Writers and Their Works

Your first writing assignment is to select a topic.


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The first step in this assignment is to select one of the authors we’ll be covering in class this term.  I’ve listed all the writers, the works we’ll be covering in class, and the writer’s primary topics and style below.


Once you’ve selected the author, you’ll be doing a close reading of a work by that writer – a work that we didn’t cover in class.


Your research paper will, ultimately, cover the independent reading from cultural, biographical and/or formalist perspectives.





Here’s a list of our authors, our reading selections, and authorial information:

  • William Bradford – The governor of the Puritans in the New World for 30 years, this writer describe the Puritans and set the standard for their living. We will be reading excerpts from his journal, “Of Plymouth Plantation.”  You may do the same.
  • Mary Rowlandson – Captured by Indians, Rowlandson wrote the first captive narrative. We’ll be reading her only work – the narration of her captivity.  You may draw from another captive narrative for your paper if you wish.
  • Jonathan Edwards – The founder of the Puritans’ Great Awakening, this minister wrote essays and sermons. We’ll be reading “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”
  • Ann Bradstreet – She was the first published poet of the New World. We’ll be reading “The Prologue” and several of her tributes to children – alive and dead.
  • Thomas Jefferson – A major figure in America’s founding, he was a statesman, politician, inventor, farmer, musician, educator and philosopher. We’ll be reading the Declaration of Independence and his Query on Religion.
  • Thomas Paine — America’s first paid propagandist, Paine inspired colonists to fight.  We’ll be reading “Commonsense.”
  • Phillis Wheatley – Wheatley was a slave who became a major colonial intellectual. We’ll be reading “On Being Brought from Africa to America,” “To the University of Cambridge in New England,” and “On Virtue.”
  • Washington Irving – founder of the American short story, Irving gave America it’s first fairytales. We’ll be reading “Rip Van Winkle.”
  • James Fenimore Cooper – Cooper wrote long adventures of life on the frontier and created the American hero. We’ll be reading an excerpt from “The Deerslayer.” You may read another excerpt.
  • Edgar Allan Poe – Poe was the father of American Gothic, the father of the modern psychological horror story, the father of the modern detective story, etc. Death, duality and women obsessed him.  We’ll be reading “The Raven,” “Annabel Lee” and “Fall of the House of Usher.” We’ll also be talking about “The Philosophy of Composition.”
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson – Emerson was the father of Transcendentalism. We’ll be looking a excerpts of his writing.  You may do the same.
  • Henry David Thoreau — A disciple of Emerson, Thoreau is most famous for his work “Walden.”  We’ll be looking a excerpts of his writing.  You may do the same.
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – Longfellow was loved during his lifetime for being “The American Poet,” although Poe and Twain thought Longfellow was a horrible writer. We’ll be reading “Paul Revere’s Ride.”
  • Frederick Douglass – America’s most famous abolitionist, Douglass escaped slavery and sought expanded rights for women and African Americans. We’ll be reading excerpts from his Autobiography. You may do the same.
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne – Hawthorne is famous for his portrayal of his Puritan ancestors and his accessible short stories. We’ll be discussing The Scarlet Letter and reading “Young Goodman Brown.”
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe – Stowe was an abolitionist who brought her anti-slavery cause to light through Uncle Tom’s Cabin. We’ll be reading excerpts from Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
  • Herman Melville – He started out his life as a sailor and became famous for his life at sea stories. Melville is the author of Moby Dick. We’ll be looking at “Bartleby the Scrivener.”
  • Walt Whitman – Whitman is famous for developing a free verse style and celebrating everything America in his work Leaves of Grass. We’ll be looking at “Song of Myself.”
  • Emily Dickinson – Dickinson was a recluse who created an entirely new, spare style of writing. We’ll be going over many of her poems in class. The poems have no titles, so talk to me if you are interested in Dickinson.
  • Mark Twain – A Realist, Twain made his mark by writing with humor and irony about human behavior. We’ll be reading excerpts from his masterpiece Huck Finn and “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman – Gilman wrote essays to advocate for women’s rights. We’ll be reading her short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper.”
  • Kate Chopin — Like Gilman, Chopin advocated for women’s rights. We’ll be reading “The Story of an Hour.” Her most famous work is the novel The Awakening.
  • Stephen Crane – Crane was a Naturalist who used a surprisingly modern style to express his concerns about society. We’ll be reading “The Open Boat” and several of his poems.  His most famous work is Red Badge of Courage.
  • Jack London – London was also a Naturalist. He wrote about survival, particularly in the wild. He is famous for his dog stories like Call of the Wild. We’ll be reading, “To Build a Fire.”
  • Ambrose Bierce – Bierce was a Naturalist who became pessimistic about society while serving as a Union officer during the Civil War. We’ll be reading “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” His work served as the inspiration for the Twilight Zone series.
  • Note – if we have time, we may also read Edith Wharton’s “The Other Two” and “William Dean Howell’s “Editha.”




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