A List Of American Literature Essay Topics You Should Consider

English high school and college courses often require students to write essays on a variety of topics dealing with American Literature. Sometimes, though, the students are given the freedom to develop their own topic to write about. This can be tricky, so we’ve come up with this great list of topics you should consider for an American Literature essay:

  1. With the rise of Realism between 1870 and 1914 in American Literature, African-American writers such as Harriet Beecher Stowe and Frederick Douglas aroused people’s sympathy through works such as “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and “My Bondage and My Freedom”. What are the major themes explored in each of these works?

  2. Compare and contrast the Martin Luther King’s “A Letter from Birmingham Jail” and Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience”. How are they similar in their approaches in describing activism against authorities? How are they different?

  3. The major players of the Contemporary American Literature period, which starts at about 1914 and carries through the present, are Langston Hughes, Carl Sandburg, and Robert Frost. How did they explore the lives of common people through poetic forms?

  4. American history has greatly affected the several periods of American literature. Considering that most writers are inspired by the events surrounding their lives, which period of American Literature do you believe speaks the least about the events going on in American life?

  5. Discuss the role of Values in the early period of American Literature. What values did society hold the highest and how did this help shape future generations? Do you believe later periods in literature were reactionary to some of the earliest values?

  6. Provide a critical analysis of the early creationist stories of Native American Literature. How do these stories differ from creation myths from other parts of the world? Do you believe Native American Literature has had as large an influence in modern literature as that derived from the early Puritan colonies?

  7. The changing assumptions and morals about New York society in the late 19th century are demonstrated in Edith Wharton’s “The Age of Innocence”. What themes does she use to explore this poignant shift in New York history?

  8. What are the major concepts in African American Literature? How many of these are influenced by storytelling traditions, themes, and events from the African continent? Compare this diaspora to that of the Jewish American Literary tradition.

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