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Gist of the prompt:

Focus on one specific aspect of one text. Using textual evidence, develop an argument that supports your thesis. Analyze rather than summarize. Cite only the text being analyzed. 3-4 pages MLA.

Suggested topics (others are a possibility but I have to email them to the TA):

1. Discuss the theme of identity in Twain’s “Pudd’nhead Wilson”, Chestnutt’s “The Wife of his Youth”, or Chopin’s “Désirée’s Baby”. How is identity determined in the text? To what extent is a character’s identity fixed or not fixed? What role does society play in forming a character’s identity?

2. Choose one of the short stories by Kate Chopin (“The Story of an Hour”, “Désirée’s Baby”, and “The Storm”) or Charlotte Perkins Gilman (“The Yellow Wallpaper”) and discuss how marriage is depicted in the story. What does the language suggest about the author’s views on marriage? How is sexuality represented in relation to marriage? What role does illness (physical or mental) play in the text?

3. Select any text that we have read so far this semester. In what ways can the text be read as a commentary on America? For example, how are Americans portrayed in “Daisy Miller”? How is American history critiqued in “The Souls of Black Folk”?

4. In many of these texts, characters conform to cultural norms, even when biased against themselves or others they care about. (Think of Winterbourne, Uncle Julius, Roxy, etc.) To what extent do the characters question these norms? Do they manipulate the norms to their own advantage? How does the author grapple (or not) with this paradox?

5. Stephen Crane and Jack London showcase characters at odds with nature. Do these authors seem to be making a statement about humankind, in general, or about specific individuals? Does either author advocate for a particular response to nature? To what extent are characteristics of the divine attributed to these natural forces?

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