Directions: Choose one of the essay topics below and respond in an essay of 5 typed, double-spaced pages. In your discussion, you must draw on multiple texts we have studied from both the major areas of our semester's focus (The Battle of Gettysburg and The Civil Rights Movement).
1. Consider carefully the following passage from the essay by
Alice Kessler-Harris we studied earlier this semester; then drawing upon
the course content, write a paper in which you state your own position
in the debate she describes:
A battle over the idea of America? Yes, and one in which the issue is what constitutes "American" and in which fears of fragmentation and loss of identity have replaced the fears of secret enemies conjured by the old FBI. Those who attack what they call a politically correct stance seem to be supporting the idea of America as something fixed and given, deriving from Western civilization, while those who resist attach themselves to an idea of America that is more fluid and susceptible to change. One side constructs democratic culture as a tradition to be defended, a flag to be protected; the other as an ongoing process whose meanings are diffuse and changing. One side fears fragmentation of cultural unity; the other derides unity as a myth and protests loss of identity. The issue is joined: how do we preserve cultural unity and still do justice to the multiplicity of American cultures? To accomplish this, we must redefine what we mean by identity. (303)2. Americans now find themselves in a time of political, social, and military crisis, just as they did during the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement. Discuss specific ways in which your study this semester has helped or may help you reflect on the current crisis.
("Cultural Locations: Positioning American Studies in the Great Debate," American Quarterly 44.3. 299-312)