For your first research project that will be due in Week 7, you will be writing a brief researched essay that will address one aspect of your reading in the first half of the course (Modules 1 & 2).
Your submission must be at least 1000 words in length, and it must incorporate the number of primary sources assigned in the prompt and at least two substantive secondary sources from the library databases (no websites). Make sure that your analysis includes support from the texts themselves rather than simply a summary of those texts. You should use proper MLA formatting, including heading, parenthetical citations, and a works cited page. Your essay must be saved as a Word document or as an RTF file. If it is not, it will be counted late and not accepted.
Choose one of the following options.
Our textbook calls Walt Whitman “a poet of democracy, [who] celebrated the mystical, divine potential of the individual,” and it refers to Emily Dickinson as one whose “dazzlingly complex poems” often explore the “relationship of self to nature.” Both authors lived through the American Civil War, by which they were profoundly affected, and both authors have been unanimously hailed by modern critics as titans of the American literary landscape. Throughout their poetry, the reader encounters the quest to understand the relationship of the individual to larger society and the world at large. In terms of the individual’s relationship to the natural world, “Whitman generally seems intoxicated by his ability to appropriate nature for his own purposes; Dickinson’s nature is much more resistant to human schemes” (The Norton Anthology of American Literature 84). Using this quest for individualism as the framework for your essay, explicate and analyze four works by Whitman and Dickinson. Focus particularly on how the two authors use depictions of the natural world to further their understanding of what it means to be an individual.
A 1983 critical text by Josephine Donovan, entitled New England Local Color Literature, identifies local color writers as women who, through literature, “created a counter world of their own, a rural realm that existed on the margins of patriarchal society, a world that nourished strong, free women.” These proto-realists “depicted authentic regional detail, including authentic dialect, authentic local characters, real geographical settings, authentic local customs and dress.” A subsequent book by Judith Fetterley and Marjorie Pryse, entitled American Women Regionalists, was published in 1992. In it, they assert that “local color” is different than “regional realism.” According to them, local colorists “depicted ‘local’ scenes from the perspective of a narrator defined as superior to and outside the region of the fiction, and often to entertain and satisfy the curiosity of late-nineteenth-century urban readers in Boston and New York.” These writers were often male, while “regionalists” were women who “did differentiate themselves from the ‘local colorists,’ primarily in their desire not to hold up regional characters to potential ridicule by eastern urban readers but rather to present regional experience from within so as to engage the reader’s sympathy and identification.” Using the local color/regionalism critical debate as the framework for your essay, examine three of the following authors from Module 1 to determine if each is a local colorist or a regionalist: Twain, Harte, Chesnutt, Freeman, Jewett.
In 1963, George J. Becker published Documents of Modern Literary Realism. In it, he famously outlined a taxonomy for American Literary Realism that included the following characteristics: verisimilitude of detail, representation of the norm of experience, and an objective view of human nature. The movement’s chief proponent, William Dean Howells, defined it as “nothing more and nothing less than the truthful treatment of material.” In 1966, Donald Pizer followed up with his Realism and Naturalism in Nineteenth-Century American Literature. Herein, Pizer identifies American Literary Naturalism as “essentially realism infused with a pessimistic determinism.” The naturalists shared the realists fidelity to representative details, but they “depicted everyday life with a greater sense of the role of such causal forces as heredity and environment in determining behavior and belief.” Using these critical definitions of Realism and Naturalism as the framework for your essay, examine four of the following authors from Module 2 to determine if each is a Realist or a Naturalist in the traditional critical sense: Bierce, Howells, James, Wharton, Chopin, Gilman, Crane, London.
Long after the conclusion of the Civil War, we still struggle to fully address, what Frederick Douglass called, “The Race Problem in America.” Though the American literary landscape is primarily occupied by white males, there exists a strong tradition of dissenting voices that articulately protest social injustices. “Of all the social conflicts that animate the literature of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, none matches the force or complexity of the continued subjugation of black Americans during this period” (The Norton Anthology of American Literature 6). Explore this literature of protest as it manifests in the works of Du Bois, Dunbar, and Chesnutt. Look particularly at what each author appears to be protesting. Is the protest explicit or implied? What call to action exists in each author’s work, if any? How are the authors similar and how are they different?