Best Literary Analysis Topics and Themes: the Ultimate List

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Literature courses are all about two things: reading and writing about what you’ve read. It’s hard enough to understand great pieces of literature, never mind analyze them.

But you’re in luck:

This article summarizes a vast array of literary analysis topics and literary analysis topic ideas. Custom Writing service experts share these insights into the literary analysis paper topics and provide you with the first step towards producing a great literary essay.

General tips for writing well about literature

But first:

Before delving into the great topics and themes of this article, it’s important to note some ground rules for writing about literature. Here are three very basic points that will help to make sure you get a great grade on your essay:

  1. Make sure you refer to the literature you are writing about in the proper format. For example, the titles of plays and full-length books should be italicized while poems and short stories should be in quotes (under the MLA style).
  2. If your essay contains quotes, make sure that those quotes are properly attributed with the correct page numbers and lines. (Ask your instructor to make sure you are formatting these quotations correctly.)
  3. Do not directly quote or borrow arguments from a previously published literary analysis sample. Often, teachers see the same forms of argument (and even language) again and again. This is a form of plagiarism.

Plagiarism definition

Source: https://www.ox.ac.uk/students/academic/guidance/skills/plagiarism?wssl=1

One last thing:

Before moving on to the topics covered by this article, remember that the basics of essay writing are just as important in this style of an essay as any other. This means you need a clear introduction (with a concise thesis statement), a distinct body, and a cohesive conclusion. If you can do this in a 5 paragraph essay, you can certainly do this for much longer essays as well. Don’t get sloppy with your essay structure just because you have a few more pages to express yourself. So make sure you use a literary analysis essay outline!

(If all else fails, try watching a video on literary analysis writing.)

Writing perfect Shakespeare essays

If you’re an English student, you will study the works of William Shakespeare, which is why this article begins with a list of foolproof Shakespeare essay topics. How many Romeo and Juliet essays have been written? There’ve been too many to count. Is there a unique Shakespeare love essay topic left? Surely, there isn’t. But still there are thousands of Shakespeare essay examples written every day by students around the globe. The key to writing a Shakespearian quality essay can be found in this list of Shakespearian literary analysis essay topics.

(By the way, you can find all of Shakespeare’s works on the internet for free.)

The first reference to montagues and capulets.png

Unlocking the top Romeo and Juliet essay topics and themes

  1. Romeo and Juliet essay examples can be found all over the internet. Here are some of the top Romeo and Juliet themes and topics.

1a. Fate in Romeo and Juliet: We all know that Romeo and Juliet were the archetypal star-crossed lovers. Throughout the text of this famous work, Shakespeare makes it quite clear that their love is doomed by fate.

1b. Light and dark in Romeo and Juliet: Both light and dark, as well as the more general concept of contrasts, figure heavily into the language of this play. Romeo himself is the embodiment of someone containing contrasting elements.

The famous balcony scene

Source: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/10/romeo-and-juliets-balcony-scene-doesnt-exist/381969/"

1c. Time in Romeo and Juliet: Romeo visits Juliet in the course of the night, promising to return in the future. And all this occurs in a play that spans less than a week’s time. For this reason, the theme of time is usually discussed in the context of how short our time truly is.

1d. Love in Romeo and Juliet: But of course, love is the ultimate theme of Romeo and Juliet. The tragic love of this pair has become a cliché for romantic fatalism for a very good reason. Love is perhaps the number 1 topic of Romeo and Juliet essay prompts.

  1. Shakespeare’s Hamlet may be the second most widely assigned play in the history of English courses. Accordingly, here are the top Hamlet essay topics.

fact-about-shakespeare

2a. Mortality in Hamlet: Here is your spoiler alert—the title characters of most Shakespearean plays do not survive.And Hamlet is no exception. As you read this play, pay special attention to the characters that die and those, like Yorick, who died before the play began.

2b. Women and misogyny in Hamlet: In the time in which the play is set, women were not treated very well in society. Characters like Gertrude and Ophelia are not treated well in the play, and they are an excellent prism through which to consider the place of women in society.

Hamlet has been translated into Klingon

Source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/279801.The_Klingon_Hamlet

2c. Madness in Hamlet: The cliché “method to his madness” is derived from this classic play. This is a great topic or theme for any student reading Hamlet.

  1. Shakespeare’s Macbeth is the last (and shortest) of the 3 big Shakespearean plays that every high school student reads before graduation. Like the rest of William Shakespeare’s tragedies, it is full of meaningful themes and topics for literary analysis essays.

3a. The corrupting influence of ambition in Macbeth: The title character is on a quest, and throughout the play he time and again decides that the ends justify the means. Alternatively, you can explore how Lady Macbeth does precisely the same thing in pursuing her goals.

Lady Macbeths real name

3b. Witchcraft in Macbeth: The three witches’ prophecies famously propel Macbeth to take action. However, many essays have been written on the supernatural element of Lady Macbeth sleepwalking. (By the way, Lady Macbeth herself is one of the best Macbeth essay topics.)

But wait, there’s more:

Shakespeare wrote many more plays beyond the big 3 listed above. Here are a couple more topics and works that show of the range of William Shakespeare.

Shakespeare works translate

Source: https://www.britishcouncil.org/voices-magazine/fun-international-facts-about-shakespeare
  1. Shakespeare’s King Lear is one of the longest works by the Bard. (This is another name for Shakespeare, by the way.)And King Lear is filled with great essay topics. Many actors feel that the title role is one of the most challenging available for an actor because of his gradual descent into madness. Accordingly, “madness” is perhaps the best topic related to this play.
  2. Shakespearean sonnets like “Sonnet 18” make excellent Shakespeare essay topics because they are so succinct, but so rich with meaning. Love and adoration, which are expressed in “Sonnet 18” and throughout his other sonnets, are great critical analysis essay topics. Use Shakespearean sonnets as an opportunity to show off how many poems you can analyze in a single literary analysis example.

This list only scratches the surface, so check out literary analysis sample essays on Shakespeare written by professionals. There are plenty of excellent essay collections available on the web.

Great ideas for other literary analysis essay prompts in non-fiction

The world of literature goes far beyond William Shakespeare and fiction in general. Here is a bunch of more literary analysis paper topics for other great works of literature.

  1. Elie Wiesel’s classic memoire of the holocaust Night is a difficult book for many students to read. And yet, most students need to write a Night by Elie Wiesel essay at some point. (If you need help with specific Night essay questions and answers, check out one of the many resources on the book.) In fact, many students need to write one Night by Elie Wiesel essay in high school and another in college. Every decent Night analysis essay should touch on the key themes challenged religious faith and the inhumanity of people towards others. (Overcoming this latter theme is actually the focus of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.)

Auschwitz concentration camp

  1. Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild chronicles the journey of 22-year-old Christopher McCandless from modern society into a 2-year trip in the wilderness of the western United States. This work of non-fiction explores the themes of escape, society, and the power of nature. (Warning: things do not end well for McCandless along the Stampede Trail of Alaska.)

Note:

There is a lot of great nonfiction. But most great books assigned in English courses are fiction. Read on to learn how to write essays for great pieces of fiction.

Finding the best topic literary analysis paper topics in the classics

Works of literature from Ancient Greece have a timeless quality. This has kept them taught in our educational system for thousands of years. With thousands of years to digest them, there is little that hasn’t already been written about these works.

Remember:

Keep the scope of your essays on the classics somewhat modest.But be sure to consult other sources if you’re confused.

Amphitheater ruins

  1. Plato is perhaps the most influential thinker in the Western World. Accordingly, it is not an easy task to write about his powerful philosophical tomes. Most teachers will assign only portions of The Republic, so it is important to approach essays about them carefully.
  2. “Antigone” is one of the masterworks of the Greek playwright Sophocles. The key themes to explore in this tale of royal succession include civil disobedience, natural and human law, and faithfulness.

Powerful literary analysis topics within the subject of race

An exceptional amount of writing has been devoted to the subject of race. Here are a few of the most important works on this controversial topic.

  1. J. M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians is a powerful book. (It earned its author from South Africa a Nobel Prize in Literature.) A short Waiting for the Barbarians summary should capture the narrative of the escalation of tensions between a fictional colonial town and its surrounding indigenous population. When the protagonist helps a native woman, he begins to doubt the humanity of colonialism, another of the key Waiting for the Barbarians themes that should be explored in any Waiting for the Barbarians analysis.

Waiting for the barbarians-fact

Source: https://penguinchecklist.wordpress.com/later-series/great-books-of-the-20th-century/
  1. Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is the chilling tale of young Marlow’s voyage up the Congo River. There he meets the wicked ivory trader Kurtz. The book explores the themes of imperialism and racism. It also questions the civility of Western society over supposedly savage indigenous people.
  2. Mark Twain is one of the great American writers and satirists. But his masterpiece The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn delved into themes and topics that are among the most serious of any literary analysis essay topics. These include freedom versus slavery and man versus nature.

Mark Twain photo

  1. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was an instant classic. Like many great books of the 20th century, To Kill a Mockingbird is set in the American South. And like many books set in the American South, it explores the themes of race and justice. (Note: this book is full of amazing quotes that can be used to motivate your essay.)

Profound literary analysis topics in women’s literature

Literary analysis on the topics of gender and women in society is critical to understanding the modern world. Here are a few powerful essay topics in this area.

  1. Alice Walker is one of the great literary figures of the 20th century. She’s written many notable books and stories. But two of her works rise above the rest, and are referenced by more than one literary analysis sample online.

14a. The Color Purple is Walker’s most famous work. This National Book Award-winning work features the themes of sexism, racism, and the disruption of traditional gender roles. (This book is not for the faint of heart. There are many vivid depictions of violence contained in this cultural touchstone for African American women.)

Alice Walker won Pulitzer prize

Source: http://www.nationalbook.org/nba1983.html#.WmYMjKhl9aQ

14b. Alice Walker’s second most noted work is the short story “Everyday Use.” In this short story about heirloom possessions passed down from one generation of women to another, the author explores the themes of family and differences between generations.

  1. Despite her brief life, Jane Austin was one of the most important literary figures of the 19th century. Few authors were as talented as her. And even fewer dared to express the challenges of being a woman at the end of the 1700s. In her work, themes of overt sexism are not as common as themes of women working to secure firm places in society.

Source: https://www.janeausten.org/jane-austen-books.asp

15a. Social standing and wealth are the two key themes of one of Austen’s most beloved novels, Pride and Prejudice. In this book, the protagonist, Elizabeth Bennet must choose between two suitors. One is a personable man. The other is better established in society, though less kind.

15b. Emma is the tale of a young woman who’s less interested in securing her own marriage than those of her sisters. The key themes of this novel are the constraints placed upon women in 17th century society as well as marriage and social status.

Mastering topics in 19th and 20th century literature

Don’t forget:

Many of the great literary works in the English language were written in the golden era of the 19th and 20th centuries. These works, ranging from epic novels to short poems, provide insight into the themes that have come to define the spirit of the Anglophone world.

  1. There is no more famous detective, fiction or real, than Sherlock Holmes, created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” contained in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is the favorite Holmes story of both the author and readers. Accordingly, many students are assigned literary analyses of this short story, which explores the themes of chaos as well as good versus evil.

Sherlock Holmes souvenirs store

  1. Students of all ages have read Lord of the Flies, the classic novella by William Golding that explores the dangers of groupthink and the conflicts between rationality and irrationality as well as between morality and immorality. How the characters, a group of young boys marooned on an island, struggle to survive is an allegory of modern society.
  2. William Goldman’s The Princess Bride was such an entertaining story that it was adapted into an even more popular film. The major themes explored in this book include the power of love to conquer all and the arbitrary nature of time and history.

The Princess Bride countries

19 D. H. Lawrence is one of the masters of 20th century English literature, and the short story “The Rocking Horse Winner” demonstrates his skill as well as any of his works. In this tale of a struggling family, the themes of money and greed are most fully explored, as a young boy uses clairvoyance gained on a rocking horse to predict race outcomes.

  1. The American writer John Steinbeck captured the hardships faced by normal people during the Great Depression. His novella Of Mice and Men is a classic tale of struggle. The main recurring theme among the characters is striving after dreams, often futilely, as demonstrated by each of the characters, from George and Lennie to Candy and Curley’s wife.

John steinbeck of mice and men quote

  1. Playwright Tennessee Williams’s masterpiece “A Streetcar Named Desire” is perhaps the most famous American dramatic play of all time. In this provocative play, the themes of reality and fantasy in conflict as well as the contemporary dependence of women on men are explored.

Excellent themes and topics for analysis of poetry

Many of the great works of literature are actually poems. Writing about poems requires a special approach.

Keep in mind:

Most essays on poetry actually exceed the length of the poems themselves. Accordingly, don’t be afraid to quote the poem heavily and give several alternative interpretations.

  1. The short-lived American poet and writer Stephen Crane wrote the acclaimed American Civil War novel The Red Badge of Courage. But he also wrote a collection of poems entitled War is Kind. Through these poems, he delved deep into the themes of war and violence based on his experience in the Spanish–American and Greco–Turkish Wars.
  2. At the opposite end of the poetry spectrum you can find the Elizabethan-era Englishman John Donne. His works were largely written in the form of sonnets focused on the themes of love, social criticism, death, and religion.

Finding the best topics in contemporary literature

But remember:

Excellent books are still being written! Once in a while, your instructor may ask you to analyze a more recent work. Here are a few great books to consider for your next essay.

  1. Sherman Alexie’s novel Reservation Blues tells the story of a group of young men on a Spokane Indian reservation who obtain the enchanted guitar of a legendary bluesman. This book explores many themes of Native American life as well as overcoming obstacles and poverty.
  2. Montana 1948 by Larry Watson is a novella set in the Western American state of Montana, where a young man’s family struggles to survive. The book explores the themes of loyalty, justice, and family obligations.
  3. In Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, the protagonist Susie dies a violent death. And then her spirit proceeds to watch over the investigation of her disappearance and her family members’ lives. The key themes of this book are mortality, justice, and grief.
  4. Last but not least, you may want to write about one of the volumes of the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. Just remember, when you write about a book that also became a movie, actually read the book! (And most importantly, don’t confuse the two. It’s an easy way to convince your teacher that you didn’t read the book, even when you did.

Other critique papers

Literary essays can be devoted to the analysis of a particular work of literature or have a more narrow scope. Literature topics may also include textual analysis essays, critical response essays, literary interpretations, topic analysis, etc. Here are some good topics:

  1. The progress of the major character in David Copperfield (or any other character). You may write an analytical essay describing and interpreting changes in the major character. Try to be precise, provide examples and prove the significance of those modifications (e.g. the development of Soames in The Forsyte Saga).

Charles Dickens quote.png

  1. Historical context analysis of WWI literary works (or any other period). Your analysis paper can be devoted to the settings of the short story, play, poem, or novel. Make emphasis on the role of the context in explaining the characters and the key ideas (e.g., the war settings in Gone with the Wind).
  2. Analysis of Romanticism conventions (or any other genre). Another good choice is to dwell upon the practices used by various authors belonging to one and the same literary genre. You can write a critical essay about the Realistic, Romance, Gothic, or any other novel and the author’s ability to meet or challenge genre expectations.

Romanticism definition

  1. The impact of the Byron’s life on his legacy (or another author). The background of a novelist, short-story writer, poet, or playwright may also be of a great interest to the reader. However, it is not enough to narrate the author’s life – you must be able to connect it with their style and themes (the most demonstrative analysis examples may include Henry Miller, Ernest Hemingway, George Gordon Byron, etc.)
  2. Comparative analysis of Joyce and Woolf (or any other two authors). It is also a good idea to compare two or more authors. A critical evaluation essay may estimate the impact of each on the development of the genre. If these authors come from different backgrounds, it is also possible to estimate how culture they belonged to made a difference (e.g. Dickens v. Thackeray).

Critical evaluation essay

  1. Comparative analysis of two works of literature. If you cannot compare authors, you may try it with literature developing the same topic or belonging to the same epoch or genre (e.g. Canterbury Tales v. Decameron).
  2. When you want to write about modern literary pieces, the emphasis can be made on their unique structure. Analysis topics may include the stream-of-consciousness technique, theater of the absurd peculiarities, etc. The idea is to show how new expressive means transformed the traditional approach to plot building and character development.

Shelf with a books

  1. Irony in Salinger’s stories (or any other stories). If you are to analyze a short story, you may describe how the author uses irony to communicate his/her message, how it creates meaning, and what underlies it. There are numerous stories that employ irony as the major tool (e.g. Jerome K. Jerome’ stories).
  2. The climax in To Kill a Mockingbird (or any other novel). Describing how the author builds up the plot to reach the culmination is a good solution for a novel critical analysis essay. Track how the tension is created in the entanglement and how it is released as soon as the climax is reached.

Harper Lee won the pulitzer prize

  1. Mood expression in Sons and Lovers (or any other novel). A perfect essay may investigate how the vocabulary and grammar chosen by the author contribute to the atmosphere (e.g. Lolita).
  2. The role of dialogue in Waiting for Godot (or any other play). In a play, it is advisable to pay attention to the role of a dialogue. Your critical paper may highlight what means the playwright resorts to in order to make the dialogue expressive (e.g. Oscar Wilde’s plays).

Oscar wild

  1. The author’s remarks in Heartbreak House (or any other play). You may also pay attention to the importance of the author’s remarks and scene directions in a play. They are particularly crucial in the modern drama (e.g. Waiting for Godot).
  2. The use of allegory in the Vision of Judgment (or any other poem).This is a promising topic (especially for poem analysis). You can suggest your own literary interpretation of the allegory or consider why the author opted for this device.
  3. The open ending in Finnegans Wake (or any other novel). If the work under analysis has an open ending, your critical evaluation essay can be built around it, giving arguments for the author’s choice and interpreting its meaning and possible continuation scenarios.

History of the quark word

  1. Comparison of critical opinions on Missis Dalloway (or any other novel). If the piece you have read ranges among the best-known works in the world, a good idea would be to compare literary criticism examples. You may select two different critics and juxtapose their views.
  2. Side characters in Vanity Fair (or any other novel). When the task is to analyze a character, it should not necessarily be the major one. A more creative approach would be to pick up a static character that does not reveal any transformations during the entire book and suggest why the author made him so (a good essay example is any of Dickens’ side characters).

William Makepeace Thackeray-quote

  1. The narrative voice in When I Lay Dying (or any other novel). It can be challenging and yet interesting to describe the narrative voice and focalization techniques as they make the reader see the events in a certain way. This is especially complicated when there are several focalization points (Absalom! Absalom!).
  2. The narrator in Moby Dick (or any other novel). The above-given topic can be narrowed: You can consider a work that has a first-person point of view to be able to draw parallels between the author and his/her main character.
  1. The cultural background of Duma’s novels. In cases of historical novels, an analytical paragraph (or even the whole work) may be devoted to the historical and cultural background (any of Duma’s novels - e.g. Three Musketeers - may serve as perfect literature examples).
  2. Imagery used by Walt Whitman (or any other poet). Poetry welcomes talking about imagery of a poem or a poet. You can analyze specific images that the poet utilizes in all his works.

Gender roles, a trend after the 19th century

  1. The depiction of Cleopatra: from Geoffrey Chaucer to Margaret George
  2. The depiction of Eve in Milton’s Paradise Lost
  3. Archetypical female and male characters in Beowulf
  4. Emmy’s submissiveness and Rebecca’s quick-wittedness in Vanity Fair
  5. William Makepeace Thackeray’s Becky Sharp as an antihero
  6. Becky Sharp as seen by Thackeray’s contemporaries and modern readers
  7. Women empowerment and dependence in Jane Austen’s novels
  8. Females’ love and death: Shakespeare’s Ophelia and Wilde’s Sibyl
  9. A Room of One's Own: female manifesto relevant now
  10. First female voices in the middle ages: Aelia Eudocia Augusta

Octateuch in hexameters

  1. Lady writers themes: The Brontë sisters who broke the rules
  2. Gender roles as depicted by Maugham in Theatre
  3. Feminist utopias and dystopias: this is the woman’s world!
  4. Female writers: themes explored in the 1910s and 2010s
  5. Female characters’ virtues and vices in the 19th century
  6. Women of color: themes of violence, discrimination, empowerment
  7. A Doll’s House as seen by the contemporaries
  8. Is Ibsen’s A Doll’s House still relevant today?
  9. Beauty standards as women’s oppression in The Bluest Eye
  10. The complexity of mother-daughter relationship in Tony Morrison’s Beloved

  1. The evolvement of masculinity from the medieval to postmodern literature
  2. Masculinity in The Garden of Eden by Ernest Hemingway
  3. Masculinity, identity, and homosexuality in Tennessee Williams’s works
  4. Gender roles in utopias and dystopias: More and Huxley
  5. Sexuality and gender stereotypes in Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire
  6. Charles Dickens’s depiction of aging males and females
  7. Fairy stories as significant sources of gender stereotypes

Death, eternal questions with no answers

  1. Death in works of dying writers: Keats and Blake
  2. Death in Milton’s works: imagery and symbols
  3. Emily Dickinson’s fascination with decay, degradation, and death
  4. John Keats’s and William Shakespeare’s depiction of death
  5. The Views on death in the Renaissance literature
  6. Murder and suicide in Shakespeare’s tragedies: Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet
  7. The depiction of death in the postmodernist literature
  8. Aging as seen in medieval, Renaissance, and postmodernist literature
  9. Death and decay in Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray
  10. Love, life, and death in Huxley’s dystopian society
  11. Murder in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men

People and nature

  1. Dehumanizing nature: Robinson Crusoe and Lord of the Flies
  2. Struggles with nature: Defoe’s Crusoe and Paulsen’s Hatchet
  3. Nature’s wonders and dangers in Emily Dickenson’s works
  4. Natural forces: from Homer to H. G. Wells
  5. Power of natural forces in William Shakespeare’s Tempest
  6. The depiction of nature in Fears in Solitude by Coleridge
  7. William Wordsworth’s poetic language and symbols to describe nature
  8. Nature in Huxley’s dystopia: urban and rural settings
  9. Nature in post-apocalyptic novels: decay and revival

Religion

  1. Religious influences: biblical themes and allusions in Beowulf
  2. Religion as another burden in The Bluest Eye
  3. Views on religious conventions in Milton’s Paradise Lost
  4. Jonathan Swift’s satirical view of religions in Gulliver’s Travels
  5. The role of religion in Charles Dickens’s works
  6. The evolvement of religious beliefs in Dryden’s works
  7. Religious controversies as depicted in John Milton’s Paradise Lost
  8. A spiritual journey in Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure

Justice and judgment

  1. The Hunchback of Notre Dame: who was the monster?
  2. Justice and judgment in Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird
  3. The role of judgment in Jane Austen’s novels
  4. Judgement in Toni Morrison’s God Help the Child
  5. A view of justice in John Milton’s Paradise Lost
  6. Justice in dystopian novels: works of Orwell and Huxley
  7. Judgement and guilt in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter

The good, the evil, and the ugly

  1. A dichotomy of good and evil in the middle ages
  2. Monsters and heroes in Beowulf: Beowulf, Hrothgar, Grendel
  3. Wilde’s aesthetics: evil is not bad, ugly is worse
  4. John Milton’s Satan: the good, the bad, and the beautiful
  5. Victorian literary tradition: societal norms and personal happiness
  6. Villains in the 19th-century and 20th-century literary works
  7. Good and bad: Dr. Jekyll’s and Mr. Hyde’s case

War and peace

  1. The depiction of war in Homer’s Iliad and Shakespeare’s plays
  2. The war between archangels and demons in Paradise Lost
  3. A war in Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children
  4. War and peace in George Orwell’s dystopian society
  5. Margaret Mitchell and Toni Morrison: views on the Civil War
  6. War as human nature in Faulkner’s A Fable
  7. Steinbeck’s exploration of injustice in The Grapes of Wrath
  8. Wrongs of the modern society in Palahniuk’s Fight Club

Vices of the society

  1. Thackeray: the culture of the 19th century as Vanity Fair
  2. Dickens’s perspectives concerning social injustice in Oliver Twist
  3. Ethnicity, discrimination, and identity in Orwell’s Burmese Days
  4. Vices of totalitarian societies in George Orwell’s 1984
  5. Injustice, torture, and dehumanization in Elie Wiesel’s Night

Many literary masterpieces are the interpretation of earlier works or even partial borrowing of themes, motifs, and devices. Finding the traces of original works in later writings is fascinating. Here you can find some ideas:

  1. Percy Bysshe Shelley’s interpretation of the myth about Prometheus
  2. William Shakespeare’s borrowings from ancient Greek writings and myths

Orpheus cave grotto

  1. Myths as a source of inspiration for Byron and Keats
  2. Hellenism and Virginia Wolf’s fascination with Greek literature
  3. James Joyce’s interpretation and use of Homer’s Odyssey
  4. Oscar Wilde’s retelling of a biblical story: Salome
  5. John Milton’s exploration and interpretation of a biblical story

Some can find it easier to focus on particular authors and their works. Are you one of them? Here are possible topics for those who like traditional approaches.

Geoffrey Chaucer, the patriarch of the English literature

  1. Chaucer’s Works of the French and Italian periods
  2. Primary themes and motifs in Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde
  3. Women’s virtues as seen by Chaucer and his contemporaries
  4. Gender: conventions and innovations in Geoffrey Chaucer’s works
  5. Chaucer’s role in the development of a heroic couplet
  6. Chaucer’s use of the vernacular language: nobility and nation
  7. Religious morals in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales

William Shakespeare, the timeless master

  1. The View on the crown in Shakespeare’s Henry IV
  2. Sexuality, sensuality, and spirituality in William Shakespeare’s sonnets
  3. Ambition in Hamlet and Macbeth: choices of males and females
  4. The use of disguise in William Shakespeare’s plays
  5. Different faces of love in Shakespeare’s sonnets and plays
  6. Appearance as the most potent disguise in Shakespeare’s plays
  7. The use of satire in William Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies
  8. The line between acting and real life in Shakespeare’s plays
  9. Parallels between Shakespeare’s King Lear and Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex
  10. The use of allusion in Shakespeare’s The Tempest

William Shakespeare the tempest

  1. The complexity of the female character in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra
  2. Archetypal female characters in Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets
  3. William Shakespeare’s authorship: style, vocabulary, themes, and dates
  4. The role of Shakespeare in the world literature
  5. The use of meter in William Shakespeare’s plays
  6. The depiction of supernatural in William Shakespeare’s plays
  7. The theme of ethnicity in William Shakespeare’s Othello
  8. Personal identification in Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Henry IV

John Keats, the romantic of the nation

  1. Different shapes of death in John Keats’s works
  2. What was wrong with Keats’s Otho the Great?
  3. Byron’s influence on Keats’s style and themes explored
  4. The uniqueness of John Keats' imagery and its origins
  5. Keats’s letters and their influence on the English literature

Oscar Wilde, the major aesthete of the English literature

  1. An ideal wife as depicted in Wilde’s An Ideal Husband
  2. The Picture of Dorian Gray as the aesthete’s manifest
  3. Wilde’s essential inspirations and the development of his views
  4. The Picture of Dorian Gray: will beauty save the world?
  5. Oscar Wilde’s traits in his characters
  6. The Picture of Dorian Gray: Lord Henry’s morality or immorality
  7. Irony, sarcasm, and satire in Oscar Wilde’s works
  8. Wilde’s metaphors in The Ballad of Reading Gaol
  9. The Picture of Dorian Gray: was the young man innocent?
  10. Conventions and innovations in Oscar Wilde’s fairy stories
  11. Oscar Wilde as the most celebrated master of paradox
  12. Play on words in Oscar Wilde’s major plays

George Orwell and his views on the society

  1. Orwell’s imagery in the depiction of totalitarian regimes
  2. George Orwell’s background: inspirations for themes and symbols
  3. Orwell’s views on the English language and literature
  4. The historical context of Orwell’s dystopian novels
  5. The role of the media in Orwell’s characters’ lives
  6. The role of allusions in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four
  7. Naturalism and imagery in The Road to Wigan Pier
  8. Why was Animal Farm regarded as controversial in the 1950s?
  9. Orwell’s religious views in "Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool"
  10. Winston Smith’s journey to freedom in Orwell’s 1984

Some people may feel suffocated within the boundaries of one personality so they might analyze genres.

  1. The evolvement of horror fiction: from Shelley to King
  2. The place of fantasy in the modern literature
  3. Why have fantasy novels gained such popularity today?
  4. Fantasy novels by Tolkien and Martin: styles, imagery, themes
  5. The major elements of modern fantasy novels and stories
  6. The origins of the contemporary fantasy fiction and earliest works
  7. The evolution of adventure elements: Homer and Fleming
  8. Horror fiction: Stocker’s Dracula and Shelley’s Frankenstein
  9. Theologus Autodidactus as an example of science fiction

Describing theologus autodidactus

Source: Fancy, Nahyan A. G. (2006). "Pulmonary Transit and Bodily Resurrection: The Interaction of Medicine, Philosophy and Religion in the Works of Ibn al-Nafīs (d. 1288)"
  1. Merging scientific and poetic worlds in science fiction poetry
  2. Comparing tragicomedies of ancient Greece and 20th-century Europe
  3. Significant features of tragicomedy in postmodernist and metamodernist writings
  4. Primary components of a coming-of-age novel: female and male perspectives
  5. Elements of the coming-of-age novel in London’s Martin Eden
  6. Satire in the contemporary British and American literature
  7. Satire or cynic humor: exploring Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary
  8. Literary devices in naturalistic writing: Emile Zola’s approach
  9. Elements of antinovel in Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy
  10. Early examples of short stories: Charles Dickens’s style
  11. Timeframes and symbols in Jonathan Nolan's "Memento Mori"

Fact about memento mori publication

Source: http://archive.esquire.com/issue/20010301
  1. Dystopias in the literature of the 20th and 21st centuries
  2. Coming-of-age novel or American dream novel: The Great Gatsby
  3. The role of education and the media in dystopias
  4. Crime fiction: is it pulp reading or high literature?
  5. The suspense in Agatha Christies' and Conan Doyle's writings
  6. The vampire in the 19th-century and 21st-century literature

Do you think analyzing literary devices is boring? Try these themes:

  1. Allegory and choice of animals in Orwell’s Animal Farm
  2. Allegory and meanings in Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily
  3. Multiculturalism and allusions in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon

Fact about Toni Morrison

  1. The role of deus ex machina in different literary genres
  2. Nemesis in William Shakespeare’s plays: Hamlet and Macbeth
  3. Nemesis in George Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire
  4. Allusions and symbols in “The Hollow Men” by Eliot
  5. Wilde’s use of antithesis in his major works
  6. The use of allusions in Dante’s Divine Comedy
  7. The role of allusions and symbols in dystopian novels
  8. Keats’s use of metaphors to depict death and life
  9. Virginia Woolf’s unique metaphors in her Mrs. Dalloway
  10. Metaphors and similes in Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying

My mother is a fish quote

  1. Faulkner’s metaphors in The Sound and the Fury
  2. The imagery in Edgar Alan Poe's famous poem The Raven
  3. Music and enigma in The Raven by Poe
  4. The role of personification in William Blake’s poetry
  5. Comparing ancient Greek and William Shakespeare’s iambic parameter
  6. The role of trochaic meter in Shakespeare’s works
  7. Symbolism and imagery in William Blake’s poem "Ah Sunflower"
  8. Symbols and metaphors in The Picture of Dorian Gray
  9. Symbols in D. H. Lawrence Odour of Chrysanthemums
  10. Color as a symbol of Morrison's God Help the Child
  11. Symbolism in Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas"
  12. Satire in Absalom and Achitophel by John Dryden

John Dryden quote

It can be fascinating to explore the ways writers tell their stories and make readers engaged.

  1. Jane Austen’s character traits in the narrator: Persuasion
  2. Early forms of the stream of consciousness: Jane Austen’s style
  3. Epistolary novels: works by Bram Stocker and Merry Shelley
  4. Slave’s narrative in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon
  5. Peculiarities of addressing the reader in Shakespeare’s sonnets
  6. Virginia Wolf’s stream of consciousness: narration or confession?
  7. The narrator in Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage
  8. Authorial intrusion as a way to entice readers

This list is endless as you can look at literary works and writers from different angles. You can focus on social, political, cultural, and other contexts that affected the creation or further life of literary works. It is vital to choose the topic that will interest you. Choose wisely and have a lot of fun!