English 206: American Literature II

Essay #2

Modern Literature that Takes a Stand

Dr. Tina L. Hanlon

Associate Professor of English
Ferrum College


Grading Criteria for English 206 and 207 Essays

See also:  Optional Paper on Plays

Paper No. 2. This paper assignment will help you accomplish the following learning outcomes for sophomore literature courses at Ferrum College:

  1. Read, comprehend, analyze, interpret, and evaluate primary literary texts as forms of cultural and creative expression

  2. Write about literature with unity of purpose, coherent organization, and effective use of English consistent with standard rules and ordinary conventions

  3. Demonstrate independent critical thinking

• Required length of paper: two double-spaced typed pages (about 500 words)

• Deadline: Tues., Mar. 27. Turn in the essay on paper at the beginning of class. (Be sure it is printed, stapled, with page numbered, before class begins.)

• Review the paragraph guide and general guidelines on literature papers before, during and after writing your paper (they have not been revised for this particular course but contain some useful general instructions). I would be glad to help with focusing topics, or developing outlines or drafts, any time before the paper is due. The Writing Center is also open for assistance with writing papers. Handbooks on writing about literature and samples of student essays are available in the Writing Center.

Topic: Before or after attending the session called "What Would You Stand For" at the Women's Leadership Conference, select a poem or other piece of American literature that takes a stand on an issue you would like to write about. Poems will be distributed in class that you can use for this assignment, or you can choose anything out of the anthology. Develop a thesis that analyzes the way this piece of writing presents and supports its main idea about the issue.

You can make reference to events at the Women's Leadership Conference in your paper if you want to connect it with the literature you are discussing, but this is not required.

Choose one of these works or one from the anthology, or another work of modern American literature, but you must submit a copy if your work is not on this list or in the anthology.

Maya Angelou, "Still I Rise" (online)

Marilou Awiakta

"When Earth Becomes an 'It'" (online)

"Mother Nature Sends a Pink Slip," from Selu (handout)

Bob Henry Baber, "The Stripping of Cold Knob" (handout)

e e cummings, "i sing of olaf glad and big"

Read by Chicana poet, Lorna Dee Cervantes online

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

"Bird With Two Right Wings" (online)

"Speak Out" (online)

Sam Hamill, "State of the Union 2003" (online)

See Poets.org for background on Hamill and his book of anti-war poems, and Poets Against War web site.

Patricia A. Johnson, Stain My Days Blue. Philadelphia: Ausdoh Press, 1999.

"In a Place Where" (handout)
"Somebody's Child" (handout)
"Response to a Compliment from a White Friend" (handout)

Martin Luther King, Jr., "I Have a Dream" (in anthology)

Jim Wayne Miller, "Small Farms Disappearing in Tennessee" (handout)

From Frank X Walker, Affrilachia. Lexington, KY: Old Cove Press, 2000.

"Death by Basketball" (handout)
"Fireproof" (handout)

For other anti-war poems by prominent poets, see this page at Poets Against War web site.

Poems Discussed When Dr. Mead taught the class on Mar. 29:

From Marilou Awiakta. Selu: Seeing the Corn Mother's Wisdom. Golden, CO: Fulcrum, 1993: "Mother Nature Sends a Pink Slip" (handout)

Jim Wayne Miller, "Small Farms Disappearing in Tennessee" (handout)

Karenne Woods, “Blue Mountains" and “Moving Mountains

Frank X Walker, “Son Rise” (homelessness), "Fireproof" (church burnings), “Blues Ridge” (about Martinsville mill closings), “Poetry Moments” (mentions Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston), and "Appalachia" (from Black Box)

Patricia Johnson, "Somebody’s Child" and "In a Place Where"

Played Langston poem and Zora essay from Harlem Renaissance CD collection

?Langston Hughes,  "I, Too, Sing America"

Editing: Follow the instructions for editing and proofreading your paper on the general guidelines on literature papers. Use spell check but use it carefully and do not expect a grammar or spell checker to catch all your errors, since only a human can read your sentences to make sure they have the structure you need and you have typed the right words in the right places. Leave yourself enough time to edit and proofread carefully after you have composed and printed the paper. If the paper is submitted with an excessive number of mechanical errors, I may not be able to read it all or grade it.

Documentation: You are not required to use secondary sources in this paper. Your primary source is the poem or other work you are discussing. If you quote directly from the text, give the line number(s) or page number(s) in parentheses. At the end of the paper give a complete citation for your primary source(s), using MLA documentation style. If you refer to any other sources, it is your responsibility to add complete documentation to them. That includes citing remarks from the Women's Leadership session. You can document it using the format for a lecture or address. If sources are misused or documentation is incomplete, I will not be able to grade the paper.

Be sure to read the Grading Criteria for English 206 and 207 Essays.

Don't turn in your paper without revising and editing it, asking yourself the following questions:


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