1. Past is prologue. Some of the texts on our syllabus refer directly to each other, but most don’t.
Nevertheless, many of our texts are responding to each other in implicit and often unintentional ways.
Choose one “early” text and one “later” text from the options listed below. Write an essay about how the
later text responds to the earlier text. How does the later text pick up the values, ideas, and/or narratives
of the earlier one? How does it carry those elements forward, and/or how does it revise or critique them?
EARLY: Winthrop, Hutchinson, Rowlandson, Occom, Wheatley,* Rowson
LATER: Walker, “Rue Morgue,” Alger, “Bartleby,” Douglass, Pym, Stowe, Ridge, Dickinson*
2. Dialect and slang. Several of our texts go out of their way to tell us that certain characters don’t speak
standard English: either they pronounce their words differently, or they use different words, or both.
Choose one or two of the texts listed below and write an essay about the characters who speak this way
in these texts. Other than their speech, what (if anything) distinguishes these characters from the
characters who speak standard English? What does the text achieve by marking their voices as nonstandard?
TEXT OPTIONS: Ragged Dick; Uncle Tom’s Cabin; Joaquín Murieta
3. Fight the power. Like many literary scholars, I have a habit of looking for protest or subversiveness in
most things that I read. I’m on the alert for moments in which the text is lodging a protest, subverting
“the system,” exposing hypocrisy, or speaking out for change. Sometimes this protest element is clearly
present (e.g., Douglass’s Narrative). Sometimes it’s subtle (e.g., Wheatley?). Sometimes it’s not there at
all (e.g., Wheatley?).
Some texts that perhaps aren’t overtly protesting the system (though they might be protesting in
some more subtle way) are listed below. Choose one or two of these texts and argue that they are, in fact,
protest literature: that they are undermining, critiquing, or protesting the status quo in some way.
Provide evidence to show what they are critiquing, and to show what exactly their critique is.
TEXT OPTIONS: Sermon on the Execution of Moses Paul; The Sugar-Cane; “Murders in the Rue Morgue”;
Ragged Dick; “Bartleby”; Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym; Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murieta;
* Choose one or more poems.
4. Religion isn’t a big part of “Bartleby” or Ragged Dick, but there are conspicuous religious moments in
both texts. Bartleby’s employer plans to go to church (p. 96), reads Jonathan Edwards (p. 106), and
makes numerous allusions to scripture (e.g., “kings and counselors” on p. 113). Ragged Dick goes to
church (ch. 17) and plans to read the Bible. Compare how religion works in the two texts: what’s the
same, what’s different? What function do these brief religious moments serve in each text? What do they
reveal about each text? How do they affect each text’s overall meaning? Your paper should discuss both
“Bartleby” and Ragged Dick.
5. Something else. I will gladly entertain pitches up to Monday, Nov. 22, by e-mail or in office hours.
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