katiecornfield
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I am in my 6th year of school and I am beginning my advanced higher English course. In this course, we have to write a dissertation on 2 pieces of literature. I'm thinking of going down the route of novel/play however I can't decide on a general theme meaning I am still to get started on reading and note-taking. I am very interested in crime/murder however I feel as though there needs to be an important theme in the novel other than this. Can anyone give suggestions on alternative themes/topics or novels/plays that I could write it on?
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katiecornfield
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(Original post by Johnathan94)
Gatsby is a bottomless well of literary analysis for such a short book and is thematically very diverse.

Maybe you could write about romantic relationships/courtship? Perhaps look at how relationships are depicted in a Dickens novel (Great Expectations comes to mind) compared to something more modern?

Some other good classics that you might enjoy working on are:

Catcher in the Rye
1984
Don Quixote
Vanity Fair
Huck Finn
Jeckyl and Hyde

I did AH English and now have an English Lit degree so feel free to bounce ideas off me at any point. ☺️
thank you so much!
I've been reading into The Wasp Factory and would like to do that if it is appropriate? Could any of these novels be compared to it?
Thanks again.
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katiecornfield
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(Original post by Johnathan94)
Goodness it’s been 10 years since I last read The Wasp Factory. It’s a good book but I have to say that it isn’t personally what I would choose for an AH project. It’s not a bad choice, I can certainly think of a lot worse, but it’s just wouldn’t gel with the kind of thing I usually recommend for my private tutoring clients.

Of the books I suggested I have to say I’m struggling to think of any good comparisons. There’s definitely some angles you could come at it from: violence/aggression in Scottish writings (Jeckyl and Hyde), maybe depictions of male isolation (Catcher in the Rye). Although I have to say that Holden Caulfield is a beloved character for most English grads and they won’t necessarily love the comparison to a weird, psychotic, murderous teenager...
Thank you so much. I think I will stay clear of The Wasp Factory as it's proving to be quite popular in my class. I'm waiting to hear back from my teacher about "Catcher in the Rye" and "Jekyll and Hyde". In the meantime, is there any analysis notes or websites that you could recommend for studying these pieces? Thank you so much for your help!!
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katiecornfield
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(Original post by Johnathan94)
One of the advantages of doing books like the ones you’ve gone back to your teacher with is that there is an absolute mountain of literary analysis on these pieces.

Because ‘Catcher in the Rye’ is a bit of a cult phenomenon, it’s that rare book that actually has a pretty decent Wikipedia page (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Catcher_in_the_Rye), which actually can be a pretty good place to start as an English student at university. It helps you get the broad strokes before reading the book and means you get more out of it when you read it yourself. There’s also a really good Crash Course video on ‘Catcher’, which is usually the first thing I send over to my clients when I’m trying to persuade them to do it for their essays.

I would say both of those would be a good place to start if you’re just trying to decide which novels you want to go ahead with. I have a few academic journal articles and things like that, which I’m happy to email over to you. I’m guessing you won’t have access to academic journals via school but peppering a couple of these in, as long as it’s clear that you’ve understood them, really impresses a lot of markers.

Feel free to come back to me when you’ve got word back from your teacher and I’ll be happy to help out if I can. ☺️
Thank you!! Once my teacher has gotten back to me I will let you know😊
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katiecornfield
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(Original post by Johnathan94)
It just occurred to me by the way of the list I gave you, you might be able to write an interesting comparison piece on ‘Catcher’ and ‘Don Quixote’ around the theme of mental health/isolation. That might be worth looking at.
Hi again! I have decided to read "Dr Jeykll and Mr Hyde" and would like to write about isolation/mental health and link this to mental health in modern society. I've been looking at other novels I could use to compare this with but I can't seem to find any that I could use. Do you have any suggestions? thanks again😊
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TabithaFord99
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(Original post by katiecornfield)
Hi again! I have decided to read "Dr Jeykll and Mr Hyde" and would like to write about isolation/mental health and link this to mental health in modern society. I've been looking at other novels I could use to compare this with but I can't seem to find any that I could use. Do you have any suggestions? thanks again😊
I am always steering people away from the 'I want to write about mental health" because (a) without any grounding in psychology or pathology this becomes problematic and essentially requires you to have specialist knowledge in another field (b) this is, after all, a work of fiction, and characters cannot be put 'on the couch' as it were, because novelists make decisions which serve the plot (and are by their nature therefore the most dramatic option) rather than decisions which are mimetically consistent with a diagnosis.

If you are interested in the subject of isolation, there are hundreds of novels which would be great to explore - almost anything ever written by Anita Brookner; "The collector" by John Fowles - which is narrated (in part) by a young woman who has been kidnapped; or even Meg Wolitzer's 'The wife" is an interesting option here, where you see a woman who is isolated in her marriage and in her life because of her talent/gender.

If you are interested in looking at the split personality aspect of "Jekyll/Hyde" then there are plenty of other novels you could get into that would explore this, and which look at doppelgängers and doubles. The short story "William Wilson" by Edgar Allan Poe. "Notes from Underground" by Dostoyevsky. Another great Scottish novel "the private memoirs and confessions of a justified sinner" by Hogg - this is quite nice, because you are looking at two Scottish writers dealing with a similar theme/treatment of character - so there are contextual questions here about is this notion of the respectable versus diabolical somehow part of the Scottish psyche at that time?
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TabithaFord99
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(Original post by Johnathan94)
Just to respond to the above poster: I disagree somewhat on the point about discussing mental wellbeing. Whilst I definitely wouldn’t encourage you to start writing in a way that is quasi-psychological in nature (nor do I think you were intending to), the other commenter acknowledged that it’s interesting to discuss the topic of isolation and I would argue that talking about isolation is tantamount to addressing mental health/emotional wellbeing. You certainly wouldn’t write about isolation and loneliness as though they were benign forces in the life of the character and of people in general? I don’t see how you can address isolation in a novel without acknowledging the wellbeing, which I don’t think requires specialist knowledge of any sort to do. So I wouldn’t discard any candidate novels on this basis if I were you.

The James Hogg novel that is referenced though is one I wish I’d thought of myself though I’ll confess. The only problem I would have with is its complexity in some ways (perhaps exceeding the kind of thing an AH student would be inclined to tackle) and also, as much as I wish it weren’t so, I don’t think you can rely upon that many markers to have read it... maybe half? Maybe. If they haven’t then the heavy lifting falls to you and I always think that it’s really difficult to bring an essay to life if the marker isn’t intimately familiar with the text. You won’t get any credit for anything that isn’t conspicuously on the pages that you hand in because they’re unable to fill in the blanks.
We can get into this, but the subject of isolation is not synonymous with "mental health". Unless, you choose to define the term "mental health" so loosely, and erroneously, that it simply refers to the human condition. The key word is "health", which by its very nature raises the expectation of diagnosis and (usually) treatment. Isolation is also not synonymous with "loneliness", nor can you make the blanket statement that this is "benign" or malign - context, after all, is everything.

Secondly, I think you do students a great disservice by stating your belief that a text is beyond their capabilities. I am also inclined to think you are not Scottish, because if you were, you would not make the extraordinary statement that: "I don't think you can rely upon that many markers to have read it" (sic). This is a canonical text in Scotland.
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TabithaFord99
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(Original post by Johnathan94)
I’m going to assume that the candidate knows what we all know; that isolation and loneliness are similar concepts but not identical in their meaning.

I was born in Glasgow, have had private tutoring clients and worked for tutoring companies since I was an undergraduate English student, as well as continuing to do that kind of work through my MA and PhD. It may well be a canonical Scottish text but a significant number of SQA examiners did not do their degrees in Scotland, and of those that did, there’s no guarantee that it features in their programmes of study. Even if they chose a Scottish canon module, they could easily have missed out on Hogg if they chose instead to focus on Gibbon, or Stevenson, or Scott. It did feature in mine which is why I know that the novel is actually credited by Stevenson himself as being an inspiration for ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ and ‘The Master of Ballantrae’, which serves as another reason why it’s a bad recommendation (I was trying to be a little kind earlier). This is because the candidate’s essay would either need to ignore this observation (thereby making it look as though they hadn’t done adequate research) or need to be spent proving this assertion and looking for the fingerprints of one novel in the other, which goes against the grain of what is typically expected of a Higher/AH candidate. In fact, the SQA explicitly state that the essay should be thematic in nature, so this type of question would be a risky strategy. The problem with teaching literature I find, year upon year, is actually finding a book that everyone in the class has read. You might well like Hogg and consider it an indispensable classic but I can promise you that such things really don’t exist any longer - there are few to no examples of books these days that ‘everyone has read.’

Lastly, as to my ‘disservice’ (a bit of a giggle as last year I had 4 AH English candidates, with their grades being AAAB), my saying that Hogg might be too complex for the candidate wasn’t actually any critique of their ability (I don’t see how it could be since, just as you know nothing about me, I know nothing about them) but more a comment on the limited time, and to an extent word count also, to begin picking apart two fairly complex novels with a lot of existing academic literature explicitly addressing their very question. As an approach, it places quite a high burden on a student in order to follow a path that makes getting a top-tier grade more difficult.

Good candidates don’t care which books they have to analyse - they want to get an A. The best way to do that, in my experience anyway, is to choose literature that you can be sure the examiner is familiar with and to offer them something unique and insightful about those pieces, which demonstrates that you have truly understood them and are passionate about them.

Anyway OP, hopefully I haven’t come across as too mean now! 😂 If you’d like any further help then please feel free to get in touch - always happy to have ideas bounced off me, regardless of which path you take. ☺️
Thanks. I have a PhD in English Literature. I don't think I need your "help". Good luck to you. And your students.
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katiecornfield
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Wow. A lot of information there!

I am not going to lie, after reading all of this I am now very confused as you both have very different views. I have spoken to my English teacher and she does not feel that "Catcher" is appropriate to pair with "Jekyll and Hyde". However, since I have already begun reading "Jeykll and Hyde" I would like to continue to do so for my dissertation. I understand your concerns, Tabitha, about writing on mental health and I also cannot find enjoyable novels to suit that topic. I would instead stick to isolation however is that too broad? I would somehow like to link it to modern-day society, however, I am unsure of texts to compare this to. I am currently researching your suggestions and I am thinking that perhaps "The Wife" by Meg Wolitzer (which you suggested) or something similar would be appropriate. If I were to go down this route then I would like to write about how in the novels there are both two different forms of isolation but they are still very present in today's world. What are your opinions on this and do you have alternative topics to write about?

Thank you both for your advice, I cannot begin to tell you how helpful it is!
Now stop bickering😂
(but genuinely thank you for your advice)
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TabithaFord99
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(Original post by Johnathan94)
You could definitely use some help but I’m not qualified to provide that.

Perhaps if you’re so deeply insulted by having someone defend their thoughts to you then you shouldn’t interject needlessly with unnecessary little insults? Now that you’ve revealed yourself to be a professional, perhaps it would be a good idea to act like it instead of dragging the tone of the conversation down when someone is simply looking for a little bit of help to succeed.
Johnathan - I really have no idea why you have decided to take such a hostile tone. Please remember, this is a forum to provide help to students. I think you may have lost sight of that. Where the help offered is deficient (as in this case) I think it is incumbent on me, and others who have a degree of expertise, to offer some professional support.

I can only assume that you, as a dilettante, are threatened by those who have the knowledge that you do not. I can assure you, I am not here to expose your lack of knowledge or poach the students you hope to acquire monetary recompense from.

I am neither "insulted" by you, nor I am in need of the "help" you insist that I require. I suggest that if you want to continue this line of attack you message me privately, rather than expose students to your issues.

Please allow me to reiterate - I wish you good luck, and I also wish the students that you tutor the very best of luck with their studies.
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TabithaFord99
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(Original post by katiecornfield)
Wow. A lot of information there!

I am not going to lie, after reading all of this I am now very confused as you both have very different views. I have spoken to my English teacher and she does not feel that "Catcher" is appropriate to pair with "Jekyll and Hyde". However, since I have already begun reading "Jeykll and Hyde" I would like to continue to do so for my dissertation. I understand your concerns, Tabitha, about writing on mental health and I also cannot find enjoyable novels to suit that topic. I would instead stick to isolation however is that too broad? I would somehow like to link it to modern-day society, however, I am unsure of texts to compare this to. I am currently researching your suggestions and I am thinking that perhaps "The Wife" by Meg Wolitzer (which you suggested) or something similar would be appropriate. If I were to go down this route then I would like to write about how in the novels there are both two different forms of isolation but they are still very present in today's world. What are your opinions on this and do you have alternative topics to write about?

Thank you both for your advice, I cannot begin to tell you how helpful it is!
Now stop bickering😂
(but genuinely thank you for your advice)
Katie - firstly, I apologise that this has turned into "bickering". It is entirely inappropriate to expose you to this, and I hope I have been clear with Johnathan, that my intention is to assist you, rather than to poach potential students from his business, which I think is his primary concern here.

Let's re-focus one what is important, which is getting you a subject for your dissertation which you can do well in and enjoy what literature has to offer. I want you to find something that you will do well in, but that you will also look forward to writing about. I absolutely share your teacher's view that in terms of read across "Catcher in the Rye" is not a good comparison - in terms of theme, period, or anything else for that matter.

So, we are back to the subject of "isolation" then? OK - I think this is an interesting angle to explore, if we are going for the option of how an individual 's isolation manifests itself in proliferation. And this might edge into the 'unstable characters' angle which you have some interest in too. In Stevenson, we have a protagonist who is isolated cognitively, and the result is we see this schism in his psyche as Mr Hyde emerges. In MW's novel, we see "the wife" is also isolated in terms of having an outlet for her imagination. She is taught early on that women cannot succeed as writers. Therefore she "invents" this alter ego, by presenting her work as her husband's (who in many ways is a man who lives by his sensations - much as Mr Hyde is). This is an interesting duality, but we also have the theme of how being eccentric (ie not placed centrally) from society forces the individual to create a reality of his/her own.

I think if you pitch this type of comparison to your teacher, she will see this as an interesting dissertation. "The wife" is a pretty short novel and I think this is an exciting and original proposition. Do let me know if you need any more help.

Once again, apologies that this turned into a bit of a bun fight. I hope this gets you the outcome that you need.
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katiecornfield
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(Original post by TabithaFord99)
Katie - firstly, I apologise that this has turned into "bickering". It is entirely inappropriate to expose you to this, and I hope I have been clear with Johnathan, that my intention is to assist you, rather than to poach potential students from his business, which I think is his primary concern here.

Let's re-focus one what is important, which is getting you a subject for your dissertation which you can do well in and enjoy what literature has to offer. I want you to find something that you will do well in, but that you will also look forward to writing about. I absolutely share your teacher's view that in terms of read across "Catcher in the Rye" is not a good comparison - in terms of theme, period, or anything else for that matter.

So, we are back to the subject of "isolation" then? OK - I think this is an interesting angle to explore, if we are going for the option of how an individual 's isolation manifests itself in proliferation. And this might edge into the 'unstable characters' angle which you have some interest in too. In Stevenson, we have a protagonist who is isolated cognitively, and the result is we see this schism in his psyche as Mr Hyde emerges. In MW's novel, we see "the wife" is also isolated in terms of having an outlet for her imagination. She is taught early on that women cannot succeed as writers. Therefore she "invents" this alter ego, by presenting her work as her husband's (who in many ways is a man who lives by his sensations - much as Mr Hyde is). This is an interesting duality, but we also have the theme of how being eccentric (ie not placed centrally) from society forces the individual to create a reality of his/her own.

I think if you pitch this type of comparison to your teacher, she will see this as an interesting dissertation. "The wife" is a pretty short novel and I think this is an exciting and original proposition. Do let me know if you need any more help.

Once again, apologies that this turned into a bit of a bun fight. I hope this gets you the outcome that you need.
Thank you this is brilliant! Sorry about my bickering comment, it was only an attempt to lighten the mood. But thank you, I will go away and talk to my teacher and let you know what she thinks.
Thank you both!
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