Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Essay Titles 2007



Choose one of the topics below to write a 5,000-word essay. The essay counts for 50% of the final mark. Two copies of the essay should be handed in to the English Department office not later than 3 pm on Monday 14 May 2007.  

The following topics are suggestions. You may modify them, or devise one of your own, but should do so only in consultation with your seminar tutor.

While you may range as widely as you like in European prose fiction, not necessarily confining yourself to books studied on the course, you should make detailed reference to at least two of the set texts. Material used in the essay must not be substantially repeated in the examination.


Essay Topics:

 1.             How is the city (and/or the country) represented in the European novel? In what ways is the setting crucial to events and characterisation? 

 2.             How far is the realist novel able to challenge traditional representations of gender?

 3.             ‘Tolstoy writes of “the endless labyrinth of linkings in which the essence of art resides”, while George Eliot makes insistent use of the metaphor of the web, but in great multi-plotted novels like Anna Karenina and Middlemarch discontinuity and disconnectedness also have a crucial part to play.’ Discuss. 

 4.             Examine the importance of reading, and misreading, in two or three novels.

 5.             It has recently been claimed of Middlemarch that ‘entangled husbands suffer more memorably than trapped wives do’ (Nina Auerbach in ‘Middlemarch’ in the Twenty-First Century, ed. Chase). In the light of this claim examine the role of husbands in two novels, one of which may be Middlemarch.

 6.             Sterne writes of his ‘endeavour to fence against the infirmities of ill health, and other evils of life, by mirth’.  Discuss the role of the comic element in any two or three novels in the light of this statement..

 7.             ‘The nineteenth-century text, divided against itself, repeatedly undercuts the proffered images of its own authority and is already rehearsing on a subtler scale the split we use to separate modernist from classical narrative’. Discuss, either by comparing one or more nineteenth-century novels with Orlando, or by focusing on two of the former.

8.             Write about the part played by one of the following in any two or three novels: class; money; victims and victimisers; secrets and revelations; crime; renunciation; journeys; windows; food; time; violence; medicine; death.

9.             Examine the ways in which any two European novels display, either explicitly or obliquely, an awareness of their status as fictive texts and consider how this factor influences their interpretation.

 10.           ‘A letter can always not reach its destination’ (Derrida). Explore the role of letters in any two or three novels in the light of this dictum.

11.                 ‘Politics in the novel is like a pistol-shot at the opera’ (Stendhal). Discuss the political dimension of any two novels in which you find its presence significant for an understanding of the text.

 12.                 The narrator of the realist novel has been characterized as a ‘nobody’, as ‘not intelligible as an individual’ (E.D. Ermarth, Realism and Consensus in the English Novel). Discuss the role of the narrator in any two novels in the light of this view.

13.                 Discuss the function of irony, or the use of free indirect discourse, in at least two European novels.

14.                 In what sense is Time an important formal and thematic feature of the novel?

15.                 Examine the importance of, and the relationship between, the discourses of science and religion in any two novels.








Here's a Pdf version of the essay titles (PDF Document) (easier to print)