Emerging Manifestations of the Self
As numerous theorists have observed, the USA, unlike other countries, was an idea before reality. However, even before our founding fathers’ “invention,” European settlers in the New World wrestled with questions about what it meant to be American; the issue is very much in the debate even today. Ingrained deeply in our national mythology is a firm belief ( at least theoretically) in the central importance of the individual. Colonial figures, both religious and secular, wrote extensively about the nature and scope of individual rights and duties.
**Much of the reading we’ve done shows nineteenth century writers struggling to create a vibrant, substantive nation literature, intent on defining, inventing the American identity. Write an essay of about 1400-1500 words in which you describe, explain, analyze emerging manifestations of the self in American Literature of the 1800s. This emphasis (obsession?) with the individual’s relationship to family, community, country, nature, God produced interesting results, both good and bad (self-reliance, selfishness, original sin, self-awareness, self-absorption, civil disobedience, self-righteousness, civil right, art, desertion . . .). Concentrate on the oeuvre of the individual Herman Melville!! Use his work (ie. short stories, essays, novels, poems, letters, etc . . .) to help support your paper.
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