Literature of Modernism

Survey of American Literature II

Essay Two: The Literature of Modernism

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Essay Guidelines and Reminders

 

§ Overview: This essay will prove a central point about one reading on the syllabus as listed below and demonstrate a close reading of the text using literary analysis. Consider this paper as an opportunity to work closely with one text and to expand your skills in literary analysis and argumentation. As you advance an argument about the reading, remember to balance your essay between overview, paraphrase, direct quotes to provide evidence, and analysis. This essay is not a summary. Instead, this paper proves a central point about the reading and demonstrates literary analysis. The essay will be directly related to the topic provided and will subsequently be related to our class discussion of the text. No outside sources are needed or included in this essay. To encourage a range of writing experiences on a variety of genres, only one

essay for this class may focus on poetry. You are welcome and encouraged to discuss rough drafts during office hours for consultation and assistance on any stage of the writing process.

§ Introduction and Thesis Statement: Begin with general remarks related to the topic; include the author’s first and last name and the title of the text that you are writing about; place the title of the text in quotes or italics as needed. Establish a thesis at the end of the first paragraph that presents the argument that will be proven throughout your paper and that is directly related to the topic on the topics’ handout.

§ Paragraph Structure: Begin each supporting paragraph with a topic sentence that presents a specific aspect of your thesis. Show how one idea leads to the next. Check for logical progression of ideas. Conclude each supporting paragraph with a point connected to the topic sentence for overall unity of each supporting paragraph.

Textual Evidence: To support your thesis and main argument, provide direct quotes from the primary source text as evidence. There should be approximately two quotes in each supporting paragraph. Quotes are not included in the introduction or conclusion of the essay, as the quotes are serving as evidence. To allow for literary analysis and to show how the quote serves as evidence, provide complete sentences for prose and complete lines of poetry, rather than a series of phrases or words.

§ Citing Quotations: Introduce a quote with a signal phrase that identifies the speaker and provides a transition from your ideas to the quote as evidence. Cite the page number in parenthesis following the quote, for example:

 

As Sylvia continues her climb up the tall pine tree, the narrator notes: “And the tree stood still and frowned away the winds that June morning while the dawn grew bright in the east” (439). Through personification, the tree appears to be sympathetic to Sylvia’s quest as it remained stationary and “frowned away the winds.” When citing poetry, use line numbers rather than page numbers. Show line breaks by placing a slash between lines: The speaker identifies a central tension of the poem: “With torn and bleeding hearts we smile, / And mouth with myriad subtleties” (4-5). The references to “torn and bleeding hearts” emphasizes the contrast between “smile” and “subtleties” in Dunbar’s poem. When citing more than four-typed lines of prose or more than three lines of poetry, block the quotation by indenting 10 spaces from the left margin and double space. Limit long block quotes; extend analysis and the paper accordingly.

 

§ Literary Analysis: To show how the specific literary elements, support your argument, follow quotes with analysis of the figures of speech, literary elements, and poetic devices.

 

Directions: Choose one topic below and write an essay that proves a central point about the text. Provide quotes from the primary source that you are writing about as supporting evidence, rather than, for example, the headnotes. You are welcome and encouraged to discuss rough drafts during office hours for consultation and assistance on any stage of the writing\process: thesis, argument, organization, format, grammar, and literary analysis. Robert Frost: “Mending Wall”; “After Apple-Picking”; “The Road Not Taken” (735-38; 742-44) In Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall,” the speaker and his neighbor meet to repair the stone wall between their properties. In doing so, the speaker raises questions about boundaries and divisions. In your essay, analyze and discuss the two perspectives about mending the wall and how the wall functions as a symbol in the poem. Provide literary analysis of the language, figures of speech, literary tropes, literary elements, and poetic devices in Frost’s poem. Address both the meaning and the format of the poem and go beyond explication. Discuss how elements of Modernism also reinforce these themes.

OR

In Robert Frost’s “After Apple-Picking,” the speaker contemplates life while harvesting apples. In your essay, analyze and discuss these two levels of meaning, literal and figurative, as they relate to this act of picking apples. Provide literary analysis of the language, figures of speech, literary tropes, literary elements, and poetic devices as they support these themes in Frost’s poem. Address both the meaning and the format of the poem and go beyond explication. Discuss how elements of Modernism also reinforce these themes.

OR

In Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” the speaker describes making a choice of which road to follow while walking in a “yellow wood” and, in the process, addresses how the element of chance influences the decision-making process. In your essay, analyze and discuss the speaker’s decision to choose a certain road and the speaker’s attitude about this decision as noted in the final stanza. Provide literary analysis of the language, figures of speech, literary tropes, literary elements, and poetic devices as they support these themes in Frost’s poem. Address both the meaning and the format of the poem and go beyond explication. Discuss how elements of Modernism also reinforce these themes.

 

Marianne Moore: “Poetry” (822-25)

In Marianne Moore’s “Poetry,” the speaker expresses admiration of poetry that is “genuine,” “useful,” and “raw” and criticizes poetry that lacks these characteristics. In your essay, analyze and discuss the speaker’s definition and critique of poetry. Provide literary analysis of the language, figures of speech, literary tropes, literary elements, and poetic devices as they support these themes in Moore’s poem. Address both the meaning and the format of the poem and go beyond explication. Discuss how elements of Modernism also reinforce these themes.

William Carlos Williams: “The Young Housewife”; “Spring and All”; “The Red Wheelbarrow”; “This Is Just to Say” (786-88; 790-91; 793-94) William Carlos Williams’s poems present various narratives that address different themes. For example, in “The Young Housewife,” the speaker observes a woman’s domestic duties and actions and describes her as “young” and shy” and compares her to “a fallen leaf.” In “Spring and All,” the speaker contrasts images of contagion and decay with the first signs of spring. In “The Red Wheelbarrow,” the speaker begins by noting that “so much depends” upon a series of images without

necessarily explaining what the wheelbarrow ultimately is dependent on. In “This Is Just to Say,” the speaker apologizes for eating a plum in what appears to be a note left on an “icebox.” In your essay, analyze and discuss “Spring and All” on its own; OR analyze and discuss “The Young Housewife” and “The Red Wheelbarrow” together; OR “The Red Wheelbarrow” and “This Is Just to Say” together and address these narratives and themes. Provide literary analysis of the language, figures

of speech, literary tropes, literary elements, and poetic devices as they support these themes in Williams’s poem(s). Address both the meaning and the format of the poem(s) and go beyond explication. Discuss how elements of Modernism also reinforce these themes.Ezra Pound: “A Pact”; “In a Station of the Metro”; “A Retrospect” (795-97; 799; 809-11)

 

In Ezra Pound’s “A Pact,” the speaker draws comparisons between Walt Whitman who “broke new wood” and the speaker who is now “carving” this wood. These observations then lead to a “pact” or agreement to find “commerce between us,” as in common ground or dealings. In Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro,” the speaker provides a fleeting image of “faces in the crowd” in a Paris subway that is contrasted with an image of “petals” on a “bough” to create an overall impression. In “A Retrospect,” Pound discusses the “principles” of Imagism and provides specific advice for writing poetry.

 

In your essay, analyze and discuss “A Pact” and “In a Station of the Metro” as poems that correspond specifically to the principles and advice in “A Retrospect.” Address both the meaning and the format of the poems and go beyond explication. Provide literary analysis of the language, figures of speech, literary tropes, literary elements, and poetic devices as they support these themes in Pound’s poems and essay. Discuss how elements of Modernism also reinforce these themes. F. Scott Fitzgerald: “Babylon Revisited” (973-74; 991-1005) In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Babylon Revisited,” Charlie Wales has returned to Paris after a year and a half to persuade his sisterin-law, Marion Peters, to grant him custody of his daughter, Honoria. Having regained some financial stability after the Great Depression of the 1930s, he is hopeful for the future. Charlie’s attempts to maintain his sobriety and renew his role as a father are then tested by several forces, internal and external. In your essay, analyze and discuss these issues of relationships, trustworthiness, redemption, and recovery. Provide literary analysis of the language, figures of speech, literary tropes, and other literary elements as they support these themes in Fitzgerald’s story. Discuss how elements of Modernism also reinforce these themes. Zora Neale Hurston: “Sweat”; “How It feels to Be Colored Me” (948-61)

 

In Zora Neale Hurston’s “Sweat,” Delia Jones works diligently to support the household while her husband Sykes threatens and abuses her. In your essay, analyze and discuss the imagery and symbolism that contribute to the story’s themes about marriage, work, domestic violence, and/or gender and race. Provide literary analysis of the language, figures of speech, literary tropes, and other literary elements as they support these themes in Hurston’s story. Discuss how elements of Modernism also reinforce these themes.

OR

In Zora Neale Hurston’s “How It feels to Be Colored Me,” she discusses issues of African American identity that challenge assumptions and expectations about gender and race within the context of history and the 1920s. In your essay, analyze and discuss these themes and provide literary analysis of the language, figures of speech, literary tropes, and other literary elements as they support these themes in Hurston’s essay. Discuss how elements of Modernism also reinforce these themes.

T. S. Eliot: “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (827-33) In T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” the speaker encapsulates many of the themes of Modernism, including alienation, irony, and disillusionment as Prufrock questions how love can exist in a modern world. In your essay, analyze and discuss these issues and provide literary analysis of the language, figures of speech, literary tropes, literary elements, and poetic devices as they support these themes in Eliot’s poem. Address both the meaning and the format of the poem and go beyond explication. Discuss how elements of Modernism also reinforce these themes. Langston Hughes: “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”; “I, Too”; “The Weary Blues”; “Theme for English B”; “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” (1036-1039; 1043-1044; 816-18) In Langston Hughes’s “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” the speaker addresses African-American identity, history, and cultural heritage. In your essay, analyze and discuss these issues and how the river functions as a symbol in this narrative. Provide literary analysis of the language, figures of speech, literary tropes, literary elements, and poetic devices as they support these themes in Hughes’s poem. Address both the meaning and the format of the poem and go beyond explication. Discuss how elements of Modernism also reinforce these themes.

OR

In Langston Hughes’s “I, Too,” the speaker is initially eating “in the kitchen / When company comes” and then imagines a future where he/she is eating “at the table / When company comes.” This change of perspective addresses issues of African- American history and identity as the poem’s first and last lines read: “I, too, sing, America.” In your essay, analyze and discuss these issues and provide literary analysis of the language, figures of speech, literary tropes, literary elements, and poetic devices as they support these themes in Hughes’s poem. Address both the meaning and the format of the poem and go beyond explication. Discuss how elements of Modernism also reinforce these themes.

OR

In Langston Hughes’s “The Weary Blues,” the speaker hears “a Negro play” as he sings, for example, “In a deep song voice with a melancholy tone.” In your essay, analyze and discuss how the Blues provide a vehicle for expression and identity for both the musician and the speaker. Provide literary analysis of the language, figures of speech, literary tropes, literary elements, and poetic devices as they support these themes in Hughes’s poem. Address both the meaning and the format of the poem and go beyond explication. Discuss how elements of Modernism reinforce these themes.

OR

In Langston Hughes’s “Theme for English B,” a twenty-two-year-old college student contemplates the instructor’s directions to write an essay: “And, let that page come out of you— / Then, it will be true.” These “simple” directions prompt the speaker to consider issues of race and identity and the relationship between the writer and the audience. In your essay, analyze and discuss these themes and issues. Provide literary analysis of the language, figures of speech, literary tropes, literary elements, and poetic devices as they support these themes in Hughes’s poem. Address both the meaning and the format of the poem and go beyond explication. Discuss how elements of Modernism also reinforce these themes

OR

In Langston Hughes’s “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain,” he addresses the limitations placed on the Negro artist as illustrated in the metaphor of the “racial mountain.” In your essay, analyze and discuss these issues of race relations, creativity, and identity. Provide literary analysis of the language, figures of speech, literary tropes, and other literary elements as they support these themes in Hughes’s essay. Discuss how elements of Modernism also reinforce these themes. Ernest Hemingway: “Hills Like White Elephants” (1030-1035) In Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants,” a man and a woman are waiting for a train in northwest Spain and engage in conversation that addresses both trivial and serious matters: what to drink and how to maintain a relationship. In your essay, analyze and discuss these issues of relationships and communication. Provide literary analysis of the language, figures of speech, literary tropes, and other literary elements as they support these themes in Hemingway’s story.” Discuss

how elements of Modernism also reinforce these themes. John Steinbeck: “The Chrysanthemums” (1044-1052) In John Steinbeck’s “The Chrysanthemums,” Elisa Allen is tending to her garden in Salinas Valley, California when a traveling salesman stops at her gate in hopes of selling his repair services. This encounter then prompts Elisa to contemplate her life, marriage, and identity. In your essay, analyze and discuss these issues and consider how the chrysanthemums and the pot function as symbols for Elisa’s creativity and identity. Provide literary analysis of the language, figures of speech, literary tropes, and other literary elements as they support these themes in Steinbeck’s story.” Discuss how elements of Modernism also reinforce these themes.

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