Developing a Topic Proposal

In developing a Topic Proposal, it is important (just as in your initial formal Thesis Statement), to include your thesis, to flesh out the topic and the evidence you expect to employ, and to articulate the conclusion you anticipate that you will reach.

In looking at the sample below, note the following:
  • The formal Thesis Statement (remember, "an idea, informed opinion, or statement of interpretation, the proof of which requires a convincing, well-organized argument, supported by relevant evidence") begins the Topic Proposal, telling the reader in the very first sentence exactly what the topic, the evidence, and the anticipated conclusions of the research will be. Note also that the Thesis Statement is set apart in a separate paragraph: there's a lot of detail there and you want your reader to have time to digest it.
  • The second paragraph provides background, summary information for those who may not be familiar with the topic
  • The third paragraph identifies the specific area, time period, set of works, or "problem" which your research will address.
  • The fourth and final paragraph points in the direction of several different types of conclusions to which your research may lead.

In selecting your bibliographic items (one each of books, articles, and dissertations), be very sure that (a) you have the citation information correct, and (b) that the item is truly relevant to your specific topic. Relevance counts toward the final grade.

Pay close and accurate attention to bibliographic format; this does count toward your grade on this assignment. If you need help understanding various formats, see the "Bibliographic Formats" file on WebCT.

NOTE: The following is a sample; your topic proposal and bibliography would reflect your own research topic and the overall format may need to be adapted accordingly.
(STUDENT NAME) Music MUHL2302 September 7, 2003

Preliminary Topic Proposal

Monteverdi Madrigals

In this paper, drawing on musical analysis, period commentaries, and the work of area experts, I will argue that the development of Claudio Monteverdi's (1567-1643) compositional style can be traced through analysis of selected madrigals (an idiom in which he worked for his entire career), and in particular the works of Book V (1605).
Monteverdi's first two books of madrigals, published when he was 20 to 23 years old, are in traditional format and style and were influenced by his teacher Marc’ Antonio Ingegneri and especially by Luca Marenzio.
His third book (1592) begins a change of style. Madrigals from his fourth and fifth books (1603 and 1605) were attacked by Giovanni Maria Artusi for “offending the ear” through improper treatment of dissonance. Monteverdi defended himself by arguing that these madrigals are examples of a “second practice,” in which the music is the servant of the text and has to bend its rules to express the emotions of the text.
His later books include instrumental accompaniment and become increasingly dramatic. I am still investigating several different areas of focus, but several aspects would be interesting: the way he started by imitating others and then found his own voice (books 1 through 5); the Artusi-Monteverdi debate; the change from a cappella texture to accompaniment; or the different approaches he takes to lyric poetry (as in the early books), dramatic monologue (as in books 5 and 6), and longer dramatic scenes (as in book 8).

Initial Bibliography
  • Book: Tomlinson, Gary. Monteverdi and the End of the Renaissance. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987.
    • Tomlinson places Monteverdi in the context of his time by analyzing and discussing individual works. This helps to trace his development in various genres, including madrigals. There is a particularly useful discussion of some early madrigals and their influences, especially Marenzio.
  • Journal Article: Cusick, Suzanne G. “Gendering Modern Music: Thoughts on the Monteverdi-Artusi Controversy.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 46 (Spring 1993): 1-25.
    • Cusick argues that Artusi, Monteverdi, and his brother Giulio Cesare Monteverdi use metaphors relating to power and gender in their debate about the relationship of music to poetry in the madrigal. Understanding these metaphors can help us understand the nature of the disagreement between them.
  • Dissertation or other: Ciacchi, Linda Mary. “Rhythm, Text, and Formal Design in the Ostinato Madrigals of Claudio Monteverdi.” Ph.D. dissertation, Yale University, 1993.
    • [I have not yet seen this dissertation, but based on the abstract available in RILM, I anticipate that it will be a detailed discussion of the cited musical parameters in some of Monteverdi’s madrigals. I will update this annotation when I receive the document through Inter-Library Loan.]