General Paper Topic Specification
Everything we have read so far in this class can be variously classified as a
work of local color, realism, or naturalism. Moreover, there is often significant overlap between these categories. But the act of literary categorization forms an important part of the critical enterprise for two reasons: it helps us to situate a
work historically and stylistically in relation to other works, and it helps us to justify our focus on one set of elements or issues in the text over others.
Using examples from at least one of the short stories we have read ("The Land of Little Rain," "Up the Coulee," ?"A New England Nun
," "Its Wavering Image," "Paul's Case"), make a
case for one of the novels we have read (The Damnation of Theron Ware or Call of the Wild) as a
work of local color, realism, and/or naturalism.
Chosen Paper Topic
Using examples from the short story "Up the Coulee," make a
case for Frederic's novel The Damnation of Theron Ware as a
work of local color.
Outline of potential paper:
Thesis: Garland’s “Up the Coulee” and Frederic’s The Damnation of Theron Ware exemplify works of local color fiction with some tinges of realism through their uses of integral, regional settings, stereotypical or stock characters, deemphasized plots for the sake of characterization, and thematic conflicts between outsider city characters and quaint local characters. The importance of social context and ethical dilemmas represent realist influences in the texts that most local color fiction typically gloss over or lack altogether.
Topic 1: Use of integral, regional settings
- Rural Wisconsin farming town in “Up the Coulee”
- Rural Octavius in burnt-over district Theron Ware
- Importance of nature and its limitations
- How setting is integral to the plot and characterization
Topic 2: Use of stereotypical or stock characters
- Actors/acting in “Up the Coulee” and Theron Ware: Howard, Theron, Sister Soulsby
- Typical “country folk” in “Up the Coulee”
- Representative characters in Theron Ware: Dr. Ledsmar as modern science, Celia Madden as feminist/aesthetic movement, Fr. Forbes as modern religious thought, Jeremiah Madden as Protestant laborer/work ethic
Topic 3: Use of deemphasized plots for the sake of characterization
- Much of the plot of Theron Ware deals with Theron going and meeting up with different stock characters and “learning” something from the interactions/dialogue
- Not much happens in “Up the Coulee”/character descriptions and interactions are more important and reveal more to the reader than the plot itself
Topic 4: Use of thematic conflicts between outsider city characters and quaint local characters
- Theron is the educated outsider coming to rural Octavius and encountering the local stereotypical Methodist and Irish characters as well as the representative characters of Dr. Ledsmar, Fr. Forbes, and Celia Madden
- Howard is the wealthy, educated actor from the city coming to visit his rural hometown and poor family for the first time in many years
- Howard encounters his poor, angry farmer brother, the quaint townspeople who have not amounted to anything in his absence, Grant’s unfulfilled wife, the old maid character, etc.
- Contrast between the lifestyles in the city and the country
Topic 5: Use of realist hints with importance of social context and ethical dilemmas
- Financial strain and unequal opportunity differentiate the life paths of Howard and his brother, Grant
- The importance of money and social class in “Up the Coulee” and Theron Ware
- Ethical dilemma: should Howard help his brother and mother financially?/should Grant accept financial assistance?
- Ethical dilemma: should Theron mislead churchgoers in order to make more money?/Theron takes the church’s donation money to fund his trip to follow Celia
- How these influences represent realism rather than local color
- Summarize how these local color traits are present in “Up the Coulee” and how this makes a
case for Theron Ware as a
work of local color
- Return to the issue/importance of categorizing literature
- Concede that realist influences exist in both texts but reassert position that local color has more and better evidence to support it as the primary category for these texts over realism
The writer can choose a
different combination of short story/novel/literary category from the list above in the General Topic information if desired. If you choose the topic I have laid out, this outline does not need to be followed to the letter nor does everything need to be included, especially if all the topics are not needed to meet the page requirement. If you would prefer to discuss other characteristics of local color in the texts, that is fine as well.
I will upload the list of characteristics of local color and realism in fiction used in the class to the Resources. I can also include a
link to an online version of Garland's "Up the Coulee". The Damnation of Theron Ware can be found online for free through Project Gutenberg.
No outside sources are required, but I would like one outside source on the References page in addition to the novel and short story, if possible.
There are faxes for this order.
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