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    Hi I need some help from all the obsessive readers out there! I can't narrow down what to do for my dissertation, the idea is so daunting! Any advice/ past experience would be brilliant, my teacher is so unhelpful

    I've got three main ideas, first of all American literature e.g 3 novels by jack kerouac (love him) , or a theme somewhere along the lines of the american dream with gatsby, grapes of wrath, faulkner, on the road, revolutionary road as texts, i just cant work out what would go well together.

    secondly, mabye irish writers, e.g pick three stories from dubliners/ do joyce's portrait of a young man/ sean o casey or samuel beckett, ulysses is probably a step too far! Anyone out there done anything like this? again, its so hard to figure out a question.

    last of all i was thinking along the lines of the outsider in fiction e.g albert camus, i also love kurt vonnegut and slaughterhouse five, mabye i could do something around that? I have the idea of comparing john fante's ask the dust and hunger by knut hamsun, any other texts that show isolation/ struggling writers?

    i appreciate this is a hugely geeky mad splurge of thoughts, but any past experience, advice, or ideas for texts or questions would be fantastic, feel free to ramble on about your dissertations! any pointers or tips would be much appreciated
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    (Original post by lua3)
    Hi I need some help from all the obsessive readers out there! I can't narrow down what to do for my dissertation, the idea is so daunting! Any advice/ past experience would be brilliant, my teacher is so unhelpful

    I've got three main ideas, first of all American literature e.g 3 novels by jack kerouac (love him) , or a theme somewhere along the lines of the american dream with gatsby, grapes of wrath, faulkner, on the road, revolutionary road as texts, i just cant work out what would go well together.

    secondly, mabye irish writers, e.g pick three stories from dubliners/ do joyce's portrait of a young man/ sean o casey or samuel beckett, ulysses is probably a step too far! Anyone out there done anything like this? again, its so hard to figure out a question.

    last of all i was thinking along the lines of the outsider in fiction e.g albert camus, i also love kurt vonnegut and slaughterhouse five, mabye i could do something around that? I have the idea of comparing john fante's ask the dust and hunger by knut hamsun, any other texts that show isolation/ struggling writers?

    i appreciate this is a hugely geeky mad splurge of thoughts, but any past experience, advice, or ideas for texts or questions would be fantastic, feel free to ramble on about your dissertations! any pointers or tips would be much appreciated
    Hey there

    First of all, I'm glad that you've got such great ideas early on in the year! I had decided mine on October or something and I wished I had finished my dissertation by then so I could have re-drafted it over and over again. Make sure whatever you do, start planning and annotating ASAP and then write your dissertation! Force yourself, honestly.

    I personally did mine on whether or not the poets T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound and E.E. Cummings were true modernists by looking at The Waste Land, The Cantos and Tulips & Chimneys respectively. It was a cool and impressive idea, but I honestly hated it! I don't even like Cummings and Pound that much, and Eliot only a little. I hated the themes too - it was so irrelevant in the modern day and I had no interest whatsoever in the fractured psyche of modern society after the great war and how the past was much better (I actually believe the opposite). *sighs* In other words, do something that interests you, and not an idea that is cool or impressive. Content/substance > style.

    Therefore, I'd go for American Literature. You don't seem so sure on the outsider fiction (which is definitely overdone) and especially the irish literature (which sounds cool simply). Go with what you know best, American Literature.

    If you need help planning, be creative: think of different angles etc and do a mind-map. Have fun with planning! And like a jigsaw, piece together what texts/authors you can do to answer your question. Honestly have fun with deciding and planning, chew on your pen a little, flick your hair and use highlighters

    I know that people usually do more than 1 author (probably 3), and it's often recommended, but I don't see why someone alone can't do 1 author. However, I guess at university etc, themes are often studied and time periods where people compare several authors so in that sense, I might avoid Jack Kerouac by himself (although not to say it's not doable, just not done as well by students according to the SQA). Also, I know that dissertations which do the best have their questions focused on literary devices. So things like: A comparative study on the literary devices adopted by american authors which reveals their condemning tone towards the American Dream. I know that's not greatly worded, but you get the gist. That allows you to focus each section of your dissertation on a different technique and discussing it in each novel.

    Gatsby is an amazing novel for the American Dream. There's On the Road too. Oh, might I suggest you look up the 'Beat Generation'? They're a group of writers including Kerouac who write hippy-ish novels like On the Road and I'm sure they have similar themes. The guy who first made it was Allen Ginsburg (author of Howl). The Beat Generation would be a fantastic and smart idea - not as done as much definitely!

    Of course there's novels by John Steinbeck but I personally hate that guy - I absolutely loathed Of Mice and Men. However, it is very well written and would provide a great essay. Although, Fitzgerald and Steinbeck have really different styles of writing and their tone is quite different too, so it might be difficult, or even easier, to compare. I've not read anything by Kerouac

    Good luck! And ask me any questions any time!
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    (Original post by Quick-use)
    Hey there

    First of all, I'm glad that you've got such great ideas early on in the year! I had decided mine on October or something and I wished I had finished my dissertation by then so I could have re-drafted it over and over again. Make sure whatever you do, start planning and annotating ASAP and then write your dissertation! Force yourself, honestly.

    I personally did mine on whether or not the poets T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound and E.E. Cummings were true modernists by looking at The Waste Land, The Cantos and Tulips & Chimneys respectively. It was a cool and impressive idea, but I honestly hated it! I don't even like Cummings and Pound that much, and Eliot only a little. I hated the themes too - it was so irrelevant in the modern day and I had no interest whatsoever in the fractured psyche of modern society after the great war and how the past was much better (I actually believe the opposite). *sighs* In other words, do something that interests you, and not an idea that is cool or impressive. Content/substance > style.

    Therefore, I'd go for American Literature. You don't seem so sure on the outsider fiction (which is definitely overdone) and especially the irish literature (which sounds cool simply). Go with what you know best, American Literature.

    If you need help planning, be creative: think of different angles etc and do a mind-map. Have fun with planning! And like a jigsaw, piece together what texts/authors you can do to answer your question. Honestly have fun with deciding and planning, chew on your pen a little, flick your hair and use highlighters

    I know that people usually do more than 1 author (probably 3), and it's often recommended, but I don't see why someone alone can't do 1 author. However, I guess at university etc, themes are often studied and time periods where people compare several authors so in that sense, I might avoid Jack Kerouac by himself (although not to say it's not doable, just not done as well by students according to the SQA). Also, I know that dissertations which do the best have their questions focused on literary devices. So things like: A comparative study on the literary devices adopted by american authors which reveals their condemning tone towards the American Dream. I know that's not greatly worded, but you get the gist. That allows you to focus each section of your dissertation on a different technique and discussing it in each novel.

    Gatsby is an amazing novel for the American Dream. There's On the Road too. Oh, might I suggest you look up the 'Beat Generation'? They're a group of writers including Kerouac who write hippy-ish novels like On the Road and I'm sure they have similar themes. The guy who first made it was Allen Ginsburg (author of Howl). The Beat Generation would be a fantastic and smart idea - not as done as much definitely!

    Of course there's novels by John Steinbeck but I personally hate that guy - I absolutely loathed Of Mice and Men. However, it is very well written and would provide a great essay. Although, Fitzgerald and Steinbeck have really different styles of writing and their tone is quite different too, so it might be difficult, or even easier, to compare. I've not read anything by Kerouac

    Good luck! And ask me any questions any time!
    First of all, your reply has made my day, its so detailed and just what i was looking for, thank you!

    from what you've said i've realised you're right about the irish authors, i was really more interested in them for their "coolness" (if thats the word hmm.. :L) than for any real interest on my behalf, and i realize now it will be worthwhile to pick something i love for the long hard slog that lies ahead!

    taking to heart your advice about substance before style, i'd rather have something i can really analyse and undertand than something that looks impressive for pretentious literary reasons! ulysses is definitely out!

    thinking of concentrating on the american dream, i love the beat generation! so thats a really interesting idea for me to consider, although kerouac's probably been done to death in high school dissertations, hence why the sqa are sick of him! mixing him up with other beat authors could work really well though.

    i want to do english at uni so i really want texts that i know and love and that i can talk about at interview. At the moment it's looking like the american dream, and i'm going to look into the beat generation as i think that would also work really well as a time period, i love the beats and kerouac is really central to that movement, so mabye i can build something around that and look at ginsberg/burroghs/bukowski, crazy "hippy ish" bohemians might be what it takes to keep me from banging my head off the computer screen in boredom howl would be absolutely crazy to analyse! I can see my english teachers going pale when i give them my plan

    oh god poor you doesn't sound like your dissertation was a whole lot of fun! i like eliot but i think i'd get bored of the others, well done for trudging through! oh the perils of dissertation writing redrafting sounds like a nightmare, i think i'll go mad tweaking every last word to death. fun times ahead! planning should be good before the reality sets in, can't wait to scribble all over my books with coloured highlighters and pretend i'm all literary and that.

    still toying with the idea of existentialism of the struggling writer, i'd really like to compare ask the dust by john fante and hunger by knut hamsun, they both basically feature starving young writers going mad tryign to get published which is oddly appealing to me haha just need to find one more book to put into the mix, i was thinking about notes from the underground or the outsider by camus, or does anyone think it would be a stretch to compare them to kerouac in big sur? he basically goes to live alone in a cabin and has an alchohol fuelled breakdown as a result of his fame as a writer. poor chap.

    my brain is just going mad with ideas, but at the moment its looking like i'll take your advice to play it safe with something i love and go with the american dream/ beat generation. we'll see thanks for all your help, oh god after all this i'll probably end up doing something ridiculous like ' lovely kittens in victorian literature' haha :L can anyone give me a rough idea of the number of quotes i would be looking to put in? did you use a lot of secondary sources?

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