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Baielli - Junior Theme Research: Assignment


American Literature AP




“Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet… Douglass, Hawthorne, Mark Twain and Hemingway?”


What constitutes American Rheoric? One might reply it is writing or speech characterized by an adventurous spirit combined with a sense of benevolence, or one might state it is a complex relationship between the ideals of freedom and the tireless pursuit of the American Dream. Whatever the answer, it is your job as writer to analyze the themes, subject matter, viewpoint(s) and style in the artist’s work you have chosen.


During the last quarter of the year you will research an American artist, writer, director, playwright, screenplay writer, orator or poet of your choice and write a paper that explores his/her works. You will be expected to read at least on short biography (of the person) as well as a novel or short story collection by an author, a play by a dramatist, or two collections of poetry by a poet (more if you plan to study a musician). You will research the artist’s lifetime, significant themes evident in his/her works and/or the major personal and/or historical events that shaped the writing. Finally, you should utilize our school databases as a primary means of research.


Your junior theme will be a literary argument about a specific work or group of works and the artist. Some ideas of what you may decide to write:


  •      American Comedy-Explore  the characteristics  found in comedic playwriting during the 20th century.
  • Choose a contemporary poet and examine his/her style and structure as a representation of American literature.
  • Using African-American writers, explain how their works reflect the experience of African-Americans in

the time period in which the writer is working.

  • Explain how artists or an artist describe the influence of materialism on American society.
  • Explain how a particular writer uses rhetorical devices to get readers to see a subject as she or he sees it.
  • Describe Edgar Allen Poe's attitude toward death.
  • Describe how the South is reflected in the writings of Flannery O'Connor or William Faulkner or another Southern writer.
  • Using a particular artist, explain how her or his life is reflected in her or his writing.
  • Compare the works of any two artists.
  • Explain how loneliness is a major theme in twentieth century American literature.
  • Explain how nature becomes a character in Hamlin Garland's (or some other naturalist's) works.
  • Choose a contemporary artist and explore a theme/motif   is his/her works.
  • Study a president and his speeches during his lifetime.
  • Compare the political rhetoric of today with that of the 1960s.
  • You may want to analyze the lyrics of a specific musician and  describe the impact he/she had.
  • A specific sport as captured in film.
  • Ideas?



In order to accomplish this, you will be given time to read and/or research during class time. Occasionally you may go to the library to do necessary research, although most of the time you should be in class. I believe that you can retrieve most of your research from school databases so that your class time will be spent annotating and organizing material. However, if this class time is abused, it will be taken away and you will be expected to accomplish everything outside of school.


Your final product for this assignment will be an 8-12 page typewritten paper turned in to complete with necessary citations and a works cited page. You will need to have a visual argument. 


Some possible artists/poets/playwrights to research follow:


Playwrights                                    Artists

Tennessee Williams             James Fennimore Cooper   F. Scott Fitzgerald

Neil Simon                     Washington Irving       Kate Chopin

Eugene O'Neill                 Edgar Allan Poe         Anne Tyler 

Lillian Hellman                Nathaniel Hawthorne     Sarah Oren Jewett

Sam Shepard                    Herman Melville         Hamlin Garland

Arthur Miller                  Henry David Thoreau     Willa Cather

David Mamet                    Mark Twain              William Faulkner

Bronson Howard                 Bret Harte              Truman Capote

Clifford Odets                 Stephen Crane           Bernard Malamud

Thornton Wilder                Jack London             John Updike

William Inge                   Henry James             Toni Morrison

Arthur Kopit                   Upton Sinclair          Joyce Carol Oates

David Rabe                     Sherwood Anderson       Flannery O' Connor

Tina Howe                      Sinclair Lewis          Zora Neale Hurston

August Wilson                  Pearl Buck            John Steinbeck

                              James Thurber          Saul Bellow

                              Ernest Hemingway       Harriet Beecher Stowe  

                              Theodore Dreiser        Ring Lardner

                              William Dean Howells    Alice Walker

                              John Dos Passos         James Baldwin

                              Edith Wharton          Carson McCullers

                              Dorothy Parker         William Saroyan

                              Jack Kerouac           





Henry Wadsworth Longfellow            You are welcome to research another  

John G. Whittier                      writer if there is significant research

Ezra Pound                            about your choice. This is a very short

T.S. Eliot                                 list and does not comprise many

William Carlos Williams                    contemporary artists.                                              

Hilda Dolittle (H.D.)                                        

Gertrude Stein                                                  

Carl Sandburg                                 

Langston Hughes

ee cummings

Robert Frost

Walt Whitman

Amy Lowell

Adrienne Rich

Robert Bly

W.H. Auden

Theodore Roethke

Richard Wilbur

Gwendolyn Brooks

Sylvia Plath

James Wright

Emily Dickinson