American Literature

Why is it that they (the characters in The Making of Americans)—or rather we (our society)—can accept uncertainty and even complete mystification in some art or entertainment experiences but not in others?

Can we take pleasure in adventures such as this, adventures into prose and poetry that seem to escape the usual chore of making sense and being clear?

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Gertrude Stein – Objects: Part 1 Options Menu: Forum
In “Objects” Stein explores describing everyday items. This seems like a simple enough task, right? For this discussion board, I would like you to describe one item that you own from this list (in your post do not say what you are describing):

1. smart phone

2.car

3. smart watch

4. laptop/computer

5. American Literature textbook

6. book bag

7. scissors

8. water bottle

9. a pair of shoes

10.an object of your choosing

Here’s the catch: you have to describe it to someone who has never seen it.

Good luck!

P.S. As Gertrude Stein famously said, “A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.” What do you think she meant by that?

P.S.S. Just for fun. Try to guess what other classmates are describing.

P.S.S.S. Don’t forget. Do not mention what you’re describing.

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Gertrude Stein – Objects Part 2: Options Menu: Forum
What is the meaning of “Objects?”

View Picasso’s cubist painting Seated Man. In what ways might Stein’s poem reflect the type of image Picasso created? Compare and contrast the picture with one of Stein’s poems.

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Zora Neal Hurston – Sweat Options Menu: Forum
What is Delia’s worst phobia?

Why does Sykes declare that Delia is a hypocrite? Why does this accusation not seem fair given the source?

Note the names of the figures who hang out at Joe Clarke’s porch: Joe Lindsay, Jim Merchant, Walter Thomas, and Moss. How might these names be symbolic? How does their dialogue help characterize Delia? How does their dialogue help characterize Sykes?

Hurston’s stories (like Mark Twain’s) are known for their use of phonetic, regional dialect, in which character’s accents and pronunciations are reproduced phonetically. Did this add or take away from the story for you? Why?

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Zora Neal Hurston – How It Feels to Be Colored Me Options Menu: Forum
The NAAL editors say that Hurston “rejected the idea that a black writer’s chief concern should be how blacks were being portrayed to the white reader. She did not write to ‘uplift her race,’ either; because in her view it was already uplifted, she (like Claude McKay) was not embarrassed to present her characters a mixtures of good and bad, strong and weak.” What do you think of this approach?

What are readers meant to take away from each of these two pieces(…Colored Me & Sweat)?

In what ways are these Hurston texts — and, in fact, some of the other texts we’ve been reading — considered to be “modern?” Based on the texts we’ve read in this 1914-1945 “unit,” what is your working definition of “modernism?”

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William Faulkner – A Rose for Emily Options Menu: Forum
What is important about the title of the short story, “A Rose for Emily”? What are the multiple meanings for the “rose”?

How essential is the setting to the story? Could the story have taken place anywhere else?

Do you find the characters likable? Would you want to meet the characters?

What makes Emily Grierson such an enigma to her neighbors? What is she hiding from them, literally as well as figuratively?

Does the story end with a smoking gun that ultimately explains Emily’s behaviors, or with a red herring that provides more questions than answers?

Is Emily crazy, or do her actions instead reflect on the community that raised her?

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William Faulkner – Barn Burning Options Menu: Forum
Where does Abner Snopes’s rage come from? A glitch in his personality? A reactionary protest against the inequities in the class system that have destined him to a dead-end life as a sharecropper? An existential agony of which he himself is only dimly aware?

Faulkner gives us little insight into Abner’s motivation, even going so far as to tell the story largely through the perspective of a young child who can’t possibly fathom why Abner behaves as he does. Is Faulkner hiding something from us as readers, or is he underscoring the primal, inexplicable nature of Abner’s rage?

Examine the boy’s “interior monologues,” the italicized parts of the story. What do these tell us about the boy, about others, about Faulkner’s style(s) of narration?

What is the role of women in the text? What about single/independent women? What about the role of wife and mother?

Examine the references to the boy’s sisters and the places where his mother and aunt appear in the story. How and why does Faulkner describe these women the way he does?

What are we “to take” from this story? What is the central theme or message? Are there other themes or messages as well?

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Langston Hughs: Part 1 Options Menu: Forum
Mulatto

Discuss the significance of the word ‘mulatto’ in relation to Langston Hughes’ life and works.

What leads to the birth of a Mulatto boy? What is the attitude of the Mulatto’s white father toward him?

Theme for English B

What does Hughes mean by the lines, “You are white— / yet a part of me, as I am a part of you. / That’s American”?

The Weary Blues

Hughes often said that he came down with frequent cases of the ‘Blues.’ Explain what the blues are and what, if anything, Hughes felt was the remedy for this illness.

Note on Commercial Theatre

What is Hughes protesting?

The Negro Speaks of Rivers

Four rivers are named: the Euphrates, the Congo, the Nile, and the Mississippi. What special significance do these four rivers have in terms of creating the world of the poem? What historical or cultural worlds do they help us imagine? How is the history of humanity related to the history of an individual man in this poem?

With that in mind, what do you think the speaker means by “My soul has grown deep like the rivers”?

I, Too

In “I, Too,” what do you think the speaker means by “I am the darker brother”?

Why is the speaker sent to the kitchen?

Why will they be “ashamed”?

In your opinion, what is the message being sent in this poem?

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Langston Hughes: Part 2 Options Menu: Forum
Discuss whether you believe Hughes’ was a political poet. Cite examples of his life and works to support your argument.

Hughes often incorporated other art forms into his poetry. Give an example of this and explain how the inclusion of other forms affected Langston’s verse.

Why was Hughes considered a Blues poet?

What is the significance of the period in which Hughes lived in relation to his writing?

What characteristics of Modernism do you see in Hughes’ poetry

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