American Literature

Paper #1 Assignment


For this paper assignment, I will give you a specific set of questions. However, should you have a different subject or a different focus that you wish to write about than what is offered here, be sure to ask and I will probably okay your subject. These questions should be used as STARTING POINTS in writing your paper.

There is NO right answer to these questions. I am looking for YOUR interpretation and understanding of these subjects, not for a repetition/regurgitation of what’s already been presented in the reading questions or module writing assignments. These papers should follow standard essay form and length.

Please DO NOT do any outside research for these papers. It's inappropriate for this level of class, and I'm not interested in what other scholars have to say; I'm interested in what YOU have to say about the works.

  1. These authors are all dealing with the idea of defining and explaining this new land and people of America in their writing. Identify the America that these authors reflect in their works. What values and ideas do they celebrate? Which ones do they reject or show in a negative light? Remember that this might be a different America than what we see today.

  2. Show how the early myths of America -- “the city on a hill,” “The Franklin Success Story,” etc. -- are reflected in the later, early 19th century writers like Thoreau, Emerson, Poe, Irving, etc. Be sure to explain both sides of the equation, not just one.

  3. Explain how the shift from Rationalism to Romanticism is reflected in the writers and their works. You will need to define both terms, as well as offering specific examples that show both philosophies as well as the shift and change. More significantly, I would be interested in you explaining in what ways the authors continue to be clearly American, even when their underlying philosophy is changing.

  4. The short story was developed primarily in America, by American authors. Given how Poe defines the short story, what is there in the form that would appeal to the American author? Why is America the proper breeding ground for this new form of fiction? How does it fit our culture, history, personality, etc.

Don't spend much time summarizing or re-telling the stories. Remind us of the important plot points or pieces of dialogue, but assume that your readers have just recently read the stories and the philosophers.

This is an essay and should be written as such. Introduction, conclusion and body paragraphs are expected. I expect to read details and examples from the authors to back up your claims.

This should be a multi-page essay.

You do not have to worry about citing your sources at this time. You also are NOT expected to do any additional research, whether on the Internet or at the Library. I am interested in YOUR interpretation, not other authors' interpretations.