What Should American Literature Be And Do?


Throughout this entire course you have been reading works that tackle a cluster of related questions: What does it mean to be an American? How should Americans write? What should American literature focus on? Now it is your turn to address this topic.

Write a 1,050- to 1,400-word synthesizing paper in which you discuss what role American literature should play in the 21st century. Answer these two interwoven questions: What should American literature be, and what should American literature do?

Include the following:

  • Illustrate your points with examples from contemporary literary works. These do not have to be examples of how literature is succeeding; you may provide examples of how American literature is failing to respond to key social needs.
  • You may focus this question as tightly as you wish; for example, on what American literature should be in order to do a particular thing or to accomplish a particular goal. You may also imagine a specific context for your answer: perhaps speaking on behalf of a particular group or organization.
  • Make sense of what American literature is now. Take into account how contemporary literature already responds to social trends and existing literary movements.
  • When discussing what American literature should be, make sure you address how it should be written. Is there a style that is most American? Should American authors write a certain way?
  • When discussing what American literature should do, consider the question broadly. This might include things like what goals American authors should have, what values they should represent in their work, and what are their goals? (For example, many skilled writers work in advertising: is selling something a valid goal for American writers?)
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