Final work for the course could be a substantial essay (see prompts below), but I’m also open to alternative projects that, in one way or another, address multiple works that we have read for class. Alternatives could be individual or group projects, might place an emphasis on audio, video, or the written word in a different way. If you choose to come up with a project on your own, you’ll need to run that by me for approval.
Paper Prompts: Each of the prompts below asks you to think about 3 texts from this semester. Be sure you have a central argument that informs your understanding of the relationship between them. The completed work should be about eight pages (2,000 words).
1) Trace a line of literary influence from Herman Melville’s Bartleby to Brett Easton Ellis’s American Psycho, adding at least one other text. How do the sources you chose treat the instability of their protagonists? How is the strangeness or violence of these characters connected to modern New York, or, more generally to the economic and cultural order of modern cities?
2) Trace a different line of literary influence from Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” or Kate Chopin’s The Awakening to Susanna Kaysen’s Girl, Interrupted and Nisi Shawl’s, The Tawny Bitch. Feel free to substitute texts from outside class such as Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar or Susannah Cahalan’s Brain on Fire. Ask yourself what has changed and what has remained consistent when it comes to thinking about and portraying mental illness in young, relatively affluent women over the last one hundred years, or so.
3) Compare 3 different depictions of life in an asylum that we have seen or read this semester, being sure to include Nellie Bly’s Ten Days in a Madhouse. What are common strategies for depicting these institutions? How has their depiction changed or remained consistent across the sources you choose? Are the depictions you’re discussing tied to specific moments in the history and evolution of asylums? Alternatively, you could find three sources in a single period that depicted psychiatric hospitals.