Humanities 110

Introduction to the Humanities

Paper Topics | Spring 2022 | Paper 7

Due Saturday, April 16, 5:00 p.m., to your conference leader. 

Target length: 1,800-2,000 words

Choose one of the following topics:

  1. In “Of Our Spiritual Strivings,” W.E.B. Du Bois states that Black Americans experience a double consciousness, “this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others” (p. 8). For Du Bois, what produces this double consciousness, and what are its effects? How, for him, does it place Black Americans in a particular position in the ongoing process of US history and society?  Focusing on one of “Of the Coming of John,” “The Sorrow Songs,” or “Criteria of Negro Art,” examine the role of double consciousness in the narrative or argument.

  1. African American Spirituals are widely held up as an art form that is both quintessentially Black and quintessentially American. But precisely what defines that form has been the subject of considerable debate. How do the defining aspects of the spiritual differ, as explained by W.E.B. Du Bois in “The Sorrow Songs” (Chapter 14 of The Souls of Black Folk); Alain Locke in “The Negro Spirituals”; and/or Zora Neale Hurston in “Spirituals and Neo-Spirituals”? Then, focusing on one of the Spirituals assigned for 11 March, discuss the arrangement, melody, lyrics, accompaniment, venue, and/or audience in relation to the criteria put forth by DuBois, Locke, and/or Neale Hurston. 

  1. In “The Talented Tenth," how does W.E.B Du Bois use the distinction between intellectual and manual labor to make an argument for social progress? And how does Charles W. Chesnutt’s “The Wife of His Youth” complicate or problematize the relationship between self-improvement and social progress?

  1. Choose two or three panels from Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series and discuss how the representation of spaces conveys an overall vision of the great migration. 

  2. Compare how Marcus Garvey, in “Africa for the Africans,” and W.E.B. Du Bois, in “Souls of White Folk,” use narratives of the past to support their arguments. What similarities and differences are there in their approaches to history, in the narratives they tell, and in the use they make of them?

  3. Analyze and evaluate the arguments of W.E.B. Du Bois and Alain Locke concerning the relationship of art and propaganda. As part of your evaluation, discuss a particular artwork’s relationship to propaganda.

  4. Drawing evidence from one or two repeated patterns in Cane (e.g., the natural imagery of dusk, rivers, or roots), demonstrate how the text examines shifting conceptions of race, class, gender, and/or sexuality.

  5. How does Helene Johnson’s poetry support, challenge, reframe, and/or disrupt the relationship between nature and human, nature and woman, and/or nature and race?

  6. In Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, how does the novel construct Janie's character in relation to various gendered and racial expectations placed on her as a Black woman? You might consider the particular words used by Janie or about Janie and the way her ideas are voiced or represented, as well as the text’s use of metaphor, recurrent themes and symbols, and parallels or contrasts with other human or non-human characters.

  7. In consultation with your instructor, write on a topic of your own devising.