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Last night, a friend of mine asked for help with a project he’s working on that involves creating hypothetical research topics.  He asked me to list some of the questions and ideas that get me thinking as though they were in fact research questions.  I think we were both a bit surprised by the stream of questions that followed.

  • The racial and political protests on Stanford campus 1965-1975, and in particular I’d like to know how religion played into those protests, as well as the move to make Stanford more consciously diverse.
  • The nature of strong male friendships in print and visual literature – think Sherlock/Watson, Kirk/Spock/McCoy, Aubrey/Maturin, Frodo/Sam. there’s a deep affection there that often gets labeled homoeroticism, but I think that there’s something more complex going on there.
  • Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon – who was lying? was Catherine’s marriage to Arthur consummated or was she a virgin when she came to Henry?
  • Modern television series are equivalent to the serialized novels of the nineteenth century, both in terms of the breakdown of good/bad/mediocre literature and in terms of the role they play in popular culture. Discuss.
  • Powerful women behind the scenes of seemingly powerful men. Josephine and Napoleon, Olimpia Maidalchini and Pope Innocent X, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.
  • Female archetypes in Anthony Trollope’s novels, and how they represent the rapid evolution and complexification (totally a word, I swear) of female roles in wealthy British society during the nineteenth century.
  • Does being human imply an ingrained need for a belief in something or someone higher than us?
  • Is LOTR’s Aragorn a literary equivalent of the Anglo-Saxon king Alfred in England?
  • What are the links between medieval romances and fairy tales?
  • Why do certain stories show up time and again in every culture – why does every culture have a story that can be identified without much effort as Cinderella, for example.

And he only picked ONE topic for his project!  Le sigh.

What are some things that get you thinking?  In the comments, please address any or all of the questions I’ve raised here. Or raise your own questions.