compose an original argument about in response to one of the following prompts.
1. W.E.B. Du Bois’s concept of double consciousness, as theorized in “Of Our Spiritual Strivings,” has long been seen as a foundational theory of African American identity in the United
States. Using either two full-length African American works from the second part of the course (Hurston, Wright, Rankine), or one full-length work and two shorter works created by African American
artists (poems or blues lyrics), make an argument about the extent to which Du Bois’s effectively encompasses and explains African American experience. You might consider: how have black writers
modified, adapted, or expanded the concept of double consciousness? Do black writers show how the concept was once valid but might no longer be valid? Have black writers depicted black experience
in ways that might challenge the theory of double consciousness?
2. Native Son and Their Eyes Were Watching God are often seen as diametrically opposed novels. Wright and Hurston were critical of each other’s writing, and critics have long read that rivalry
into the two most famous African American novels of the twentieth century. Wright’s novel has often been thought of as a militant and politically sophisticated novel, effective at creating outrage
over racism and economic injustice but more narrow as a work of art. Their Eyes Were Watching God has been seen as an apolitical novel of superior aesthetic quality. Wright’s novel has been seen as
relatively uninterested in human interiority and personal issues, while Hurston’s has been seen as relatively uninterested in social or political issues. Is this a fair assessment? Make an argument
that either demonstrates the validity and importance of this distinction, or that suggests how else these two novels might relate to each other. Things to consider: how might the characterizations
of Janie and Bigger resemble each other? Do Wright and Hurston share any assumptions about race, gender, and power in the United States? What differences besides the ones recounted above might
distinguish the two texts?
3. The Great Depression and the Cold War were two moments in which specific social and political changes in U.S. society affected the production of American literature. Using a total of four
short literary works from the 1930s (Hughes, Steinbeck, Algren, Le Sueur) and the Cold War era (Plath, Lowell, Berryman), make an argument that explains the similarities and/or differences in how
writers of the Great Depression and the Cold War eras responded to their respective political and social climates. Consider the different political issues at play in the 1930s as opposed to the
1950s-1960s, as well as the similar yet different ways in which writers from both eras went about the work of examining those issues in their literature.
4. Ann Sexton’s Transformations and Claudia Rankine’s Citizen are not only two of the most influential volumes of poetry published in America in the past fifty years, they’re also volumes that
share a fair amount of thematic concerns. Both address the experiences of women in the United States, and both seek to define and advocate certain kinds of feminist cultural and political
sensibilities. However, both volumes also diverge in how they understand women’s experiences and sociopolitical needs, and both volumes use very different formal and stylistic strategies to convey
those needs to the reader. Using a detailed analysis of both works, make an argument that explains the fundamental points of contention/difference and/or accord/similarity between these two.