American Civilization

April 16, 2009

2nd Paper Prompt

Filed under: PSAs — equiano @ 8:01 pm

Paper #2, American Studies 1B, Spring 2009

Professors Connelly, Daly, Georges

Paper #2, worth 20% of your course grade, is due April 23, 2009, at 12 noon in the lecture hall.  Choose one of the prompts below.  Articulate a coherent thesis—i.e., a non-trivial claim based on your analysis of the specific material referred to in the prompt—and substantiate it with well-organized, accurate, and richly detailed references to course material.

The paper must be double-spaced with normal margins.  Use an easily readable font of approximately this size (Palatino 12-point).  The paper should be four to five (4-5) pages long, or a minimum of 1000 words.  We do not accept emailed or faxed papers.  

Your own thinking should constitute the core of the essay, but you are permitted to use outside resources to support your analysis IF they are meticulously cited following MLA guidelines.  Citations of scholarly articles may be helpful, but you may not cite sources like Wikipedia, Sparknotes, and Cliff Notes; if you have questions about the appropriateness of any sources, talk to your seminar instructor or a university librarian.


Write an essay which explores the contours of modernity through the characteristics and experiences of two of the following literary protagonists: Yank, from O’Neill’s Hairy Ape; Delia Jones, from Hurston’s “Sweat;” Brigid O’Shaunessy, from Hammett’s Maltese Falcon, and Walter Younger, from Hansberry’s Raisin in the Sun. You must articulate a thesis which connects or relates the characters in some substantive way, and you must ground your discussion in a close reading and analysis of the texts, and in an historical understanding of modernity.  

What does it mean to be an America patriot? Does being patriotic imply that American citizens cannot publicly criticize national policies, systems, or culture? Are American citizens who seek to overthrow what they perceive as unjust political, economic, religious, or cultural institutions unpatriotic? Is the United States government ever justified in trampling on the civil liberties of Americans? Formulate a definition of patriotism and address these questions in terms of the issues and social conditions that arose in American society during the early Cold War period. Incorporate into your answer contextual material from Norton, analyses from the lectures, and from your own ideas about corresponding readings/films on the Cold War culture and McCarthyism.

Both Dashiell Hammett and Theodor Adorno focus on the condition of modernity in the opening decades of the 20th century. Compare and contrast their ideas, paying particular attention to the issue of the effects of this phase of capitalism on social relations. You may find it useful to consider “-izations”: modernization, standardization, routinization, etc.



  1. Thank you 🙂

    Comment by Jillian — April 16, 2009 @ 8:54 pm | Reply

  2. Hey professor, even if some people do not bring it, can we please discuss “Raisin in the Sun” next seminar? I feel like those who actually read and brought the book are deprived of valuable information just because some people do not bring it.

    Comment by Paul — April 18, 2009 @ 8:42 pm | Reply

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