Posted: June 25th, 2015
Write on one the following texts: Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl; Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature and “Self-Reliance”; Melville, Moby-Dick; Walt Whitman, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” and Song of Myself; Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wall-Paper“; Henry James, Daisy Miller: A Study. Students can also write on the poems of Emily Dickinson and draw upon the poems in the anthology. 1. Why does Melville give readers such a broad range of races, creeds, and personalities on the Pequod? Discuss the imaginative constitution of “community” in an essay. 2. For the Puritans, the world possessed clearly defined moral boundaries, but in works from following generations “good” and “evil” become difficult to distinguish. Explore moral ambiguity in a given character or text. 3. The desire and promise of “self-creation” and “self-invention” marks American experience. In light of this narrative of self-creation, examine the possibilities or limitations open to an individual man or woman. 4. Harriet Jacobs ends her narrative “with freedom, not in the usual way, with marriage.” This ambiguous conclusion that suggests freedom matters more than marriage arguably characterizes the experience of female characters or writers in the nineteenth century. Explore this notion of freedom. 5. In Walden, Henry David Thoreau questions how “we can be so frivolous . . . as to attend the gross but sometimes foreign form of servitude called Negro Slavery, there are so many keen and subtle masters that enslave both north and south. It is hard to have a southern overseer; it is worse to have a northern one; but worst of all when you are the slave-driver yourself.” Discuss the theme and significance of slavery–social, political, material, or psychological–in an essay. 6. When Walt Whitman opens “Song of Myself’ by exclaiming “I celebrate myself, and sing myself, / And what I assume you shall assume, / For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you,” his celebration of individuality also reflects a notion of community. Examine the tensions between the individual and the social in an essay.
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