Directions: The majority of the short stories included in Module 3 are by writers from the United States. Earlier generations of writers in the United States actively called for the creation of an “American literature” to help represent the new culture of an emerging nation; later generations often revisited this call to update or amend artistic and literary traditions to reflect changes in society. For example, in the 1830s-1840s Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau advocated for American literature to reflect the beauty and “wildness” of American landscapes. Whereas, later at the turn into the 20th century (1880 – 1900) writers advocated for regional literature to represent not only the nation but the uniqueness of each part of the country in the South, West, cities, rural areas, etc. Some modern writers (in the mid-20th century) sought to create a universal literature that would transcend national boundaries, while others asserted literature could only ever be deeply personal (the confessional movement of the 1960s).
In a literal sense, all of these approaches to literature reflect the United States at the time; however, as with a variety of cultural forms (such as music or movies) some approaches become more strongly associated with a given culture than others. Make an argument for which one of the stories by a U. S. writer included in Module 3 would best represent American culture to an outsider? Make your argument less from your personal view or personal politics and more from your reading of the craft and style of the literature itself. Clearly there is not a “right answer” to this question, but through our discussion we can challenge ourselves to read these stories not only from our own perspectives but from those of other cultures and other eras. [A review of eligible choices: Hawthorne, Poe, Oskison, London, Crane, Walker, Cofer]
Readings and Resources
- Read these selected short stories (in public domain):