American Literature essay

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American Literature essay

Your essays should be in MLA Style and approximately 950-1,200 words, not including the Work(s) Cited page. Include two separate direct quotes or lines from your literary selection in order to better illustrate and support your argument, along with citations and a list of works cited. As with most academic writing, this essay should be written in third person. Please avoid both first person (I, we, our, etc.) and second person (you, your).

For your final essay, you should choose one of the following options:

· Compare or contrast some of the poems from this week’s readings or the poet you selected for part 1 of the week 7 forum. You may compare poems from a single poet, or compare poems across poets. Have a debatable, persuasive claim and focus on specific points of comparison, using the Lesson in week 7 to guide your structure.

Poems include:

§ John Grisham: “Somewhere for Everyone”

§ Sharon Olds “First Thanksgiving”

“Still Life in Landscape”

“After Making Love in Winter”

“The Planned Child”

§ Linda Pastan “A Rainy Country”

“I am Learning to Abandon the World”

“The Obligation to Be Happy”

“Why Are Your Poems so Dark?”

§ Larry Levis: “Signs”

“To a Wren on Calvary”

“Winter Stars”

Note: Please read! When writing a comparison you are arguing that the two pieces are mostly similar, and when writing a contrast, you are arguing that they are mostly different. Be sure that you have isolated a strong and debatable thesis on which to build the essay. Simply pointing out the similarities or differences is not analysis, and essays that do this will not earn a passing grade. Instead, argue that they are mostly similar or mostly different in order to prove some bigger point. For example, you might say that both stories are good examples of Modernism, and then state the reasons why.

· View the list of American Essayists. Select an essayist who wrote after the Civil War (note, the list includes some pre-Civil War essayists. Do not select a pre-Civil War essayist). Search the internet for an essay by your selected author and read it. Compose a thesis that has a persuasive, debatable claim about the significance of the message or theme in the essay or the success/effectiveness of the essay as a whole. Summarize the essay in your intro paragraph, end the paragraph with your thesis, and be sure to include your three points of evidence in your thesis statement. Cite the essay as you would any article on the internet as you examine your points of evidence.

Note: Make sure your chosen work is an ESSAY, which is a short non-fiction piece arguing a particular point of view usually about a controversial topic. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech qualifies. And E. B. White’s “Charlotte’s Web”, for example, does not qualify since this is a children’s fiction tale; neither does John Grisham’s A Time to Kill, which is fiction (both a novel and a film based on the novel). If you have any question about your choice, please email me for clarification.

· Discuss the literary work(s) of one author from this course that you believe had the most significant influence on American literary history. Please be sure to maintain third person perspective and focus your discussion on the literature, including several direct quotes from the literary work you are discussing (be mindful not to write a literature review, which merely offers an overview or summary of each of the author’s works, or worse, a book report about the author’s life).

Please Note:

Should you choose to use outside references for prompt one or two, these must be scholarly, peer-reviewed sources obtained via the APUS library (select Advanced Search and check the Peer Reviewed box). Reliable open web sources may be used for prompt three. Be careful that you don’t create a “cut and paste” paper of information from your various sources. Your ideas are to be new and freshly constructed. Also, take great care not to plagiarize.

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American Literature essay was first posted on July 14, 2019 at 12:24 pm.

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american literature essay

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Instructions for Researched Response Essays 1 and 2

The purpose behind the Researched Reponse Essays is to enhance close reading, writing, and research skills, and to encourage critical thinking and engagement with the assigned text(s). There are several ways you can approach writing a researched response:

  • Significant quote: Respond to how a significant quote in the text illustrates and relates to the argument made by the author, how that quote resonates/doesn’t resonate today, or how that quote has been interpreted
  • Structure/Form or Genre: Focus response on the effect the structure/form or genre of the text has on the point/argument being made by the author
  • Historical Context: How does the text reflect the social, political, or cultural context and values of that time? Does that context, and/or those values, still resonate today?
  • Literary Criticism: How have scholars evaluated and interpreted the text? Enter the discussion by pointing out where you agree, or disagree, with scholarly interpretations.
  • Biography: Response makes connections between the author’s biographical background to the content, structure, or purpose of the text

You are encouraged to use Discussion Board assignments as an opportunity to work out and generate ideas.

Basic Requirements

  • Length:
    • 3 to 4 pages, or 900 to 1200 words–not including Works Cited page
  • Format:
    • MLA page and citation format (in-text and Works Cited)
    • Double spaced throughout using 12 pt font and one inch margins
    • First page includes heading information in the upper left corner: Name / Instructor’s Name / Course Name/ Date
    • No title page, but essay must include a title–centered and following heading information
    • Last name in upper right corner followed by page number (use “header function” in your word processor)
    • Essay is submitted in a .doc or .docx format–NO PDF files!
  • Sources:
    • Minimum of two reliable and reputable sources, outside of the original text(s)
    • Students may consult a variety of sources: print, video, audio, podcasts, etc., but they must be reputable and scholarly in nature.
  • Content:
    • Essay must have a clear thesis in the introduction
    • Essay must include a clear introduction; body paragraphs that support, explain, and illustrate thesis; and a clear conclusion
    • Supporting quotes and/or paraphrases from original text(s) and sources must be correctly cited in MLA format (in-text, and on separate Works Cited page)
    • Paragraphs are focused, well-developed, and coherent
    • Essay is free of major errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling

Essays must be submitted by the posted due date to receive a grade.


  • Choose one of the assigned texts to respond to (choose a text from 1st half of semester for RRE1, and a text from 2nd half of the semester for RRE2).
  • Re-read text carefully and make note of:
    • The purpose/thesis of the text: What is the main point the author is making? Who is the audience?
    • Significant quotes or ideas presented: Do they still resonate today? If not, why not?
    • Elements of the text’s structure you find interesting
    • The political and/or social historical context of the text
    • Information needed (research) to more fully understand the purpose and content of the text: What questions does the text raise for a 21st century audience?
  • After re-reading and taking notes on the chosen text, draft a working thesis of your response and begin researching your topic. [As you research and learn more about your topic, you can adjust your thesis, or change it entirely.]
  • Write a first draft, and put it aside for a day
  • Return to first draft and edit/revise for clarity and coherence
  • Carefully proofread final draft for grammar/mechanics (punctuation, spelling, and MLA format) before submitting


Suppose you decide to write your first Researched Response Essay on John Winthrop’s lay sermon “A Modell of Christian Charity.”


As you re-read the text and take notes, ask yourself questions about the text: What is the criteria Winthrop lays out to his audience for them to be a “model Christian community”? Why does he see it as so important to ensure their success in the New World? What is the significance of being “a city upon a hill”?


Decide what aspect of the text you want to focus on for your response. For example, you might choose to respond to a significant quote:

” . . . Soe that wee shall see much more of his wisdome, power, goodness and truthe, than formerly wee haue been acquainted with. Wee shall finde that the God of Israell is among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies; when hee shall make us a prayse and glory that men shall say of succeeding plantations, “the Lord make it likely that of New England.” For wee must consider that wee shall be as a citty upon a hill. The eies of all people are uppon us.

Winthrop, and his fellow Puritans on the Arabella in 1630, viewed settling in the Massachusetts Bay Colony [Boston] as a spiritual mission, directly related to Puritan ‘covenant theology’ (see “Important Terms Weeks 1 and 2”). Hmmm . . . Not many/any Puritans around in the 20th century, yet Presidents Kennedy and Reagan made direct references in speeches to Winthrop’s sermon, equating the United States to “a city on a hill.”


The focus for your research could be on the context for Kennedy’s and Reagan’s reference to (and interpretation of) Winthrop’s quote. How has the context changed? How did each (Winthrop, Kennedy, and Reagan) use the image of “a city on a hill”? What are the similarities? The differences?

And then:

Write your first draft . . . Revise/edit and proofread before submitting final draft.

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