Power of Blackness


Discuss Herman Melville’s theorization of the “Power of Blackness” in relation to one of the two stories by Hawthorne, “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” and Emily Dickinson’s poems we have analyzed in class.

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Discuss the ways in which “Song of Myself,” Emily Dickinson’s poems we have analyzed in class, and “Bartleby, the Scrivener” engage with their historical context.

In writing about Hawthorne’s short stories, Chris Baldick makes the following claim:

Hawthorne’s stock figure in these allegorical sketches is an isolated man whose mentality and special pursuits tear him from the warmth of (usually female) society until he hardens into a frozen or petrified monster […]. Hawthorne repeatedly plays upon a contrast between the human warmth of domesticity and the self-defeating coldness and abstraction of egotistical endeavor […]. His interests extend beyond the specters conjured up by egotism, to take in similarly alienated figures who are not just heartless individualists but also producers in a more practical sense: alchemists, artists, or both […]. In Hawthorne’s works clinical detachment of this kind is always a symptom of moral disease. (In Frankenstein’s Shadow 68-69).

Discuss the quotation in relation to Hawthorne’s short stories and examine the possibilities of extending Baldick’s claim to “Bartleby, the Scrivener”.

Each question will ask you to support your argument through the analysis of more than one of the texts (and more than one author) in the reading list of the course.

Advice on how to answer the essay questions:

Think of your thesis statement and plan your essay before writing. Then make sure you will be effectively addressing and answering the actual question.
Make sure you support your arguments.
Do not give unnecessary information. Focus on answering the actual question by analyzing the texts (no plots, no biographies).
Students need to prove their command of secondary sources in order to pass the exam.

What are the “secondary sources”?

            All the materials available from the Virtual Campus for the course, in particular all the quotations available from the documents: “On XXXX and bibliography”

What will be considered an “Excellent” exam?

One that proves that the student has engaged in the class discussions, and has been thinking about them in relation to the texts, proves her/his command of the primary sources and the secondary sources, AND proves her/his knowledge of the contents of secondary sources that go beyond the quotations in the three documents listed above, that is, her/his knowledge of the actual contents of articles listed in the bibliographies and/or of other sources (articles, books, webpages) the student has found doing research.

Final piece of advice: Make sure you are comfortable with your readings of the primary sources. If you are not, before you go to the secondary sources for clarification, read the primary source that you are having difficulty with one more time or as many times as you need.

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–      The essay does not answer the question.
–      The first paragraph does not make it clear what the answer to the actual question is going to be.
–      There is no textual analysis (the essay refers to the text or even gives the plots, but does not analyze them).
–      The essay does not prove that the student has actually read the texts.
–      There are no references to secondary sources. Remember that this is a requirement of the exam. And the course is not a reading club, but a site of academic exercises where we engage with what critics have said in the past about the texts in our reading list.
–      Plagiarism. Of any sort.

–      Specify where in the text (primary source) we can find the fragment that supports your thesis your statement.
–      Engage with the debate. What have critics said before you?

Absolute priority will be given to secondary sources used in the course, if you are using any other source not included, you have to provide a justification for it and make sure it is an academic one.

The final essay has to conform to either MLA or APA guidelines, you are free to choose but you need to be consistent.

REMINDER: students are required to properly identify the sources they are using. For more information on Power of Blackness check out: https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/blackness

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