The first essay question on the final will ask you to discuss a particular idea, behavior, or characteristic that has been part of the "American conversation" throughout all three periods we have studied in this course. Have the questions discussed by American writers changed over time? Have the answers changed? Have the methods used to communicate the author's ideas and persuade the audience changed? Although you will be given a more specific question on the day of the final, there are several things you should do to prepare for the examination.
1) It would probably be useful for you to think about the kinds of ideas and behavior that have traditionally been associated with Americans. For this reason, it would probably be wise for you to reread Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur's "Letter III: What is an American?" which appeared in his Letters From an American Farmer. (See pages 293-302 of the Norton Anthology.) You should also think about the topics that have come up repeatedly in this course.
2) Below you will find a list of most of the texts we have read as a class this semester arranged into three chronological periods. Probably the most useful thing you could do to prepare for your final examination is to review these readings.
3) You already know that in order to develop and support your analysis, you will need to cite one or two texts from each of the three periods identified below. To prepare for that kind of question, it might be strategic to work particularly closely with one or two works from each period. Be sure you know what the main points of each of those texts and have an understanding of what method the author was using to make his/her appeal. Finally, think about whether you think these questions, answers, and methods have changed over the course of our literary history.
4) Be sure to mark and annotate quotes in the readings that might be particularly significant, particularly those that appear in texts you have selected for special attention. If you really want to be ready for the examination, make a list of your key quotations in the flyleaf of your book. Put a checkmark or star next to those that you regard as particularly powerful evidence.
You have known from the beginning of the semester that your final examination would include a question that asked you to develop an interpretation of Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth. You have also known that you would be encouraged to draw upon the expertise you developed in the process of developing your research project on Uncle Tom's Cabin in constructing your interpretation (although this is not required). There are some steps you can take to prepare to write essay two.
1) Reread the descriptions of the topics assigned for the course research projects on Uncle Tom's Cabin. You can find detailed descriptions both on the project handout and linked from the top of our online syllabus. The topics were as follows:
· The Value of Work, the Meaning of the Marketplace
· Manners, Morality, and Christianity
· Reading, Education, and Self-Cultivation
· Social Reform, American Perfectionism and Exceptionalism
· Gendered "Spheres" and Racial Roles
· The Good Death.
2) Read The House of Mirth carefully, marking each line or passage that relates to a recurring theme in American literature. If possible, keep an index of your quotations on a flyleaf of the book. Be sure you finish reading the novel before coming to the examination, as it is usually impossible to develop a fair interpretation of a novel without taking its conclusion into consideration.
3) Think about how you would interpret Wharton's treatment of a particular theme in The House of Mirth. Also think about how Wharton's depiction of that issue is similar to or different from Stowe's handling of the same topic in Uncle Tom's Cabin. Can the similarities or differences tell us anything about how American literature or culture evolved between the antebellum period and the turn of the century?
General Suggestions Regarding the Final Examination:
Remember that this is your chance to offer your interpretation of this semester's readings. What insights would you like to share about American literature and culture? You have done a great deal of challenging reading, thinking, and writing. Now is the time to enjoy sharing your expertise and ideas.
John Winthrop, "A Model of Christian Charity," 107-110 and all of part two.
Cotton Mather (1663-1728), "A Father's Resolutions", online linked from assignment on syllabus for August 30.
Benjamin Franklin, excerpts from The Autobiography, 223ff.
Speech of your choice by Patrick Henry, online and linked from assignment on syllabus for September 11.
Thomas Paine, excerpts from Common Sense: Addressed to the Inhabitants of America, 309.
1776 (and published in Jefferson's Autobiography in 1821)
Thomas Jefferson, "The Declaration of Independence," 324-330. To see scans of the original drafts, visit Emory University's U.S. Founding Documents page linked from assignment on syllabus for September 11.
St. Jean de Crevecoeur, excerpts from Letters from an American Farmer : "What is an American?" 293-302, and "Letter IX. Description of Charles-Town," 302-307.
Thomas Jefferson, "Query XVII. Religion" from Notes on the State of Virginia, 335-338.
James Madison, "Federalist No.10 The Same Subject Continued (The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection)," online linked from assignment on syllabus for September 11.
Olaudah Equiano, excerpts from The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, 343-353.
Nathaniel Hawthorne, "My Kinsman, Major Molineux," 587 ff.
Catherine Beecher, excerpts from A Treatise on Domestic Economy, For the Use of Young Ladies at Home, and At School, online linked from assignment on syllabus for September 27.
Frederick Douglass, excerpts from The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself, 970-1001.
Henry David Thoreau, excerpts from Walden: "Economy," 868; "Where I Lived and What I Lived For," 910; and "Conclusion," 959.
Frederick Douglass, "Convention of Colored Citizens," online linked from assignment on syllabus for November 15 under the question: "Do the Writers of the Harlem Renaissance Speak with the Voice of Frederick Douglass?"
Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Frederick Douglass, excerpt from "The Equality of All Men Before the Law Claimed and Defended," online linked from assignment on syllabus for November 15 under the question: "Do the Writers of the Harlem Renaissance Speak with the Voice of Frederick Douglass?"
Charles Chestnutt, "The Wife of His Youth," 1647-1655.
Gertrude Simmons Bonnin (Zitkala a), "Impressions of an Indian Childhood," 1776-1787.
Booker T. Washington, excerpts from " The Atlanta Exposition Address" from Up From Slavery, online linked from assignment on syllabus for November 15 under the question: "Do the writers of the Harlem Renaissance Speak with the Voice of Frederick Douglass?"
W.E.B. Du Bois, excerpts from The Souls of Black Folk, online linked from assignment on syllabus for November 15 under the question: "Do the writers of the Harlem Renaissance Speak with the Voice of Frederick Douglass?"
Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth.
Claude McKay, assorted poems, 2969-2073.
Langston Hughes, assorted poems, 2225-2231. Also see 1941 Hughes poem "Ballad for Booker T.," online linked from assignment on syllabus for November 15 under the question: "Do the writers of the Harlem Renaissance Speak with the Voice of Frederick Douglass?" To go directly to the poem itself, see
F. Scott Fitzgerald, "Winter Dreams," 2125-2141.
Countee Cullen, "Yet I Do Marvel," online as part of assignment on syllabus for November 15.
Zora Neel Hurston, "How It Feels to be Colored Me," 2084-2087.
Willa Cather, "Neighbor Rosicky," 1830-.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, "Babylon Revisited," 2141-2155.
William Faulkner, "Barn Burning," 2175-2187
Langston Hughes, "Theme for English B," handout and from link entitled "Langston Hughes, "Theme for English B" listed as a resource for assignment on syllabus for November 15.
James Baldwin, "Sonny's Blues," handout.
James Baldwin, "Autobiographical Notes" from Notes of a Native Son, handout.
James Baldwin, excerpt from "Whose Harlem is This Anyway?" in Essence Magazine, online as part of assignment on syllabus for December 4.