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Extended essay in english literature! MUCHO HELP NEEDED!

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Hi everyone,


I'm in extreme need of help with formulating my research question for my extended essay (in English Lit)!


I'm comparing "The Bell Jar" by Sylvia Plath and "Girl, Interrupted" by Susanna Kaysen.


This is the research question that I have now, but it doesn't sound good and needs some polishing!


How does the development and progression of the protagonist's mental illnesses in 'The Bell Jar' and 'Girl, Interrupted' reflect upon the social standards instilled at the time the novels are set?


Someone PLEASE help me!! My first draft is due after this weekend  :dash: 

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No, no -- you are heading toward a sociological essay with this topic. You need to have a literary focus! 


Something to the effect: "How is mental illness portrayed in each of these works?" -- but with a good, precise knowledge of both works you can make your question and  investigation more interesting and specific. So rather than this very general (but still viable) question, you could go a little further and suggest that there are vital differences between the way mental illness is represented in these works and why readers should sit up and take note. 


Anyway, along those lines.


Now, if you are really stuck on your RQ idea, you *could* ask how social standards (very vague, be more precise) are reflected in the novels, but you must concentrate on the HOW--otherwise you'll fall into the trap of writing all about social standards, and treating the works merely as a springboard for a sociological study, neglecting the works themselves.


You'll also have to have a d--- good reason for your topic too. WHY should anyone care to read your essay ? In other words, where is the SIGNIFICANCE and INTEREST of your topic? That has to be made amply clear in your introductory words.


Just keep in mind one fundamental aspect of your course:    Literature is not a WINDOW onto real life; it is a *RE-PRESENTION* of some aspect of life .... and no matter how "real" something reads or sounds,  it is always and inevitably an interpretation. This applies to ALL writing, actually -- scientific included (the belief that a scientific description of what is at the other of the microscope is an accurate and pure evaluation of what is there .... is a lovely illusion. That's where your TOK is sooooo important!)


OK, so I'm getting off track..


My point is this: the main focus in Lit. (even if some teachers haven't conveyed it adequately enough to their students) is *how* an idea or experience or feeling is conveyed. Language as art - as representation. So, in this course and all assignments related to it, you have to concentrate on what is* being done through words*.


Is this good for you? 


I like your emoticon, by the way -- it's a new one for me.  

Edited by Blackcurrant
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Thank you so much for your help, I am so grateful, it's unbelievable!!


I have been thinking a lot about what you've written and especially in regards to how literature is a representation of life, and how I should focus on how something is being conveyed rather than what is being conveyed. 


I now have a new research question, but I still feel like it's not good enough but in order to change it, I feel like I need a second opinion on what is wrong with it. 


How are the negative effects of social roles and expectations represented in the "The Bell Jar" and "Girl, Interrupted"?


What do you reckon?




PS: THANK YOU SO SO SOOOOO MUCH!! My supervisor has no clue and she isn't much help at the moment :(:hug: 

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It seems fine to leave out the word "negative" if you so wish, but you can insert it in your introduction, if you find that it is useful.


So now you have a pretty clear sense of where you are going and, crucially and appropriately, focusing on the literary aspect. What you have to decide now, very carefully, is not only WHAT to say about each work in terms of your question, but two more things if you're aiming high:


1) what is the relevance/importance/ indeed, *significance* of your chosen topic to readers? and other academics who have preceded you ? Justify why they should (in fact, NEED, to read about this topic) and what you are contributing to research. It sounds more daunting than it really is. Don't be cowed by what is already out there. Stake your claim.


then ask yourself...


2) how does each work shed light on the other? In other words, there is something about comparing and contrasting two works which should lead to greater insights about each... and about your subject too. 


Now, at the risk of confusing you with the last part of that sentence and what I said earlier in the thread (all those admonishments), you *are* allowed* to say something about the topic's relevance to "real life", just not make it the focus of your EE or allow it to occupy more than a small part of your EE. Your primary focus will always be on the *how* of ideas...


Now then: Go get them with your EE.  And have fun with it!   (Y)

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