Seminar novel project suggestions

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Struggling to choose a book for seminar novel project? Here are seven suggestions, organized in alphabetical order, with a brief description of each and the elements that you can explore in your project. 

Disclaimer: This article is in AP style, not MLA, meaning that book titles are put in quotation marks. 

 

“The Fellowship of the Ring” by J.R.R. Tolkien

The first book of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy trilogy “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Fellowship of the Ring” follows Frodo Baggins’ journey from his beloved Shire home to destroy the One Ring in Mordor.

Elements to explore: 

  • Genre: Epic fantasy 
  • Structure/Stylistic techniques: 
    • Hero’s Journey structure
    • Use of poetry in developing mood and setting 
  • Allusions/Historical Context:
    • Heavy influence of Northern European myth, history, and culture  
  • Themes: 
    • The nature of evil and power
    • Loyalty and friendship 
  • Legacy:
    • Direct influence on epic fantasy genre, including books, video games, and culture

 

“The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini 

During the chaos of the Soviet-Afghan War, wealthy Pashtun Amir betrays his best friend and servant Hassan and flees to America. Ridden by guilt, he must return to Taliban-ruled  Afghanistan and redeem himself. 

Elements to explore: 

  • Genre: Bildungsroman, drama   
  • Structure/Stylistic techniques: 
    • Use of allegory 
    • 1st-person narration and impact on tone 
  • Allusions/Historical Context:
    • Allusions to Persian literature
    • References to Soviet-Afghan War and Taliban rule  
  • Themes: 
    • Displacement and alienation
    • Guilt and redemption 
    • The nature of family and friendship
  • Appears on AP exams

 

“The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde

Elements to explore:

Dorian Gray, a beautiful young man admired by all who meet him, wishes that his portrait would grow old instead of him. Wilde’s only novel, it was extremely controversial at the time of publication in 1890, but has since become a classic.   

  • Genre: Gothic horror, decadence, comedy of manners
  • Structure/Stylistic techniques:
    • Poetic prose and diction
    • Use of description and imagery 
  • Allusions/Historical Context: 
    • Allusions to Greek mythology and Classical art 
    • Influence of Faustian legend 
    • Includes many references to contemporary artistic movements including French Decadence and morality novels 
    • Acts as social commentary on Victorian society and hypocrisy 
  • Themes:
    • Desire for art and beauty 
    • Hypocrisy in society 
    • Destructiveness of obsession
  • Appears on AP exams 

 

“A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” by James Joyce 

While Joyce’s novel “Ulysses” is often regarded as the greatest novel of all time, it’s a bit dense, but the prequel, “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” is more manageable. The bildungsroman follows protagonist Stephen Dedalus throughout his childhood in Dublin, set against the backdrop of a politically turbulent and highly religious Irish community. 

Elements to explore: 

  • Genre: Bildungsroman 
  • Structure/Stylistic techniques:
    • Stream of consciousness 
    • Jumps in storyline 
  • Allusions/Historical Context: 
    • Allusions to Greek myth and Romantic literature
    • Includes references to Catholic religious rituals and Irish politics and culture
  • Themes: 
    • Personal development and obstacles to individuality 
    • Struggle between society and individual
    • Achieving freedom through art 
  • Appears on AP exams

 

“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

Elizabeth Bennet, a witty and independent young woman, wants to marry for love, and hates the prideful Mr. Darcy with a passion, regardless of his wealth and position. Spurning 19th-century English expectations of marriage and women’s roles, Austen’s most beloved novel is one of the most famous love stories of all time.  

Elements to explore: 

  • Genre: Comedy of manners
  • Structure/Stylistic techniques: 
    • Use of indirect discourse in 3rd-person narrative
    • Irony and comedic effect 
  • Themes: 
    • Love and marriage 
    • Effects of familial and societal pressure 
    • The consequences of pride and prejudice
  • Legacy:
    • Impact on romance genre 
    • Countless film and theatrical adaptations around the world, spin-off books, and commercial products 
  • Appears on AP exams  

 

“Song of Solomon” by Toni Morrison 

Milkman Dead III, in his quest to fly, traces his origins back to the plantation where his ancestors had once toiled as slaves. The novel that brought Morrison her fame, it stands as one of the greatest novels of the latter half of the 20th-century. 

Elements to explore:

 

  • Genre: Magical realism 

 

  • Structure/Stylistic techniques:
    • Use of description and imagery
    • 3rd-person limited omniscient narration and impact on characterization
  • Allusions/Historical Context:
    • Allusions to the Bible, Islam, and mythology 
    • African-American culture and society during mid-20th century
  • Themes:
    • Consequences of sexism and racism
    • Escaping subjugation 
  • Morrison’s “Beloved” is required reading in AP Literature 
  • Appears on AP Exam 

 

“Wuthering Heights” by Emily Brontë 

Often regarded as one of the greatest English novels, “Wuthering Heights” follows two aristocratic families, the Earnshaws of Wuthering Heights and the Lintons of Thrushcross Grange, and the relationships that bind them. 

Elements to explore

  • Genre: Gothic  
  • Structure/Stylistic techniques: 
    • Gloomy diction
    • Use of language that was considered morbid at the time of publication 
    • Story-within-a-story structure 
  • Themes: 
    • Violence of love 
    • Effects of vengeance
  • Legacy:
    • Development of the anti-hero type
    • Inspiration for Gothic literature and film adaptations 
  • Appears on AP Exams