American History

Choose one (1) of the following topics below. Read each topic carefully before choosing. Choose the one that is most interesting to you and for which you think you can give the most thorough answer. Note: These are topics, not arguments. You will need to create your own unique thesis and argument for your essay. Treat them as inspiration for your own thinking and analysis.

Interpret and analyze seminar readings from your interpretations, create a claim (thesis) and argument about your chosen topic that will take a stand in addressing your chosen topic; support your answer with specific details and quotes from Seminar readings; demonstrate that you can interpret and analyze seminar readings based on the historical and cultural contexts we’ve studied in Lecture.

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Compose a formal, university-level essay, with thesis, reasoning, and evidence. Organize your essay in such a way to communicatewith the reader (assume the reader is anyone taking American Cultures with you this semester and your professors). SUGGESTION: Try to avoid 5-paragraph essays if at all possible (it is not good writing and will actually inhibit you from writing a good essay).

Cite at least four of the assigned primary texts from Seminars 10-18 to build your argument. Include citations that use the author’s last name and page number in the reader in parentheses (see below for example of how to cite seminar readings). Citations are required for all paraphrases, references to ideas, and direct quotes that come from seminar readings.

Use concepts, history, people, theories, etc., from lectures & Foner as necessary to support and enrich your analysis and argument as needed. Cite fully both lectures and Foner. But note that your primary focus is the interpretation of seminar readings.

Questions (Pick One):

Rebellion plays a contested role in America, depending on who is doing it and to what end. Our nation is founded upon a spirit of rebellion against the Old World of Europe, and independence is upheld as a key value in our culture. However, assimilation, patriotism, and social and cultural conservatism have all dictated what gets framed as a rebellion and how that rebellion is received. In the years between World War I and the early Cold War, numerous countercultures emerged, such as women and queers in the 1920s, the Cultural Front during the Depression, The Lost Generation, the Beat Generation, Pachucos/Pachucas, and hepcats. How has the literature we have read treated the topic of rebellion? What forms do rebellion take and what purposes do they serve? What role does rebellion play in forming individual and/or group identities? How successful are these various rebellions in creating justice and/or re-shaping the status quo?

The German term “bildungsroman” refers to a genre of literature that reflects stories about the “coming of age.” They are stories that feature a protagonist in search for the answers to the questions of life by seeking all the experience related to the world. The prevailing idea for these protagonists and writers is that experience leads to meaning and clarity of purpose. This term is usually applied to novels, but we can think of short stories and even poetry doing this kind of “coming of age” inquiry work. Write an essay articulating how four of the pieces we read from the selections of writers above demonstrate the moral and psychological growth of the protagonist or writer. How do the writers and/or protagonist in these works negotiate conflicts between American values and society? How do they resolve or propose to resolve the repeated cultural and social clashes on their way to meet their desires and needs?

It is common today to hear people talk about “resilience” and “grit.” We often use these terms to blame victims and oppressed people for not ‘bucking up’ or for being ‘weak’ or ‘dependent. But when we look at the period of time roughly between 1910 and 1960, Americans underwent a shocking range of difficulties and upheavals and traumas, and they constantly rose to their circumstances and faced them with strength and courage. Look at how various individuals and groups of Americans faced troubles, oppressions, violence, disease, poverty, and injustice. What cultural and psychological resources did they rely on to see them through these difficulties? Are there cultural resources that Americans of all kinds can draw on to survive and overcome?

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