different European authors?

World Literature Essay Topics on Asian Literature

1. Analyze how imagery is used in Oku no Hosomichi by Matsuo Basho.

2. Examine the significance of The Garden of Eden and The Fall as literary symbols of the loss of innocence in selected works from different authors.

3. A Critical Analysis of the House of the Dead by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

4. The Use of Allegory in Macbeth by William Shakespeare and Mahabharata by Anonymous

5. What is the role of fate in selected works by Asian authors?

6. Compare and contrast animals as symbols in contemporary cultural stories from Asian countries, such as China, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore.

7. How does the theme of love in Romeo and Juliet compare to other selected works from different authors?

8. Analyze the use of symbolism in Rickshaw by Lao She.

9. Compare the treatment of women as it relates to sexuality, marriage, and family life in two works from different Asian countries, such as India and China.

10. Compare two works of Asian literature set in the same historical period, such as 14th or 15th century Japan and Vietnam.

British Literature Essay Topics for Professional Writers

British essay topics for professional writers should address major themes in British literature and culture. These kinds of essays demonstrate the writer’s understanding of different literary movements and periods and their ability to analyze different influences on contemporary society based on what has been written about it in the past.

Professional writers may choose their own British literary essay topics from this list:

1. Write about the role of women in British literature from Beowulf to the present day.

2. Discuss a particular modern literary theory and explore how it can be applied to at least five works by authors from his/her country of origin.

3. Write an essay on two of your favorite poems, explaining what you like about them and why you think they have gone down in literary history.

4. Write a comparative essay on two novels written by authors from the same country of origin but different time periods.

5. Discuss the use of language in two poems by different British authors, and show how this device highlights their themes/contrasts their settings/creates atmosphere/and enriches their meaning.

6. Write about the impact of World War II on two different cultures, both authors from your country or region.

7. Examine how a specific theme/motif is developed throughout at least three poems by different British authors, and compare this development across periods and works.

Summary

The list of topics can help you with your first step towards writing an academic paper. Before you begin, set exact deadlines for yourself for each stage of the writing process: researching your topic, planning your thesis statement, writing your thesis, writing your paper, and proofreading it.

You also need to do some serious brainstorming before you begin. It may be helpful to start by making a list of all possible topics, essential words, and key phrases related to your research. Your topic should be based on thorough research, not vague ideas or assumptions.

Good luck!

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