American Fiction
Write an essay that asks a question about “American Fiction,” and that uses two texts we have read for class to develop and answer that question. For instance, you might want to examine how two of the authors we have read use humor, and whether such humor advances or undercuts their sense of national literature. You might argue, for instance, that Irving’s use of humor in his portrayal of Rip Van Winkle is at cross-purposes with Twain’s descriptions of the Duke and Dauphin, in that one insists on an ignorance that is culturally productive, the other on ignorance as a form of cunning that is culturally destructive. That’s a contestable claim, i.e. one that readers may disagree with and which you will need to set up and develop carefully in the course of your paper. Make an argument for the way in which the texts are in dialogue with each other. That dialogue should be thematic and methodological: you should ask yourself what problems these texts address, and how these texts address those problems. Think about the way these two factors relate to each other – do the respective prose styles support or contradict the themes expressed – how do message and method relate?

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