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Here is the prompt: The instructions for this paper are: The purpose of this final essay—which serves as the final examination for this course—is three-fold. First, it is an opportunity to explore an area of interest from the course in greater depth. Second, it will allow you to demonstrate how well you have come to understand the Great Depression as a significant era in the American experience and the American Dream as a significant connecting thread throughout the American Experience. Third, and most important, this is where you will demonstrate your progress toward mastering all six learning objectives for this course. In other words, your task is to develop a short piece of American Studies scholarship that highlights your knowledge of the period, your ability to identify an issue of significance, and your accumulated skills in interdisciplinary analysis that is grounded in both textual evidence and theory. You practiced elements of this in your shorter essays and class discussions so you are well prepared for the work ahead. The question: How does the issue, theme, or topic that you have chosen to analyze fit within a bigger picture of “the American experience” or what it meant to be “American” during the Great Depression? Instructions: 1) Select a topic from the course that truly interests you and develop a working problematic (the question you will work to resolve in your paper). 2) Identify which course texts will provide primary source material for you to analyze and secondary sources to develop the context and argumentation. If you need additional primary or secondary sources, start locating them now. 3) Refine the problematic. What tension, issue, or question arises from these sources that you wish to resolve through your analysis? If you have trouble getting started, consider how your topic relates to conceptions of what it means to be “American” or to the general understanding of “the American experience.” 4) Once you have familiarized yourself with your topic, developed a problematic, and evaluated your available sources, you will need to establish a theoretical framework for your interdisciplinary analysis. It may be helpful to use this as the core of your outline: select three central elements of your approach: 1. An overall method and approach from a single discipline (history, literature, oral history, etc.) 2. At least one method from a second discipline 3. At least one theoretical lens to frame and structure the multi-disciplinary analysis. (Tip: review the course objectives listed on the syllabus at this point so you can think about how this paper can best highlight your abilities in each area.) Steps 1-4 will prepare you to write a rough draft. Successful interdisciplinary writing depends on conceptual coherence, which requires working with your first draft to make sure that the different disciplinary and theoretical approaches complement each other and support your thesis. Each critical theory provides a vocabulary that serves as an analytical toolbox. Be sure to make use of specific terms and concepts, instead of making vague references to the general bent of the theory. Now for additional details. I listed this under American History, but the professor seems to see this as an “interdisciplinary” course, meaning it makes use of critical theory. I’m unsure that much historical research is needed; while it was recommended to use secondary sources, it seems we’re meant to do something more like literary analysis. Unfortunately I’m fairly lost as to where to begin. We’re meant to choose a topic from the course to analyze, but we haven’t actually been given much guidance on how to conduct these sorts of “analyses”, and so I’m having trouble even formulating a coherent understanding of what other directions/advice to give; I don’t understand the goal of this essay well enough myself. I included a PDF of a book on critical theory we were given; we’re expected to use vocabulary from it. I don’t know anything about critical theory, so I don’t know if it’s useful. The main books used in this course, besides Tyson’s work on critical theory, were The Grapes of Wrath and Studs Terkel’s Hard Times. In addition we’ve watched Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (https://archive.org/details/MrSmithGoesToWashington1939480x360). Regarding topic ideas, the best I can do is analyzing the New Deal through a feminist or “critical race theorist” lens in regard to American identity, but any ideas you come up with should be fine. I apologize that this is so vague. I’m not looking for a very high-quality essay. Feel free to fudge it somewhat. At this point I just want it over with.

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