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The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Fifth Edition
Paul Lauter, General Editor
Sample Assignments

Paper Topic: Communities of Men
Lois Leveen, April 26, 2001

Description of assignment:
Here is a paper topic, one of several options available to students, in my American Fiction to 1900 course: 'Rip Van Winkle,' 'Bartleby the Scrivener,' and 'The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky,' all depict male characters who inhabit or wish to inhabit communities without women. Choosing TWO of these stories, write a paper analyzing what they reveal about such communities. Do the overall representations of male-only communities contest the perception individual male characters have about such communities? Is the attitude toward such communities consistent among the stories you have chosen? If not, what differences are there and what do these differences indicate?

Description of the course in which the assignment was used:
60 student lecture course for UCLA English majors on American Fiction to 1900. The course fulfilled a pre-1900 chronological breadth requirement for the major.

Course coverage:
19th Century (Survey)

What pedagogical goals do you think this assignment achieves:
Students wrote only one paper for the course (other graded work included midterm and final exams -- an unfortunate necessity to make sure students do the reading -- and group presentation of Native American tales). All the papers required comparitive analyses of 2 works we had read. With this particular topic, I wanted students to think about gender in terms of masculinity, and to use gender analysis to complicate the old standby of 'individual versus community.'

Assignment type:
Short Papers

Relevant URLs:
None listed.

Constructions of masculinity

Related authors and groups:
Stephen Crane
Washington Irving
Herman Melville