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Social Issues in Literature

Social Issues in Literature

When we read literature, we can’t help but notice how the lives of the characters are different from the lives that we lead. Perhaps the novel or story was written during a different time period, or in a different country. Maybe we can’t even imagine the lives we’re reading about, or maybe it seems so familiar to us it’s like the book is talking about our lives.

One way to talk about the differences or similarities between our lives and the lives of these characters is to talk about how social issues are portrayed in the texts – issues like love, money, marriage, parenting, race, gender. For your paper, you’ll need to engage with one social issue found in a piece we’ve read so far this semester and discuss it both within its original context and within your experiences in our modern world.

Your paper should:

· Make use of quotations and be thoroughly engaged with the text.

  • Show that you have an understanding of how this issue impacts the characters: how is it discussed? What sort of consequences does it have within their community, family, etc.? You may need to focus your attention on a couple of well-chosen examples so you don’t overwhelm yourself or your paper.
  • Question how the author feels about this issue. How does s/he portray it? Does s/he seem to agree with the prevailing notions of her day? How does s/he enforce or undermine standard practices or beliefs?
  • Explore how this issue impacts you and your life. Or, if you’d rather not write a personal paper, explore how you see this issue dealt with in 2018. Has anything changed since the time when your piece was written or when it takes place? What’s different? What’s still the same? How do we negotiate the sometimes tricky issues of social acceptability?
  • Be well structured and organized with a strong introduction and conclusion, good topic sentences at the beginning of paragraphs, and a clear flow.

Papers Should Be: 2-4 pages, single spaced (roughly 500-1,000 words, though more is okay). Be sure to proofread!

Some of the readings we did in class for you to pick from:

-Mark Twain, “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” (13)

– William Dean Howells, “Editha” (43)

– Stephen Crane, “An Episode of War” (295)

-Charles Chesnutt, “The Sheriff’s Children” (179)

– Paul Lawrence Dunbar, “Sympathy,” “We Wear the Mask

-Wallace Stevens, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” (463), “The Idea of Order at Key West” (467)

– William Carlos Williams, “Spring and All” (474), “The Red Wheelbarrow” (477), “This is Just to Say” (479), “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus”


Last Updated on March 7, 2019

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