Analysis of twentieth-century immigrants experiences in response to Crevecoeur’s vision of America




In this class, you will be reading and writing about a variety of sources, which we can classify according to the following broad categories (BEAT):

  • Background sources:Background sources will present facts and background information about the material we are studying. You may use background sources to help you support your analyses of exhibit sources.
  • *Exhibit sources:Exhibit sources are the primary texts under analysis in your papers. For our course, your exhibit sources will be the literary works (short stories, poems, novel…) that we are studying in class. All of your major papers will focus on exhibit sources.
  • Argument sources:Argument sources will make arguments about those exhibit sources. You will find yourself agreeing or disagreeing with argument sources, and assessing whether or not those argument sources are useful for analyzing your exhibit sources. Because your paper assignments are argument based, your own papers also function as argument sources.
  • Theory sources:Theory sources will present general theories (not proven fact) that are not necessarily about your specific exhibit sources, but may nevertheless be applicable to, and help you analyze, your exhibit sources.

    This first paper assignment asks you to enter into an academic conversation already in progress by analyzing a single exhibit source in response to an argument source. This assignment will also allow you to implement the three-part introduction structure (common ground > problem/question > claim/response), which will help you to clarify the issue at stake in your essay and solidify your position.


    As discussed in class, Crèvecoeur’s “Letter III: What Is an American?”, although written in 1782 following his own immigration to America, introduces the modern concepts of the American Dream (67, 70, 80, 89-90) and of America as a melting pot (68, 70), forming the author’s perspective on America as a land of equal opportunity for all—a perspective that remains common in the hopeful minds of American immigrants. Unfortunately, the America they encounter upon arriving does not always conform to that preconceived ideal, for a variety of reasons. For this assignment, you will form a claim in response to the following question:How do the twentieth-century immigrant experiences from our course readings echo and/or problematize and/or reject Crèvecoeur’s eighteenth-century vision of America as a land of equal opportunity?Please select one of the following exhibit sources to analyze in response to the question above: either Mohr’s “The English Lesson” (short story), Baca’s “Immigrants in Our Own Land” (poem), or Malamud’s “The German Refugee” (short story). Your paper should be850-1050 words(roughly 3-4 pages long), not counting your Works Cited page. Please format and cite using MLA style.

    In your paper, you will need to do the following, although not necessarily in this particular order:

  • Summarize your exhibit source.This will be necessary both in your introduction (briefly) and

    throughout your main body paragraphs as you introduce passages from the text to analyze. Consider important elements of your exhibit source, such as genre (short story or poem?), type of narrative, narrator’s point of view, setting, ethnicity/ethnicities portrayed, primary themes, etc. (refer to our “Important Terms” handout)

  • Summarize Crèvecoeur’s views of America in “Letter III.”Remember that you are summarizing Crèvecoeur’s perspective for the purpose of analyzing your selected exhibit source to shed light on the immigrant experiences depicted. Focus only on elements from Crèvecoeur’s letter that will be most useful/relevant to your analysis.

WR100 F1: Coming to America Yoder

  • Argue whether or not your exhibit source conforms to Crèvecoeur’s view of America (and “an American”) and why/how. Your argument will be based on information gleaned via the narrator, character portrayals, ideas/concepts/themes presented, literary devices, etc. The reasons for your claim (why/how) will be explicated, analyzed, and illustrated through selections of passages/quotes (evidence) from your exhibit source, primarily, and also from your argument source.
  • Analyze the exhibit source you have chosen. You should analyze the ways in which your story or poem coincides with and/or diverges from Crèvecoeur’s depiction of America in 1782. There will logically be many differences, simply as a matter of time/development/evolution over the course of 200 years; it is important to acknowledge this, but don’t be so quick to reject the presence of Crèvecoeur’s ideas completely from your exhibit source. Also pay attention to evolving perspectives of the American Dream, the melting pot, equal opportunity, etc. in your exhibit source, and what that signifies regarding the immigrant experience. Use specific passages/quotes from your exhibit source to guide your analysis and focus your discussion.

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