Final Project

Due Friday, December 15th
8-10 pages double-spaced

For the final assignment of the semester, you will be developing your own research project—an 8-10 page paper that uses outside scholarly research to contextualize and make a larger argument about two novels. Like the second paper, here you will also draw out a meaningful linkage or illuminating contrast between two novels, but you will go further by acknowledging and making an argument about the specific literary, historical, social, and/or technological contexts in which these novels were written by substantially incorporating at least two secondary sources. The topic of the research project is entirely up to you.

Topic proposals, which should include a 150-word abstract and two potential secondary sources, will be due by email on Tuesday, December 5 by 4:10pm. We will also briefly share and brainstorm topic proposal ideas in class that day. You’ll want to identify a challenge, theme, or formal feature that you feel compellingly links two novels from the semester, a topic that makes you excited to explore or explain in greater detail beyond the texts themselves. Take this as an opportunity to dive deep into something that you’ve been curious about all semester, or to research something that might be useful to you later on down the road. The goal is that your comparison and your research will lead to a broader insight about this challenge, theme, or feature. Most importantly, your argument should show you (and me!) something new and interesting about the novels that we didn’t know before.

Though the research project idea and choice of secondary sources are ultimately yours, they should generally fall into, or overlap between, these categories:

  1. Literary

You might situate your comparison of the two novels within literary history and/or literary criticism, exploring such themes and formal features as irony, sincerity, metafiction, autofiction, realism, subjectivity, stream-of-consciousness, nonfiction, minimalism, maximalism, paranoia, etc.

For example, you might ask: how does the irony in Ben Lerner’s 10:04 (2014) and Jarett Kobek’s I Hate the Internet (2016) fit into larger trends of literary irony in contemporary American fiction? To situate and contextualize this question, you might incorporate Lee Konstantinou’s Irony and American Fiction (2016) or Rachel Greenwald Smith’s Affect and American Literature in the Age of Neoliberalism (2015). Or you might think about the return of realism in Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanah (2013) and Jonathan Franzen’s Purity (2015) by bringing in Robert Rebein’s Hicks, Tribes, and Dirty Realists: American Fiction after Postmodernism (2001) or Deak Nabers’s “The Forms of Formal Realism: Literary Study and the Life Cycle of the Novel” (2016).

  1. Social and/or Historical

You might situate your comparison of the two novels within the context of major social changes, socioeconomic systems and structures, or recent historical events, such as increasing American immigration, the changing publishing industry, the neoliberal economy, the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, 9/11, social justice movements, global warming, the Dot-com bubble, Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing, etc.

For instance, you might make an argument about the representation of immigration/emigration in Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanah (2013) and Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being (2014) by blending sociological research on American immigration/emigration with concepts from Rebecca Walkowitz’s collection Immigrant Fictions: Contemporary Literature in an Age of Globalization (2007) or histories from Erika Lee’s The Making of Asian America: A History (2016). Or you might think about any combination of our novels within the context of the evolving literary publishing industry by looking at Amy Hungerford’s Making Literature Now (2016) or Wayne Miller, Kevin Prufer, and‎ Travis Kurowski’s Literary Publishing in the Twenty-First Century (2016).

  1. Technological

You might situate your comparison of the two novels within the context of technological evolutions, innovations, or developments, such as the dominance of Amazon, the invention of Twitter, social media movements and communities, technologies of surveillance, etc.

For instance, you might make an argument about how Jonathan Franzen’s Purity (2015) and Jarett Kobek’s I Hate the Internet (2016) incorporate new media at the formal and aesthetic levels by using theories from Patrick Jagoda’s Network Aesthetics (2016) or Henry Jenkins’s Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide (2008). Or you might consider how technological developments have influenced contemporary reading practices by examining the representation of reading in Ben Lerner’s 10:04 (2014) and Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being (2014) alongside Lisa Nakamura’s “‘Words with Friends’: Socially Networked Reading on Goodreads” and N. Katherine Hayles’s How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis (2011).

*NOTE: If you’ve written about a novel twice already this semester, please don’t write about that novel as one of your primary texts. You can, of course, mention the novel, incorporate passages, or use it as an example when necessary or useful.

Please submit a 150-word abstract proposal and two potential secondary sources to by 4:10 pm on Tuesday, December 5th  

Please submit your final paper as a Microsoft Word Document via Blackboard by 12 pm on Friday, December 15th with the file name saved as “Final_Project_YourLastName”


Recommended WUSTL Research Guides:

On searching for journal articles

On evaluating your secondary sources