American identity in the modern era
Topic: American Identity in the Modern Era
This semester we have charted the development of American Identity from the founding fathers, through the Civil War, and finally up to the beginnings of literary “Modernism”—in class we have discussed the ways in which, during the Modern period, many of the old “Enlightenment” ideas about progress and the perfectibility of human society seem no longer to apply.
Write a paper analyzing one of our Modernist texts with the aim of showing the ways in which Modern American Literature serves to represent the “fractured” Enlightenment worldview that preceded it. As we have said, a Modernist looks at the world after World War I and says “The world is broken; let’s fix it!”
Issues to consider include characters who feel “left behind” by the progress of society—think of TS Eliot’s Prufrock, Ellison’s ‘Invisible Man’, the members of the Bundren family, or Nabokov’s Professor Kinbote—how do the respective artists (Eliot, Ellison, Faulkner, Nabokov) illustrate these characters’ sense of modern isolation in their respective works? Consider topics such as: the breakdown of the old social structure, racial conflicts, the struggles to adapt to industrialization, the decline of religion, and the rise of paranoia and mental illness. Do you think your author is optimistic or pessimistic about the future of American Identity?
Once again, you must employ DIRECT QUOTES drawn from the author’s work—there is no need to summarize—instead focus on selecting and analyzing passages that illustrate aspects of Modern American Identity.