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American Literature

Write a 250-word (minimum) response to each writing prompt below. You must meet the minimum word count for each response to get full credit.Use only the assigned readings unless otherwise instructed.Your responses must include quotes from each text used to get full credit. Be sure to quote, cite, and reference from the text(s) using appropriate APA format.Choose a different author from the list below for each question. Use each author only once.A. F. Scott Fitzgerald (“Babylon Revisited”)      B. Willa Cather (“Neighbor Rosicky”)1. How would you describe the protagonist in the work of your first author?  Clearly identify three of the protagonist’s most important characteristics and supply examples that support your idea.2. Using the definitions from the course lectures, discuss how the idea of naturalism or modernism is depicted in your author’s work. For naturalism, you will be looking for ways that the characters are portrayed as victims of their society or economy.  For modernism, you will be looking for ways the text challenges traditional ideas and/or portrays the failure of the American Dream.  Give examples of the particular period you find in the story or poems.Definitions from lecture:Naturalism- An offshoot of 19th century realism.  It has the same emphasis on detailed, accurate descriptions.  However, it goes further, stressing the determining influence of social and environmental forces on individual lives.  These influences are usually not positive.  There is a sense that people are fated to live life based on their heredity, environment, and social conditions.  Characters in naturalist texts are often portrayed as victims of their society and/or economy.Modernism- A movement dated from roughly 1900-1950.  In short, modernism is about changes–changes in society and changes in literary form.  Modernist literature represents the change a traditional society experiences as it becomes modern, a transformation that may be painful.  In this time period, Americans witnessed the devastating effects of World War I, Black Friday and the subsequent stock market crash, the Great Depression, and World War II, and many people were disillusioned.  Also in this time period came Darwin’s theory of evolution, challenging traditional ideas about religion; Karl Marx’s theories on communism, challenging the current idea of government; and Sigmund Freud’s theory of the unconscious mind, challenging traditional ideas about humanity.  Many modernist writers reflect this disillusionment and confusion by questioning traditional values and beliefs and/or portraying the failure of the American Dream.  As the editors of your textbook point out, modernism is “an experience of loss” (Baym et al, 2013, p. 1847).  This loss and uncertainty is sometimes reflected in literature that might end without a true resolution, echoing the loss many felt in their lives.  The traditional “happy ending” is certainly not a staple in modernist literature.

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