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Final Paper

AMERICAN STUDIES 501

FINAL PAPER: ANALYSIS OF SECONDARY SOURCES


For this paper, you will need to analyze TWO BOOKS from one of the seven sections of our Graduate Reading List. You can use the Enrichment Reading you presented to the class as one of your two books if you like (although you do not have to choose this book). You then need to choose a second book from among the works listed in the same subsection of our Reading List as your first book. After you have read your two books, write a paper that analyzes and compares the theories and methods found in these works. In particular, your essay will need use at least FOUR OF THE THEORIES that we have discussed in depth in this class. In other words, you will need to analyze the materials explored in the two books that you have read by focusing on ANY FOUR of the following theoretical areas: work, leisure, and consumption; institutions and ideals; expressive forms; racial or ethnic construction; sexuality and gender construction; space and place; or transnational issues. In addition to using at least four of the seven main theoretical texts that weve read, you can also use any of the theories found in the shorter articles weve read, if they prove relevant. Here are some key questions to consider in dealing with books from each of these sections: l. Work, leisure, and consumption: How do the individuals in the books you read understand the meanings attached to work, leisure, or consumption? To what degree do you see economics, and conflicts over economic power, as the main underlying explanation for the story being told in these books? How would Marx understand or explain the historical episodes covered in these books? 2. Institutions and Ideals: To what degree to you see a paradigm shift in ideas, ideals, or

meanings attached to key beliefs, behaviors, or concepts (e.g. war, death, crime, family, etc.) in the books that you read? How well (or poorly) do the examples presented in these books fit Kuhns ideas about how normal institutions function, and how they change? 3. Expressive Forms: What kinds of meanings were the artists or actors in the books you read trying to convey? Analyze what you see as the strengths as well as the weaknesses in using these particular art or expressive forms as a way to represent reality. 4. Race, Class, and Ethnicity: How do the authors of the books that you read understand or explain the meanings attached to concepts of race or ethnicity? What sorts of functions do they see these concepts as serving? How would you connect their analysis of what racial categories meant with the analyses provided by Matthew Frye Jacobson? 5. Sex and Gender: How are sex, gender, or sexuality defined in the books you read? How are these concepts expressed socially, and what other sorts of meanings do they seem to be connected with in the cultural era being described? Compare the ways that your books analyzed these concepts with the ways that George Chauncey analyzed them. 6. Nature and Culture: Explore the interactions between real and mythical conceptions and uses of space or place in the books you read. What larger themes or ideas are linked to the ways that particular spaces or places have taken shape? 7. How do these authors understand the place of the United States in the world? How is American culture connected to other cultures? What exactly do we gain from exploring American culture in juxtaposition with other countries or cultures? Do you find Andersons concept of seeing nations as imagined communities helpful in explaining the stories told in these books?

General directions: 1. Write clearly and directly. Just because you are working with theories does not mean that your writing needs to be complicated or intricate. Speaking directly is usually far more effective. 2. Your essay should offer BOTH a summary of the main ideas or arguments addressed in each book and specific illustrations that help to compare one book with another. (You should not present a chapter summary of any of these books in this paper.) Try to use specific examples from your texts that you find particularly telling. If you use quotations from these books, choose them carefully. You should also use quotations or main ideas from your four theory books in trying to show how you are using these works. 3. You dont need footnotes for this paper. You can use internal citations (e.g. Chauncey, p.61) if you are quoting from a specific book. At the end of the paper, you should include a bibliography that lists the books you have used. You can use the Chicago Manual of Style to list these books in bibliography format.

Papers are due in my my mailbox by Monday, December 20th. You can also email your paper to me.