What is a nation, term paper

I want you to write an eight/nine page paper about a book that was written sometime between 1877 and 1914. Below you will find a list of recommendations. Read the book, read a biography of the author, and incorporate your class readings into the paper to give larger context to the issue(s) the author addresses.

In your paper I want you to outline the arguments or message of the writer and provide historical context. What, in your assessment, were the strengths and weaknesses of the author’s message? Based on your additional reading, why do you think the public was receptive to this message in the writer’s time?

You can come up with a substitute title after having consulted with me.

My how to write lecture

Recommended books

Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams (1907). A genteel intellectual’s bewildered look at the modern world.
Jane Addams, Twenty Years at Hull House (1910). The famed feminist pacifist social reformer’s autobiography.
Horatio Algier, The Cash Boy, Bound to Rise, or any other novel written after 1877. Novels about boys who make it by “pluck and luck.”
Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary (1911). The original cynic’s vision of the world.
Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward (1888). A utopian novel that implicitly questioned Social Darwinism.
Nelly Bly, Ten Days in a Madhouse (1887); Six Months in Mexico (1888); Around the World in 72 Days (1890); read one of these famous books from one of America’s first investigative reporters.
Louis Brandeis, Other People’s Money (1914). A progressive expose on banking.
Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage (1895) or Maggie, A Girl of the Streets (1893). Novels by the famed turn of the century realist.
Andrew Carnegie, The Gospel of Wealth. The philanthropists’ vision of a nation guided by the wealthy.
Charles Chestnutt, The House Behind the Cedars (1900), a novel about racial “passing”; The Colonel’s Dream (1908), a critique of the convict leasing system.
Kate Chopin, The Awakening (1899), widely denounced in its time for its complex examination of adultery.
Anthony Comstock, Traps for the Young (1883). Dime novels, dirty pictures . . . something must be done!
Herbert Croly, The Promise of American Life (1909). A progressive’s vision for America.
Thomas Dixon, The Klansman (1905). The novel that gave birth to the film Birth of a Nation
Ignatius Donnelly, Caesar’s Column (1890). A grim, dystopian populist novel.
Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie (published in 1900 but suppressed; republished in 1912). Another realist novel by the author of An American Tragedy.
W.E.B. DuBois, Race and the City (1899). The famed socioligist’s study of black life in turn of the 20th-century Philadelphia.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Women and Economics (1898). A feminist critique of housework. Far ahead of its time (and ours).
William Harvey, Coin’s Financial School (1894). Free silver!!!
William Dean Howells. Any novel, but A Hazard of New Fortunes or A Modern Instance would be best.
Geronimo, My Life (1906); this guy was a lot more complicated than you think.
Helen Hunt Jackson, A Century of Dishonor (1881). An expose of U.S. treatment of Native Americans. Or read her novel Ramona (1912).
William James, Pragmatism (1909). The most important outline of this disinctly American philosophy.
Walter Lippman, Drift and Mastery (1914). An argument for the importance of government in American life.
Henry Demarest Lloyd, Wealth Against Commonwealth (1894). A polemic against monopoly capitalistm.
David Graham Philips, The Treason of the Senate (1906); helped lead to the direct election of United States Senators.
Walter Rauschenbusch, Christianity and the Social Crisis (1907). A Christian vision of social justice.
Theodore Roosevelt, The Winning of the West (1889, 1894, 1896). Ya gotta be tough these days. Pick one volume to read. And don’t read more than 250-300 pages.
Upton Sinclair, The Jungle (1906). The novel that gave us two Federal laws.
Henry Morton Stanley, In Darkest Africa (1890) or Through the Dark Continent (1899). Stanley did discover Livingston. Pretty much everything else is a lie. Read Hochchild’s King Leopold’s Ghost along with either of these books (btw: they’re long books, so just read about 250 to 300 pages, no more).
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, The Womans’ Bible (1892). Read for yourself what pissed everybody off.
William Graham Sumner, Folkways (1906). You can’t mess with society, much as you might like to.
Ida Tarbell, A History of the Standard Oil Company (1902, 1904). For this you’ll also want to read her autobiography All in a Day’s Work
Principles of Scientific Management. How to get people working at their most efficient.
Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899). A piercing critique of modern consumer capitalism.
Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery (1900, 1901). A quintessential vision of self-reliance from an African-American perspective.
Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth (1905). Not a lot of mirth in this absorbing novel about a young woman who must make a choice between marriage for love or for money.
Ida B. Wells, On Lynchings, A Red Record (1895). For this you’ll also need to read her autobiography Crusade for Justice
George Washington Williams, History of the Negro Race in America from 1919 to 1880
Yung Wing, My Life in China and America; an early Chinese-American autobiography (1909).

A note about plagiarism. Don’t do it. The University’s definition of plagiarism and its policies can be found here. Don’t underestimate me. I catch plagiarizers, and when I catch them I flunk them and send them to the Provost.

Checklist and term paper rubric


1. Does your paper have a clear argument that appears in the first paragraph of your essay’s first page?

2. Does your paper offer a clear conclusion that recapitulates your argument?

3. Does your paper cite class texts and a second source on your author?

4. Does your paper reference all quotes and factual claims?

5. Are you using a generally recognized reference system like MLA or Chicago Style?

6. Is your paper double spaced with page numbers inserted on each page?

7. Have you spell checked and grammar checked your paper?

8. Have you checked for errors that a spell checker cannot find?

9. Does your paper include a short bibliography listed after the conclusion?

10. If you mention my name on your first page, is my name correctly spelled?

11. Are the names of your principal historical figures correctly spelled?

12. Are you taking pains to avoid plagiarism in this paper?


Excellent paper: explores a clearly articulated original argument which is bolstered by a strong narrative and referenced evidence. The writing is compelling and free of spelling or grammatical errors. The paper itself is competently presented (see items 5 through 10).

Very good paper: explores an argument with competent writing and references. The paper contains no spelling or grammatical errors and is competently presented.

Satisfactory paper: explores a vague but identifiable argument with adequate writing and references. The paper contains some errors but is competently presented.

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