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Your final exam in this course will take place on Thursday, December 12th from 8:00 AM to 10:00AM in our normal classroom. There will be two sections to the exam: an in-class essay selected from the list below and quotation identifications. You must prepare an exam card to assist you in writing your essay: quotations are expected. Follow these guidelines in designing your card:

  • The card may be no bigger than 5" x 8".
  • Your name must appear in the upper right corner of the card (with a horizontal orientation so that the longest side is at top).
  • A clear space at the top left corner should be left blank for stapling.
  • You may record quotes on the card, but each quote on the card needs to appear in the essay. Listing other quotes in an attempt to have the answers to the ID section is unacceptable. Quotes are expected in the essay since you can prepare ahead of time.
  • You may not write out the essay on the card, but you may outline the key points.
  • Failure to follow these directions will result in the card not being allowed during the exam.
  • I will inspect the card before the exam starts. You may wish to show up early to get my approval.

Essay Options for Final Exam

1. The early nineteenth-century period of American literature saw the rise of political and social discussion, satire, and disdain of government.  Find at least three examples from different authors to illustrate their disenchantment with sociopolitical issues and use your knowledge of each author to explain their gripes.

2. As the first European to encounter the Americas, Christopher Columbus embodies the introduction of European peoples and cultures into the Western Hemisphere.  This pivotal historical moment has since served as moral mirror for citizens of the United States, reflecting their feelings and concerns about the origins of their national identity.  Using Columbus, Washington Irving, and Whitman as your primary sources, identify at least two attitudes about Columbus that reflect upon the character of the United States and offer an explanation of what cultural forces helped shape those attitudes.

3. Along with issues about race, freedom, and egalitarianism, gender issues offer a rich subtext for readings in the course.  From overt calls for gender equality to spirited discussions of traditional and transgressive gender norms, the question of what it means to be male and female in America to different groups remained a constant struggle.  Using at least three texts, analyze different attitudes about the genders and argue what these attitudes suggest about the cultural values they represent.  You may choose to talk about both genders or focus on either male or female roles.

4. While the American Revolution literally declared the United States an independent entity, the writers of the nineteenth century helped to articulate an American attitude about meritocracy, personal independence, self-reliance, and non-conformity in political, social, and even literary pursuits.  Using at least three authors, argue what it means to be an individual in America and how that attitude evolved.

5. The early nineteenth century saw the rise of transcendentalism, particularly in the works of Emerson and Thoreau.  What precisely does transcendentalism transcend? Give examples that illustrate how their writings are able to make universal judgments while remaining isolated from social, cultural, and political struggles.


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