literature discussion

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Choose only one of the prompts below and respond in two to three well-developed paragraphs.

[Gentle Reminder: Please treat Discussion Post writing assignments as examples of your ‘Public Writing’: “Well-developed paragraphs” are focused and organized around a main idea/point, and are supported/illustrated by explanations, quotes from the text, etc. Well-written paragraphs also follow the basic rules of grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling–I’m just saying! After all, this is a sophmore-level college class . . . all of your ‘Public Writing,’ here and elsewhere, needs to be clearly organized and well-expressed.]

1. Choose a quote or passage from any of the assigned readings (Twain, Chesnutt, Chopin, James, Wharton, Yezierska) to discuss. How does this quote/passage exemplify or illustrate the theme(s) expressed, or the ‘argument’ made by the author? How does the selected quote/passage relate to Regional or Social Realism? And/or how does this quote/passage resonate today?

2. In Charles Chesnutt’s “Goophered Grapevine,” how is Uncle Julius a “trickster”? (See Glossary/Terms) Why does he try to convince the Northerner from Ohio who’s interested in buying the run-down plantation that its vineyard is “goophered”?

3. Discuss how Desiree, in Kate Chopin’s “Desiree’s Baby,” comes to the realization that her child is not “white.” Consider the changes in Armand’s behavior, the reaction of Madame Valmonde, the servants, etc. What do you think Chopin’s overall ‘argument’ is in this short story?

4. In Henry James’s Daisy Miller, Daisy is an interesting character; a young American woman left ‘to her own devices’ in a society steeped in traditional old-world values . . . Do you think Daisy was treated fairly by her fellow American expatriots? To what extent is Daisy responsible for her own fate, and to what extent is she an innocent? Discuss Daisy’s character in detail. Did you find her a sympathetic character, or an irritating one? How is she “American”? What points of European civilization (The ‘Old World’ vs the ‘New World’) does she fail to understand?

5. Henry James was a mentor and close friend to the younger Edith Wharton. Wharton’s “Roman Fever,” written more than a generation later, revisits settings/themes explored by James in Daisy Miller– with uber wealthy Americans traveling in Europe [Rome], and the “Roman Fever” Daisy Miller eventually succumbed to [literally, and maybe figuratively(?)]. ‘Roman Fever’ was a euphemism for the mosquito-borne and often deadly disease, malaria. How does Wharton work ‘Roman Fever’ into the plot of her short story–literally, and symbolically?

6. Anzia Yezierska’s short stories of “Social Realism” provide a contrasting view of the ‘American Identity’ to James’s and Wharton’s–the ‘Outsider’ looking in, you might say. Discuss how the ‘American Dream’ is imagined by the characters in either of the assigned stories by Yezierska: “The Lost Beautifulness” or “The Fat of the Land.” How do the main characters imagine and/or realize the ‘Dream’? What are their motivations? Are the goals of Hanneh Heyyah/Hanneh Breineh similar? Are the goals and obstacles they faced similar to obstacles faced by immigrants today? (Questions are only prompts–feel free to provide an original response to viewpoint provided by the texts.)

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