American Literature: Assignments 1 & 2 - Analysis Essays

Instructor: Karen Schweitzer
If you are seeking college credit for this course, you must submit two essays and pass the proctored final exam. You must submit your essays before registering for the final. Below you will find prompts and instructions for submitting your essay.

About The Assignment

Despite its relative youth, American Literature has transformed through several different periods, each with distinct identities and purposes. In this course, you've covered several of the prominent eras and read famous works from each of them. Drawing upon these works, please choose two of the following prompts and write an 800-to-1200-word essay about each topic.

Formatting & Sources

Please write your paper in the MLA format. As part of your research, you may refer to the course material for supporting evidence, but you must also use at least four credible, outside sources and cite them using MLA format as well. Please include a mix of both primary and secondary sources, with at least one source from a scholarly peer-reviewed journal. If you use any Study.com lessons as sources, please also cite them in MLA (including the lesson title and instructor's name).

  • Primary sources are first-hand accounts such as interviews, advertisements, speeches, company documents, statements, and press releases published by the company in question.
  • Secondary sources come from peer-reviewed scholarly journals, such as the Journal of Management. You may use like JSTOR, Google Scholar, and Social Science Research Network to find articles from these journals. Secondary sources may also come from reputable websites with .gov, .edu, or .org in the domain. (Wikipedia is not a reputable source, though the sources listed in Wikipedia articles may be acceptable.)

If you're unsure about how to use MLA format for your paper and sources, please see the following lessons:

Final Essay Prompts

  1. The works of literature you read for this course can be viewed as literary explorations of the American identity in their respective time periods. Compare and contrast two works from two different periods of American literary history and explain how they explore what it means to be an American. What are these works saying about living in America? Please address issues of race, gender, and class as applicable. Make sure to support your explanation with examples from the text.
  2. Many aspiring authors dream of writing 'The Great American Novel.' Determine which of the novels that you read for this course would be best defined as The Great American Novel. Be sure to use text examples from the novel you choose to support your argument.
  3. Several of the works in this course include characters struggling to either live by a set of standards created for them by society or by their own internal guidelines. Choose one or more works from this course's reading list and explain how the author shows the characters dealing with this struggle. Hypothesize whether the author ultimately argues for following the rules of society or the individual. Use examples from the text to support your argument.

Grading Rubric

Your essays will be graded based on the following rubric:

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