Due date: 6-10 December; deadline noon Friday 10 December unless special permission
Content: 1 mid-length essay (4-6 paragraphs) + 2 long essays (6-9 paragraphs)
Mid-length essay (4-6 paragraphs)
Review & prioritize your learning in American Renaissance.
If someone comparably educated asked you what you gained from our course (and for any reason you weren’t inclined to gripe), how would you answer?
Not looking for cheerleading but an intelligent measurement of what you learned and can imagine doing with it. If you have criticisms or suggestions, make them work for you and me. You'll be judged not for flattery or disapproval but for your thinking and writing about our texts, subject, and classroom related to your sense of needs for literature and teaching in our society.
Potential themes and links: Critical thinking; unity / transition in writing; Student leadership; Literature as entertainment + improvement, escape + engagement; "close reading"; "Historicism":
Long Essay Questions
Choose Two of these Questions
(6-9 paragraph answers)
Requirement: Give each essay a title.
1. Why do “desire and loss” re-appear so frequently in American Romantic texts, both as driving forces in the “romance” narrative and as indexes for Romantic values?
Describe the significance of this pattern for the romance narrative and its general significance in Romanticism, citing works by three or four writers.
*Consider Columbus, Smith, Bradstreet, Rowlandson, Edwards, Poe, Hawthorne, Douglass, Jacobs, Stowe, Whitman, Hurston, Fitzgerald, or others.
2. How has American Romanticism continued or changed in post-Romantic American literature?—that is, literature after the Civil War and American Renaissance of the pre-Civil War generation of the1820s-1860s?
Refer to at least three writers from our last four class meetings and to a contemporary poem from the presentations.
Relevant writers from our last four classes: James, Jewett, Chesnutt, McKay, Hurston, Toomer, Hughes, Cullen, and Fitzgerald.
Warning: If you presented one of these poems, resist the temptation to reprise your presentation in full, but references to highlights are welcome.
3. Historically, Romanticism began in Europe and is mostly associated with European literary traditions and cultural values. American writers typically associated with this literary movement (Cooper, Poe, Emerson, Fitzgerald) are of European descent. In America and esp. the USA, though, Romanticism must adapt to a multi-racial and multicultural nation involving a dominant culture and distinct minority cultures. In current pedagogy, all writer in a seminar like ours write in English, a European language. In addition to mastering various versions of this language, writers from non-European races must consider dominant-culture themes and genres as options for their compositions. For instance, Romanticism.
Write an essay involving three writers representing at least two of the three major early American races: European American (required), African American (required), and Native American Indian (optional).
Consider how race either complicates, absorbs, or exemplifies the formulas of Romanticism. Reflect how such investigations transform our conception of Romanticism. Is it a style based on universal truths, or a set of historical and cultural conventions, or a shifting set of features that reflect the desire and perspective of the observer? How does the usefulness of the term “Romanticism” change?
4. Citing at least three authors, review and evaluate some varieties of the Gothic encountered this semester. Why does the Gothic recur so frequently in American literature or beyond? Why is it so adaptable to different environments, and what different purposes may it serve? What are some possible theological, intellectual, and cultural sources, limitations, and biases?
Possible authors: Rowlandson, Edwards, Irving, Poe, Hawthorne, Douglass, Jacobs, Chesnutt, McKay, Hughes, Cullen, Plath, Dickinson, others.
Not required but noted: The African American authors Douglass, Jacobs, McKay, Hughes, and Cullen are not gothic writers but are included among options because of their experiments inverting the gothic color code whereby white or light equals purity or virtue, and black or darkness equals decay or sin.
5. Review and defend Romantic Poetry as an essential medium for American Romanticism, explicating 2-3 poems (one of which may be outside our course readings).
[*Among improvements planned: instructor will offer more instruction on poetry, possibly with half-classes devoted to Dickinson, Whitman, Poe, and/or Harlem Renaissance poets.]
6. Write an essay concerning some persistent or occasional issue, problem, or theme significant to the course but overlooked by the previous four questions. You are welcome to use aspects of the course objectives. Your choice for this question may overlap with other questions above. If your topic appears to range beyond the course's evident subject matter, defend or rationalize your topic. Relate your topic to the larger subject of American Romanticism--what relevant insights does your discussion reveal or suggest? Refer to at least three writers and their texts.
Possible items for #5: Byronic hero; transcendence and/or Transcendentalism
Previous example from
Model Assignments 2003: "The Mysterious Female: Elusiveness as a
Means of Increasing and Prolonging Male Desire in American