Author: Mark Noonan (Page 1 of 5)

Week 16: The Final Countdown!

Fox News, “Trump to Establish 1776 Commission

The New York Times and Nikole Hannah-Jones, “1619 Project Symposium” (2019)

PBS Newshour, “1619 Project” Connections”

Hi Everyone,

Please keep working on your final assignment. I am extending the deadline for this essay till Monday, Dec. 20. If you get your essay loaded on to googledocs before this, I’m happy to review it for you. Email me at regarding any questions.

Upload your essay draft to our google docs driveHERE 




Our required readings for the semester are over but I want to leave you with some concluding thoughts. Due to slavery, the U.S. began to break apart in the 1850s. John Brown is hanged in 1859 for trying to start a slave rebellion in the South but the war really begins with the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. Quickly, most of the southern states secede, knowing that this will be the end of a way of life, created on the backs of millions of unpaid, brutalized African American people. The Civil War officially begins in March of 1861, pitting the North (the Union) against the South (the Confederacy). After four years of grotesque battles (over 500,000 dead), the North wins and America (in the 13th Amendment) abolishes slavery forever.

In April of 1865, as the war is about to end, Abraham Lincoln is assassinated by a southern actor named John Wilkes Booth. In Lincoln’s place, we get a new racist President Andrew Johnson who sets in motion the Jim Crow laws of the 1870s and 1880s. This story is, however, is beyond the scope of this class, though the legacy of slavery and racism remains (as the 1619 Project brilliantly argues).

If you have time over the break, I recommend reading a famous short speech Lincoln gave during the middle of the Civil War, in which he says the North must keep fighting to ensure a “rebirth of freedom.”

 “Gettysburg Address”

I also recommend three spectacular films that help us understand the Civil War:

1) Glory 2) Harriet and 4) Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln.

Lastly, for WONDERFUL holiday entertainment, PLEASE WATCH the fabulous Little Women (written by Louisa May Alcott).  View film trailer Here.

Have a wonderful break all!

Week 15: Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne (Complete Final Essay Assignment)

By Monday, please email me to let me know the topic (author or theme) that you will write about for your Essay Assignment (I am only requiring one essay for this class). You may focus on readings we’ve done (working from one of your earlier posts perhaps) or even one of this week’s authors: Hawthorne and Melville. You could also focus on a film I’ve recommended throughout this course.  The Final Essay is due Friday, Dec. 17.

Email me your topic at:

Upload your essay draft to our google docs drive: HERE (upload your file from your


HERE IS A SAMPLE STUDENT ESSAY (on Frederick Douglass)



One of the greatest friendships in the history of American Literature is the one between two of our finest authors, Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne. 

Hawthorne was a popular writer of short stories in the 1830s and 1840s but became truly famous with the publication of his novel The Scarlet Letter (in 1850).  The novel is set in the time of the Puritans in New England (in the 1600s) and focuses on a young lady named Hester Prynne who has a child (Pearl) out of wedlock.  The father is none other than the minister of the highly religious community, Reverend Dimmesdale.  Dimmesdale does not confess to his “sin” and leaves Hester to handle the scorn that is thrust upon her by her fellow “Christian” townspeople. 

Please watch this film trailer of the book (starring Demi Moore): HERE

Please watch this film trailer of a fun, updated version of the novel, Easy A (starring Emma Stone ): HERE

Please read Chapter Two (“The Marketplace”) of The Scarlet Letter (1850), in which a pregnant Hester Prynne must step up on a scaffold in the middle of town and face an abusive crowd demanding she confess who the father is.

Hawthorne’s works were very influential to Herman Melville. He too had been a popular writer of sea voyages (he had gone on a two year whale voyage himself).  In 1851, inspired by the truth-telling of Hawthorne, he wrote Moby-Dick, or the Whale, a lengthy novel considered to be one of the greatest works in Western literature. 

Moby-Dick features a narrator named Ishmael who decides to leave his boring day job in New York City in the 1840s to go on an adventurous whaling voyage.  He boards the whaling ship, the Pequod, and quickly befriends a fellow whaleman from the Pacific Islands named Queequeg (adorned with amazing tattoos across his entire body).  The co-star of the novel, however, is the mad crazy Captain Ahab who really only wants to chase down a white whale named Moby-Dick who in a previous voyage bit off Ahab’s right leg (he now walks with a peg leg).  A symbol of revenge and arbitrary authority, Ahab’s obsessive quest to harpoon Moby-Dick (spoiler alert) causes the Pequod to sink.  All but Ishmael survives.

Please read the famous opening chapter of Moby-Dick HERE

Please watch this biography of Melville that includes a discussion of his friendship with Hawthorne: HERE

If you have the time, I also highly recommend watching this recent film version of Moby-Dick: HERE

No need to post on these readings and videos.  Just enjoy and work on your final essay topic. 

Week 12: Walt Whitman and Frederick Douglass

Happy Thanksgiving and Wapanoag Week!!!

For this week, I wish to introduce two ardent supporters of true Democracy and equality: the famous poet Walt Whitman and equally famous abolitionist (and former slave) Frederick Douglass.

Please first view this brief biography of Whitman: HERE

Song of Myself - Wikipedia

Read excerpts from his poetry collection “Leaves of Grass” (1855): HERE

Listen to Harvard historian David Blight talk about his new book on Frederick Douglass: HERE

Frederick Douglass

Also view this video of James Earl Jones reading Frederick Douglass’ “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July” (1852)

By Wednesday, Dec. 1, post a response to one of these readings or videos.

To end the semester, I will also be introducing Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville, two of America’s greatest authors. 

I will ask that you watch a recent film version of Melville’s Moby-Dick

You may write your final essay on this film (or others I’ve briefly introduced).

Recommended films include: “Harriet”; “Little Women”; “The Scarlet Letter”; “Moby-Dick”; or perhaps the highly acclaimed “Glory” (on African American soldiers who fought in the Civil War); Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln”; “Amistad” (a powerful film concerning a slave ship uprising).

By Dec. 1, please choose a topic (author or theme) that you would like to write about for your Essay Assignment (I am only requiring one essay for this class). You may focus on readings we’ve done (working from one of your earlier posts perhaps) or choose a topic from upcoming authors Hawthorne and Melville (you could also focus on a film I’ve recommended).  


HERE IS A SAMPLE STUDENT ESSAY (on Frederick Douglass)

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