It is relatively easy to talk about your favourite book, and perhaps easier to discuss other people’s ideas on books. The aim of a literature dissertation is to read a little deeper into the themes and interests that grab you when reading, and to contextualise these ideas within the larger cultural movements of the time. Literature reflects so many ideas and concerns of writers throughout the ages: these ranges from academic concerns, such as philosophy, psychology and sociology, to imaginative and religious inclinations. You can write about anything, but to make it different it should be something that interests and challenges you. To give you some further idea of what you could be reading or researching for your language and literature dissertation, this article has suggested topics in the areas of seventeenth century literature, eighteenth century literature, nineteenth century literature, twentieth century literature and children’s literature.
Both these eras witnessed changing political and social conditions, which were popularised and discussed by writers. Satire and circumstance were particularly popular, and authors often used literature as a way to pass controversial comment on society – often using complex metaphor. Theological imagery and themes were often used, as well as themes of exploration. Ideas for your language and literature dissertation include:
The nineteenth century witnessed an unprecedented growth in urban landscapes, city living and industrialisation. Rural economies both suffered and benefited during the Industrial Revolution, and many writers mourned the loss of traditional ways of life. Perhaps more than any other century, the nineteenth witnessed the greatest degree of change in terms of religious, moral, and social ideals. In an age that became increasingly secular, literature tried to compensate for the associated loss of meaning. When Darwin’s Origin of Species was published in 1859 it began to be more widely understood that the earth had a much greater history than previously imagined, and that humankind had developed from apes was, to many Victorians, an unsettling and threatening concept. The literature of the time thus expresses concerns of alienation, insignificance and religious doubt, and seeks to provide answers to questions that arose through new scientific discoveries. Nineteenth century literature provides many topics that you could write upon for your language and literature dissertation.
Literature of the twentieth century includes a wide variety of thematic and stylistic approaches. This was the era when poetic style and technique became as equally expressive and experimental as that of novels. Modernism at the beginning of the century sought to break away from the conditions imposed upon literature by the Victorians, and this surge was soon to be shaped and unrecognisably altered by the occurrence of the two World Wars. From the fifties onwards, literature, more than ever, sought ways in which to understand the human condition and ways to explain behaviour and emotional inclinations. These range from psychoanalysis to diary writing, and offer a very rich range of topics to choose from for your language and literature dissertation:
Literature intersects with many areas of study, including philosophy, architecture, religion, sociology, and politics. Interdisciplinary study is more than placing literature within the context of another discipline – to be truly interdisciplinary researchers should use research from more than one subject, and even examine the benefits and drawbacks in studying more than one discipline. The following lists of topics reflects these suggestions, and are possibilities for your language and literature dissertation:
The themes of identity and place have been concurrent throughout literary history. Apart from using landscape as a source of inspiration, authors often need landscapes to help contextualise and identify their characters. Ranges of narrative techniques associated with landscape are used in novels to portray the inner feelings of characters. Identity is closely related to, and often described as being a product, of place and its cultural associations. Therefore a study in this subject can be useful in other areas of future research and offers an accessible, adaptable and relevant topic for your language and literature dissertation.
Writing for children involves the effective use of imagination, wittiness and often, the sensitive and dynamic use of tradition. As a result, children’s literature is often imbued with complex themes and imagery, which speaks to adults and children on separate yet conducive levels. When choosing a topic to write about on children’s literature it can be useful to target a specific age range to avoid making generalisations and to help recognise the differing levels of academic competence associated with different children’s ages. In this subject there are often strong themes, which have been recurrent over many decades. The following are some ideas that you could use for your language and literature dissertation:
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