Assignment: Song of Myself

For this assignment, you may complete one of the two following options.

Option 1

Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” offers a vast portrait of American life in the nineteenth century. Focusing on one or two stanzas of the poem, write a short essay (750–1,000 words long) in which you answer and discuss the following questions:

  1. In what ways does Whitman seem to capture uniquely American traits, both in his choice and treatment of subject matter?
  2. Explain how the passage(s) you chose reflect a “spirit of individualism,” a “democratic sensibility,” or both. (Be sure to define these terms in your discussion.)

Please copy and paste the stanza(s) you discuss onto the first page of your essay.

Option 2

Suppose you were to lead Walt Whitman on a daylong tour of America in 2015 to help him conduct research for a revised edition of “Song of Myself.” Answer and discuss the following questions in a short narrative essay (750–1,000 words long):

  1. Where would you take Whitman, what would you show him, and why? Which “snapshots of America” would you consider to be most representative of changes in American culture since Whitman’s time? Be specific and give a clear rationale for each example.
  2. Whom, among the people in your life, might you want him to meet? Why?
  3. Which American novel published in the last ten years would you give him as a farewell gift? Why?

Remember: your job is to give Whitman a glimpse of American culture today, not just dazzle him with gadgets and the latest technology.

Grading Rubric

Fell Below Expectations Met Expectations Exceeded Expectations
A clear thesis is established 1 2 3
Subclaims are established in the main body paragraphs that clearly support the thesis 1 2 3
Academic sources are incorporated that support the student’s thesis and subclaims. Minimum of 2 required. 1 2 3
Direct quotes, summaries, and paraphrases are used from the text to support the thesis and subclaims. Minimum of 5 required 1 2 3
The argument is compelling and persuasive and a deeper meaning of the text is addressed rather than a simple summary 1 2 3
The organization pattern is logical. 1 2 3
Required length is met 1 2 3
MLA formatting guidelines are followed 1 2 3