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American Literature: actions

American Literature: actions

Directions: Answer three of the following questions fully. Think of each question as a mini-essay.
Avoid plot summary. Remember to develop your ideas with relevant details from the text (or film) and
plenty of scholarly analysis. No MLA required. You must attach a properly formatted PDF file to the
assignment page. Only PDF files will be accepted. I will not accept emailed papers. You must answer a
total of three prompts below. For this assignment, the minimum length for each essay is two pages (six
pages for 1,500 words total). I advise you to write more than the minimum.
1. In one of Cormac McCarthy’s very few interviews, he chastises Marcel Proust and Henry James
because they do not deal with “issues of life and death.” Choose at least one scene from this
semester’s reading in which one or more deaths is central to the plot. Analyze how death and
violence in that scene develops the overall theme and meaning of the work.
2. In the first four lines of “The Second Coming,” British poet William Butler Yeats writes:
“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world . . .”
After World War I, American writers seemed to share Yeats’ desperation. Many American literary
works from the 1920’s to the present day seem to assert the idea that the universe lacks any kind
of governing structure; that the grand narrative of order and meaning in the universe has been a
human invention; that humankind, communication, morality, life, and art all tend toward their
natural state of chaos and absurdity; that as Yeats writes “the centre cannot hold” and “things fall
apart.” Choose at least three writers (including at least one poet) we have studied (after World
War I) and analyze how their works illustrate and develop this theme.
** Alternate choice: Choose at least three writers (including at least one poet) we have studied
(after World War I) and analyze how their works illustrate and develop THE OPPOSITE of this
theme (i.e. that there is truth, order, justice, meaning, and structure in the universe and human
life). **
3. Choose one poem, short story, chapter, or essay from this semester’s reading, and analyze how
its author uses language to develop meaning. Be thorough in your answer, using as many
elements from the Literary Analysis Wheels as needed to fully extrapolate and fully analyze the
meaning of the work.
4. Stretching all the way back to the Native American creation stories, religion has played a
dominant role in American literature. Compare and contrast two writers (or works) from our
reading this semester who have divergent views on religion. For this question it is imperative that
you cite specific examples from the texts as evidence and fully explain the details of your chosen
authors’ views. In your response, make sure to answer questions like the following: Why did she
believe in such a way? What cultural and historical influences played a part in this belief? Etc.
Unique and ambitious answers will receive higher scores. Provide a trait-by-trait comparison (i.e.
structure your essay by trait rather than subject).
5. Choose two female authors we have studied this semester. Compare and contrast the specific
details of their gender identity. Just as in question four above, it is imperative that you cite
specific examples from the texts as evidence and fully explain the details of your chosen authors’
views. In your response, make sure to answer questions like the following: Why did she identify
and express her gender in such a way? What cultural and historical influences played a part in
this? Etc. Unique and ambitious answers will receive higher scores. Provide a trait-by-trait
comparison (i.e. structure your essay by trait rather than subject).
6. Watch one film from the following list and analyze how it serves as the illustration or antithesis
of one literary period we have studied this semester. Use works we read this semester as
evidence to clarify your ideas and support your arguments.
Like the way in which one analyzes literature, with film focus on such elements as setting,
characters, characterization, action, conflict, dialogue, details, cinematography, delivery, editing,
lighting, aesthetics, structure, sequencing, etc. Take care to show how the elements you choose
develop the overall theme of the film and how those elements and that theme typify or refute the
literary period in which you have chosen to classify the film. Avoid plot summary.

Farewell to the King
Sling Blade
Mulholland Drive
Blue Velvet
No Country for Old
Men
All the Pretty Horses
Memento
The Last Samurai
Pleasantville
Fight Club
The Matrix
Unforgiven
Office Space
The Breakfast Club
Avatar
Bright Star
American Beauty
Seven Years in Tibet
Into the wild
Inception
Pride and Prejudice
There Will Be Blood
Wag the Dog
The Game
The Power of One
Aliens
Anonymous
The Devil’s Advocate
Legends of the Fall
Kill Your Darlings
The Dark Knight
Midnight in Paris
7. Many of the characters we have read this semester defy the traditional classification of hero/
villain, good/evil, or moral/immoral. Choose at least two morally ambiguous characters and first
analyze what makes them unable to be classified in by such simple dichotomous terms and
second explain how this ambiguity helps develop the overall theme of the work.
8. Compare and contrast an American comic book villain with a character from our reading this
semester. Take care to analyze the specific details of the villain as he/she is presented in comic
books and films. Delve into the specific depths of the literary character and how he/she is
developed—and develops meaning—within the text(s) on our reading list. Unique and ambitious
answers will receive higher scores.