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Susan B

- Research Program Mentor

MA Master of Arts


Literature, Creative Writing, Film, Folklore and Fairy Tale Studies, Editorial Work, Publishing, Mythology, Dystopian film and literature, Speculative fiction, Fantasy fiction, Magical Realism, Writing for Publication

Project ideas

Project ideas are meant to help inspire student thinking about their own project. Students are in the driver seat of their research and are free to use any or none of the ideas shared by their mentors.

If the Shoe Fits: An Exploration of Fashion in Fairy Tales

This project could begin with either a themed study of fairy tales and fashion or a variant study. In a themed study, the student would choose a particular thread that runs through several tales of different types, such as "tales that feature a significant cloak or covering for the protagonist and/or others" and then the student would choose several different classic tales and their corresponding contemporary re-imagined versions. If the student wanted to choose a variant study, then the student would begin with a tale by type, such as the "Cinderella" tale type, and then research a selection of classic and contemporary tales that are all similar and considered "Cinderella" type tales, with an eye towards comparing the fashion in each one for similarities and differences. More than simply making a list of the garments and accessories in the tale selection, though, would be an exploration of the WHY in terms of the authors' and/or editors' costume choices. Research questions would consider if there is a reason, historically, for instance, that a type of garment was/is referenced. We might also consider if gender roles play into this subject, or if social customs or social classes played a role. So the focus would be on the way characters are adorned, the objects and accessories that are significant and coveted, but also look into why those choices were made at different times in history and how such things play a part in the telling of tales and the reflection, accurate or distorted, of the "real" world that exists outside the realm of fairy tales.

Science Fiction vs. Science Fact: Connecting Sci-fi Literature with Scientific Theory

This could be a project for someone with an interest in both science and literature. The student could begin by identifying a group of short stories or a novel written in the sci-fi genre, choosing a writer who had/has a reputation for being "scientifically accurate" or at least partially so. It would be interesting to look into the ways that a literary figure incorporates science into a work or works. Does the author use a lot of jargon? Is this based on research he/she did, or does the author have a science background? Or if the student chooses a film, how accurate is that film to theory? An example might be the film Interstellar, about which a book has been written on the science of the film. There are some filmmakers who hire scientists to help them tell an accurate story if possible. A project of this type could identify the areas of overlap or highlight improbabilities created for dramatic effect. When does the science enhance the storytelling? When does it "interfere" with what the author wants to give the audience? These are some interesting concepts that could entice a researcher who has an interest in literature and science.

Magical Realism in Parallel Worlds

This project could involve looking at several short works by an individual author in the magical realist movement, such as Jorge Luis Borges, or a grouping of stories by different authors in the movement, perhaps from different cultures. The student could apply the techniques of literary analysis to the selections while learning about what characteristics different magical realism from other somewhat related genres (surrealism, for example). The student might define the genre, provide examples of some classic works of the genre, search for some contemporary examples of the genre, and analyze the works for common themes, symbols, and motifs.

Creating Your Own Chapbook or Literary Magazine

Have you ever wanted to create your own collection of poetry or short stories? What about running your own literary magazine? Either of these are fantastic projects that can allow you the freedom and excitement of creating original work and/or collecting and editing work from others. In the first style of project, a chapbook, you would be encouraged to come up with an overall theme and then create a collection of poems and/or stories to arrange in your own self-published work. You might also look into traditional publishing and even learn about how to write query letters to propose your book. You can choose to build on work you've done previously, or you can start fresh. This is the type of project that will appeal to those who are highly creative but who need some assistance from someone with experience in arranging works for flow after revising them. You can choose either a traditional publishing option if you want to leave the project open-ended (since in a typical Polygence mentorship there would not be enough time to secure a traditional publisher) or you can work through the process of self-publishing, which might also include a bit of instruction on techniques of marketing via social media. The second option, if your inclinations lie more towards editorial work, is to create your own literary magazine. You might still choose to include a work of your own in the collection, and you'd likely write an introductory essay as the editor, but the rest of your project would entail creating a concept for a magazine, setting up a call for submissions, and then advertising your call to either people at your high school or even beyond. As submissions come in, you would then read and evaluate them for suitability in your magazine. You would arrange the pieces you've chosen, edit them, and either self-publish and/or electronically publish. You would also learn about marketing this kind of publication. Both of these projects would be excellent choices for someone interested in literature, editorial work, publication, and social media marketing.

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