217essaydescription - English 217 AMERICAN LITERATURE 1620...

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English 217: AMERICAN LITERATURE, 1620 to the present Kate Merz, Spring 2009 Essay One : due by lecture on Friday, 13 March Using the close reading techniques we are practicing, write an analytic essay of 4-6 pages on one to two texts by any of the writers we have read thus far: John Winthrop, Anne Bradstreet, Philip Freneau, Phillis Wheatley, Benjamin Franklin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Margaret Fuller, or Henry David Thoreau. Please do not repeat arguments presented in class, but strive to make an original argument that is generated by a close reading of your text(s). These prompts are meant to jumpstart rather than limit your thinking; they are not a checklist, but places for you to start asking questions of your own . The most interesting essays develop a focus that follows from the details of the text, rather than conforming to an abstract set of bullet-points. (And if you pair two pieces or authors, it is all the more vital to focus your argument around a shared problem, theme, or motif.) Avoid making broad, general claims about anything . Instead, use all of your space to make a specific argument about a specific text in relation to a specific idea. Generate a thesis that is as powerful , original , and arguable as possible. It should be neither obvious nor one- sided, and should be a statement with which a person could reasonably disagree. Most vitally, your thesis should strive to answer the so what? question: don’t just state what the paper is about, but why it is important. That is, how is the text working , and what can we learn by analyzing and connecting the details that you want us to notice? ***************************************************************************************** 1). Make an argument about the relation of humans to their physical environment . You might explore the relation between American ideals/identity and the land; the role of the frontier or the wild; the relation of the “human” to the animal; or the relation of place to creation, art, or the artist. You might ask: How do humans affect their surroundings? How do these surroundings impact human life? (You may interpret the “human” at
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217essaydescription - English 217 AMERICAN LITERATURE 1620...

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