The initial task of making a research thesis interesting and informative is to choose a new and innovative topic for exploration.
In subjects like English literature, where the scope of applied research work is relatively fewer than the subjects like science or economics, it is of great importance that the researchers opt for a research topic that grabs the attention of the supervisors instantly.
If you are thinking about how to choose a Ph.D. research topic in English literature, here we are providing you with some useful tips:
Understanding your comfort zone
While you are speculating about how to choose a Ph.D. research topic in English literature, you need to be very clear about your own individual comfort zone. The entire canon of English literature, if divided chronologically, can be categorized into different literary periods or ages.
Each of these stages of the development of English literature has its own distinctive features that make them dissimilar to each other. Let us have a look at those stages:
|Old English period||c. 450–1066|
|Middle English period||1066–1500|
|Post-renaissance age/Puritan age||1625–1660|
|Age of sensibility||1750–1798|
|Age of Romanticism||1798–1837|
|20th-century literature/beginning of modernism||1901-1940|
|Contemporary period||The 21st century|
Categorizing the genre of your paper
People, who are searching for tips on how to choose a Ph.D. research topic in English literature, are recommended to opt for their preferred genre first. Choose your favored one among the following:
- Sonnet and many others
- Fictional prose
- Graphic novel
- Magic realism
- Science fiction
- Short story
- Western and much more
- Nonfictional prose
- Narrative nonfiction
- Reference book
- Textbook and others
- Black/dark comedy
- Comedy of errors
- Comedy of humor
- Comedy of manners
- Comedy of menace
- Commedia dell”arte
- Restoration comedy
- Romantic comedy
- Sentimental comedy
- Theater of the Absurd
- Domestic tragedy
- Heroic tragedy
- Revenge tragedy
Themes that may attract attention
When it comes to the selection of a research topic, the most important part becomes the method through which you are going to critically analyze the matter. While providing you with some valuable pieces of information regarding how to choose a Ph.D. research topic in English literature, we are now going to discuss some of the themes that the modern researchers are paying their attention to:
Discriminating gender roles as reflected in various literary texts are one of the most significant themes in the modern-day research. The first and second-wave feminism has affected the literary analysis process drastically and the practice is still going on with the intention of exploring both old and new texts from this particular perspective. Possible examples are:
- Whether Chaucer’s Wife of Bath is the earliest example of liberal feminism
- Whether it is justified to claim that Shakespeare’s heroines when they appear in comedies, become bold and assertive compared to the rather dumb and effeminate male characters, and become stagnant when they appear in tragedies
- Whether Thomas Hardy wanted to convey the idea that women’s choice of free will eventually result in their moral deprivation and consequently, they should be condemned to death
Racial identities and the discriminations made on the basis of it has been a much-debated topic in the arena of English literature and several authors and theorists have contributed more than a few texts and articles on this topic. While thinking about how to choose a Ph.D. research topic in English literature, you may take this theory into special consideration.
In the light of such theories, we may speculate how much justified it was on the part of Prospero to evacuate Sycorax and turning Caliban into a slave in Shakespeare’s Tempest; or, whether Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park truly reflects her abolitionist fervor.
The political and socioeconomic history of Britain, as well as of the entire world, has shaped and reshaped the structure and mode of expression of English literature since ages. A completely distinct genre of English poetry has been named as War poetry as a consequence of the effect of the two devastating world wars taking place within a gap of merely 20 years.
The industrial revolution in England and the subsequent socioeconomic occurrences affected English literature to a great extent. It is largely a topic of debate whether Milton would compose his Paradise Lost as a tragedy rather than an epic if he was an exponent of the Elizabethan literature and not the Puritan age.
With the advent of modern psychoanalytical theories, literary texts have been started to be analyzed in the light of Freudian and post-Freudian premises. The modernist texts and the stream-of-consciousness novels are the most significant parts of English literature to be analyzed psychoanalytically.
Application of literary theories
While you are getting the details of how to choose a Ph.D. research topic in English literature, possessing certain knowledge of the literary theories are indispensable. Some of the most frequently applied theories for the English literary texts are:
- Gender theories
- Marxist literary criticism
- New historicism
- Psychoanalytic literary theory
- Reader-response criticism
- Semiotics and so on.
These are, in a nutshell, the basic guidelines of how to choose a Ph.D. research topic in English literature. Whatever topic you choose, make sure it does not violate the standard research ethics and sufficient resources are available for continuing the research.