Literary Paper

Topic 1
The Jungle was one of the few works of art in American history to have a substantial and immediate impact on society. In this documented essay, research the author as well as the working conditions in the Chicago stockyards at the time the novel was written. Discuss the impact this novel had on society and the changes that it brought about in the working conditions in the stockyards.

Topic 2
In “The Story of an Hour” Kate Chopin addresses many of the concerns that are central to feminism, including the ideas that a woman has a unique identify distinct from the identity of her husband. This would include the woman’s right to identify and experience her own interests. In this documented essay, research the woman’s movement at the turn of the century and the beginnings of feminism. Show how this movement influenced Chopin in the story’s themes and main character.

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Topic 3
“Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” was written in 1951 almost sixty years after Chopin wrote “The Story of an Hour.” Even though the women’s movement of the early part of the century brought women the right to vote, even in the 1950s women had fewer options in terms of careers and family planning. Women were not financially independent even though they had held jobs and helped replace men during the war. In the poem, the reader gets a glimpse into the lives of women in the 1950s who are dissatisfied with their lives. The 1950s were a time between the Women’s Sufferage Movement at the turn of the century and the Feminist Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Research what life was like for women during this decade and show how this life is reflected in the poem “Aunt Jennifer’s TIgers.”

Topic 4
Kenneth Fearing wrote poetry within what has been termed the “Proletarian Poets” movement that reached its zenith during the Great Depression in the 1930s. What were some of the economic conditions during the Depression that caused many people to lose hope even as they lost their jobs (almost 25% unemployment rate nationally)? Bring your historical research into the research paper and choose three poems of Fearing’s that explore the issue of the economically disadvantaged in America.

Topic 5
Langston Hughes was a poet, writer, and playwright. He became a crucial voice during the Harlem Renaissance, an African American literary movement of the 1920s and 1930s. His work celebrates the lives of black people and speaks out against their struggles. Research life in American during this time period and the birth of the Harlem Renaissance. Research Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance and show how Hughes’ poetry was a reflection of the period in which he lived.

Topic 6
Alice Walker, through her poems, novels, and short stories, has created a powerful voice which reflects the perspective of down-trodden women who struggle to lead their rather unfortunate lives. Her work reflects her concern with racial, sexual, and political issues, most noticeably with black woman’s struggle to survive. She coined the term “Womanism” to describe this point of view. Walker’s work was influenced by her Southern background and the accident that cost her sight in her right eye at the age of 8. Research Walker’s Southern background and her definition of “Womanism”. Show how these influences are reflected in her work. You can choose to focus one on work, such as The Color Purple, or use her poems or short stories in your discussion.

Topic 7
Like Alice Walker, Maya Angelou was a well-known black feminist whose poems and novels reflect her struggles against racism, sexism, and adversity to rise above these obstacles and live life to the fullest. Her poem and novel of the same name “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” evoke a feeling of stifled hopes. Research Maya Angelou difficult childhood and the historical context of her works during the Civil Rights Era. Choose two or three of her poems or the autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and relate her works to her life and times.

Topic 8
“Youngstown” is about the demise of the blue-collar America. Youngstown, Ohio, was once known as the steel center of American Manufacturing Belt. In this song, Springsteen is singing about what life was like in the steel mills after the Vietnam War. The demise of Youngstown began in 1977 with the crisis of the steel industry. “Big boys did what Hitler couldn’t do” – Springsteen says in the song–mismanagement and bad business practices led several companies into bankruptcy, and result was the collapse of the American working class. For this topic, you will be researching the historical context of the song. Although the song was not produced until 1995, Springsteen is singing about a time when steel was king and Youngstown, Ohio was a booming city. The traces the demise of steel manufacturing and the effect this had on the working class. Research the history of the steel industry in the United States, and its affect on towns such as Youngstown. Analyze the lyrics of “Youngstown” as a reflection of the demise of the steel industry in the 1970s and how that event is being played out today, especially with the 2106 election.

Topic 9
The first version of “Working Man Blues” was produced by Merle Haggard in 1969. Haggard had spent time as a blue collar worker digging ditches. “Working Man Blues” was Haggard’s tribute to his fans and his roots. Bob Dylan did an extended version of this song as a tribute to Merle Haggard. The song was included in Dylan’s album, Modern Times. Modern Times is an allusion to a Charlie Chaplin film made in 1936 which showed the rough life of factory workers in America. Like Youngstown, this song talks about the rough life of the factory worker. Research the growth of the working class in America after the Industrial Revolution and show how this song reflects hardships of a blue collar worker at that time.

Topic 10
Beyoncé’s music video is a homage to the black South. The video is set in Louisiana, a slave port where many cultures came together and where Hurricane Katrina clearly illustrated the sharp division that still exists between races in our country. The video brings up many social issues such as black feminism, LBGT rights, Black Lives Matter and more. For this topic, you will need to focus your research one or two of the reoccurring themes in the video and research the historical context of that event. For example, you could research Katrina, black feminism, Black Lives Matter and then show how the song’s lyrics and the visuals are influenced by those events.

These are the requirements:

Find at least four secondary sources (the text itself is a primary source) related to your topic. You can use valid website as two of these sources. The other two sources must come from the electronic databases. You can use Wikipedia, SparkNotes, Cliff Notes, etc as background only or to help you get ideas to develop with the other research. These do not count as one of the four required sources. You will need at least one source from a history site or article to get historical background information.

Based on your research, write an essay on one of the topics listed above. To do this, you will need to briefly SUMMARIZE your story or poem, ANALYZE its themes, and DISCUSS how the historical research you did relates to the story or poem’s meaning.

Your thesis should make a claim that answers the question asked and connects the story to its historical context and the body of your paper will substantiate that claim. The research you’ve done will be there to INFORM what you’re saying, but you will need to CITE any source you quote or paraphrase. Even if you paraphrase the ideas expressed in your source, you need to give the author credit for those ideas. It is your responsibility to document these sources correctly (see the MLA link in Library tutorial posted in Canvas). The proof of your research will ALSO be present in your essay’s sophistication and knowledge.

Again, your essay must have a thesis that relevantly connects the story to its historical context and to the essay topic. The body of the paper will substantiate that connection by explaining one or more of the story or poems elements (plot, characters, setting, theme, language) to your research. For example, if you’re writing an historical analysis of “Barn Burning” your thesis will not say that the piece is a story about childhood innocence, but would instead say that Abner serves an example of the consequences of economic pressures in the “new South.” The body of the paper, obviously, would connect the story to what was happening in the American South in the 1930s, yet the essay is still an analysis of literature, the literary elements used to develop the themes.

All of your evidence must relate to your thesis. Go through the work carefully and slowly and discuss it in terms of the historical context. You may talk about the plot, characters, setting, themes, language (fiction and drama have very similar elements) but you will connect these elements to your strategy.

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