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Short Essay Exercises

1.
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Analyze Marita Bonner's concern with black (female) identity by comparing and contrasting her ideologies of African American identity and womanhood.
2.
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Read Bonner's "On Being Young—a Woman—and Colored." Consider the roles and depictions of men and women authors and characters during the Harlem Renaissance. What arguments about black women's power does Bonner assert? What challenges to black women's power does Bonner illuminate?
3.
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Study Sterling A. Brown's poem "Strong Men" by examining the poet's diction. Focus especially on the verbs applied to "strong men." What theories of masculinity do they invoke?
4.
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Analyze Brown's use of black vernacular dialect to explain how he crafts a highly credible narrative voice. What rhetorical devices does he deploy to achieve this effect?
5.
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Analyze Jessie Redmon Fauset's interest in African American familial relationships (especially among black women) by creating a diagram of the relationships between the members of the Murray family.
6.
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Examine the lyric forms, instances of irony, and patterns of imagery in one of Angelina Weld Grimké's poems. How do these rhetorical features advance the major theme(s) of this particular poem?
7.
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Analyze Grimke's use of rhetorical questions. How do these questions enrich her poems?
8.
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To better comprehend Helene Johnson's theme of African American beauty in her poetry, examine her use of adjectives and nouns in one of her poems.
9.
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Characterize the tone of Claude McKay's writings in the anthology. To what extent to they argue against racial prejudice and racial conflict? To what extent do they argue for black separatism?
10.
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How does McKay manipulate the sonnet form? How are his sonnets distinctly different from traditional sonnets?
11.
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Look at the fiction of Eric Walrod and Rene Maran. How do their depictions of black life outside of the US overlap with other Harlem-era writings?
12.
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Evaluate Schuyler's argument that there are no substantial differences between African American art and white art. To what extent are you persuaded by his argument?
13.
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In Black No More, how do the black characters seem to imagine their own ethnicity? Does it matter to them in any way?
14.
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What importance did Schomburg place on chronicling African American history? According to his essay, why was history-making an important endeavor for early twentieth-century U.S. blacks?
15.
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What is the difference between north and south in Toomer's Cane? Think about this question in terms of landscape, character, religion, ethnic ties, and the meanings of blackness/whiteness.
16.
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In Larsen's Passing, what is alluring about Clare Kendry and why does Irene Redfield struggle to extricate herself from the relationship with her?
17.
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Consider Larsen, Toomer, and Johnson and think about the psychological costs of passing. Are characters who "pass" ever satisfied with themselves or their decision? Why or why not?

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