American Literature Questions Set
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Answer the following questions in complete sentences. You should not merely answer in bullet style. Write a well-developed essay that incorporates all of the ideas in the question. The question is two-pronged.
First, discuss the idea of conformity vs. nonconformity in the works of Emerson and Thoreau. The focus of your essay should be the works that we studied by these authors. This is important. Give consideration to these things in your answer:
how the transcendentalists view man
Emerson’s concept of “man thinking” and a “foolish consistency”
what it means in their eyes to really be a “man” (think of Self-Reliance and the “different drummer” quote)
how society affects the individual
obstacles that keep a person from truly being himself
the general lesson about conformity that can be drawn from the path Thoreau wore between his house and the pond
how Thoreau defines true success
Though Whitman and Dickinson were quite different poets, both were greatly influenced by the transcendentalist movement. In the second part of your essay, explain this transcendentalist influence in Whitman and Dickinson, using at least four of the poems listed in your discussion. Ask yourself, what “tenet” of transcendentalism does each one express?
“Song of Myself #1” – Consider the poem as a whole, but also think specifically of these lines:
Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten,
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy.
“When I Heard the Learned Astronomer”
“Much Madness Is Divinest Sense”
“I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed”
“Some Keep the Sabbath Going to Church”