CONSIDER for discussion and further investigation:
- Look at the Phillis Wheatly selection at the Poetry Archives and read a few more of the poems there. Consider in particular: "On Being Brought From Africa To America", "To The University Of Cambridge, In New-England", and "To Maecenas".
- Wheatly (or Wheatley -- spelling varies) is widely noted as one of the first black American literary figures. To what extent does her poetic voice seem to be conditioned by either her race or her condition as a slave? Does it take the shape you might expect? Here is one perspective. What do you think?
- Note Wheatley's extensive command of classical idiom and allusion. In the poem given in the book, line 16-7 ("Thrice happy, when exalted to survey / That splendid city, crowned with endless day,") is vaguely evocative of Vergil. The address to Maecenas refers to the first of Horace's Odes ("Maecenas atavis, edite regibus"). Why is she using classical allusion so extensively?
- Note the items mentioned regarding the imperfect rhymes, and the use of the heroic couplet. This is a form you should know by now. Who else has used it? To what effect?
- Philip Freneau was one of the first firebrands of the American literary scene. His attitudes annoyed a great many powerful people. The piece here reflects only one side of his multi-faceted poetic persona. Most of you have already been through English II with me: I find a striking similarity between this poem and Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard." (1751): "Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, / And waste its sweetness on the desert air." If you do not have the book, or find it easier, however, look here. How does "The Wild Honeysuckle" echo the prevailing themes of English Romanticism? How does it differ?
- On a purely mechanical level, note that the period at the end of the second line should be a comma. The word "blow" in line 3 is virtually synonymous with "bloom".
- Compare "The Indian Burying Ground" here.
- How does this passage from Franklin's autobiography square with Christian notions of moral perfection?
- You can get the complete text of the Autobiography here.
- The passage on the witch trial invites comparison with Cotton Mather's descriptions of the trial we read earlier. How are the two similar or different? What kind of tone does Franklin achieve?
Michel-Guillaume Jean de Crèvecoeur
- Crèvecoeur lists religious indifference as among the characteristics of the American. From what you know of American history, is this a fair assessment (not of our own day, but of his)?
- What social and cultural movements do Crèvecoeur's writings seem to represent?
- Look here for the complete text of Letters from an American Farmer.
- Look at the Declaration of Independence for a moment not as a political document, but primarily as a literary product. What are its outstanding characteristics of style? What kind of cultural context does this betoken?
- Note in particular the use of rhythm in the prose. Would the phrase "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" sound nearly as good without the second "of"? If not, why not?
- You can examine Jefferson's Autobiography here.
- Theodore Roosevelt apparently referred once to Paine as a "dirty little atheist". Does this assessment seem to square with what he has to say here?
- Again, look closely at Paine's style. Is it casual? Oratorical? Do you find it persuasive?
- Check this Archive of Thomas Paine's works.
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