Essay: The Colonial Period Assignment Instructions


Choose one of the following topics and write a polished essay of about 750 words (3-4 double spaced typed pages). The essay requires not less than two secondary sources in addition to your primary sources (the literature you are analyzing). Before writing your essay, reread your notes and assigned textbook reading(s) just to refresh your memory. Also, it might be useful to reread a composition textbook to remind yourself of the guidelines on how to write a clearly-defined thesis statement, well-developed paragraph(s), and an essay using the current MLA or APA or Turabian parenthetical method of documentation for your quotations and any secondary sources you cite. To let your instructor know which style of documentation you are using, write current MLA, APA, or Turabian in the title of your essay as follows: Title – Citation style (e.g., “Christians and the Study of Colonial American Literature-APA”).

Your two secondary sources should be academic, peer-reviewed sources, such as articles from scholarly journals and books. Websites, such as Lit Charts, Spark Notes, Shmoop, and so on are not academic sources. Dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other professors’ notes are likely accurate, but they are not academic research. You can cite our textbook in your paper, but it will not count toward your 2 secondary sources. If you have trouble finding scholarly sources, you can access the library’s English Research Guide.

Develop a clear thesis that is grounded in the literature and specifies the titles of the literary works. Remember that while it is acceptable to include some biographical and historical information for context, your focus should be on analyzing the literature.


Choose one of the topics below for your Essay: The Colonial Period Assignment. Your essay must be a minimum of 750 words and include 2 secondary sources.

NOTE: To receive an excellent grade, a student must demonstrate a reasonable competence in organizing an essay on a set topic; developing ideas logically and systematically; supporting these ideas with the necessary evidence, quotations or examples; organizing a paragraph; documenting essays (using current MLA, APA, or Turabian) style; spelling the commoner words of the English language correctly; punctuating correctly; and writing grammatical sentences, avoiding such common mistakes as comma splices, run-on sentences, sentence fragments, faulty agreements, faulty references, shifts in person, number, or tense.

  1. Choose any one of the works/authors of the Colonial period studied in this course and write a literary analysis of the chosen work. The focus of the essay should be three-fold: to discuss the theme of the author/work, the major characteristics of the period that are evident in the work, and major narrative devices the author uses to communicate his or her message. Your essay must have a clearly-defined thesis statement, well-developed paragraph(s), and fitting conclusion. In your thesis, assert how the author uses narrative devices to convey the theme of the work and how the theme or narrative devices demonstrate major characteristics of the period. Include direct quotes from the primary sources for analysis and support.
  • William Bradford described the American wilderness as “hideous and desolate,” full of “wild beasts and wild men.” He believed the wilderness as a place of trial and testing rather than a place of ease and plenty – or of social and economic opportunity. Compare and contrast Bradford’s and John Smith’s views of the American wilderness. Why, in your opinion, will two pioneers perceive the land so differently? Include direct quotes from Bradford’s and Smith’s literature for analysis and support.
  • Compare and contrast John Smith, William Bradford, and John Winthrop as historians and as literary writers. Include direct quotes from the primary sources for analysis and support.
  • Bradstreet’s collection was published without her knowledge under the title The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung up in America or Several Poems, Compiled with a Great Variety of Wit and Learning, Full of Delight by a Gentlewoman of Those Parts. Cite and discuss examples of:
  • Great Variety/Themes
  • Evidence of Learning and
  • Delightful subjects.

Do you find the poetry “delightful”? Explain your answer. Use at least three (3) poems to illustrate your points. Include direct quotes from Bradstreet’s poems for analysis and support.

  • Critically discuss the poetic idea of the divided self (body and soul) in Edward Taylor’s “A Fig for Thee oh! Death.” Also discuss this idea of the divided self (flesh and spirit) in Anne Bradstreet’s “The Flesh and the Spirit.” How is Bradstreet’s representation different from, or similar to that of Taylor’s? Include direct quotes from Taylor’s “A Fig for Thee oh! Death” and Bradstreet’s “The Flesh and Spirit” for analysis and support.
  • Critically discuss Bradstreet’s “To My Dear and Loving Husband” with Taylor’s “Huswifery” to demonstrate the contrasts and similarities between the two poets. Include direct quotes from Bradstreet’s “To My Dear and Loving Husband” and Taylor’s “Huswifery” for analysis and support.
  • Critically discuss Michael Wigglesworth’s “The Day of Doom” and Jonathan Edwards’s “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” as “salvific works” of literature.  What literary and rhetorical strategies account for their wide popularity at the time? What factors, in your opinion, account for their diminished reputation in the 20th and 21st centuries? Include direct quotes from Wigglesworth’s “The Day of Doom” and Edwards’s “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” for analysis and support.

Note: Your assignment will be checked for originality via the Turnitin plagiarism tool.

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