17 Literature Options

If you wish to include a literature-based writing assignment in your course, see the list below for options.  These could be substituted for the Compare/Contrast Essay, the Illustration/Example Essay or the Argument Essay.


Select ONE of the following projects by ONE of the authors:

Arthur Conan Doyle, “A Scandal in Bohemia”

Project Gutenberg Link to “A Scandal in Bohemia”


  1. Compare this story with Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Purloined Letter.” How, in particular, are Holmes’s and Dupin’s methods of deduction similar or different?
  2. Irene Adler contests Holmes’s perceptions of women and their abilities. Is “A Scandal in Bohemia” a feminist text? In order to answer fully, you must first describe your criteria for a feminist story and support your claim with specific examples from Doyle’s work.
  3. Create a PowerPoint montage of the interpretations of the character Sherlock Holmes over the generations, noting how the character endures, even with changes, making him one of the most recognizable literary characters in history.
  4. Watch the PBS version of Sherlock, episode “Scandal in Belgravia” and compare it with the original story.


Nikolai Gogol, “The Mantle”

Project Gutenberg link to The Mantle and Other Stories

  1. What is the relationship between realism and fantasy in “The Mantle”? Compare this combination to the Magical Realism of Gabriel García Márquez’s “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings.”
  2. Compare this story to Maupassant’s “The Necklace.” Both stories revolve around a piece of apparel and in both stories the lives of the protagonists change after they attend a party and lose (or relinquish) their prized possession. How are the overall themes of the stories similar or different?
  3. Compare Akaky to another famous copyist: Bartleby. How is Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener” influenced by Gogol’s story?


Henry James, “Daisy Miller”

Project Gutenberg link to Daisy Miller: A Study


  1. As a man, Winterbourne enjoys many privileges that Daisy does not have. Explore the gender restrictions in James’s world, the ways that Daisy challenges them, and the price she pays for her defiance.
  2. Creative option: Because the narration closely follows Winterbourne’s consciousness, we see very little of Daisy’s mind or motives. Look carefully through the short story for clues to Daisy’s point of view. Write a series of diary entries for Daisy from her point of view, discussing the events as they take place in the story.



Guy de Maupassant, “The Diamond Necklace”

Project Gutenberg link to “The Diamond Necklace”


  1. In the end, Mathilde seems fated to be in the class she was born into, and class mobility seems an impossibility. Is Maupassant critiquing the rigidity of rigid class structures or is he suggesting that she is right to finally accept this class status? Take a position on this issue then argue and support your answer with specific examples from the text.



Edgar Allan Poe, “The Cask of Amontillado”

Project Gutenberg link to “The Cask of Amontillado”


  1. What elements make “The Cask of Amontillado” a horror story? Define the traits and aspects of horror and demonstrate how they are evident in the story.
  2. Compare “The Cask of Amontillado” with “The Purloined Letter.” Stylistically, what do they have in common? What aspects of Poe’s craft do you see in both stories?


Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper”

Project Gutenberg link to “The Yellow Wallpaper”


  1. After reading the excerpt of Gilbert and Gubar’s essay “Madwoman in the Attic” also included in the anthology, write an essay that answers the following questions: Is the ending of the story a triumph for the narrator? Why or why not?
  1. Research Option: Study the history of treatments for mental illness historically and during the nineteenth century, including S. Weir Mitchell’s Rest Cure. Write an essay or create a PowerPoint or video examining such treatments. You might consider, in particular, why men and women were prescribed very different treatments for “nervous disorders.”




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