Is America a Village? In M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, the inhabitants are seeking a better life for themselves and
their children, seeking freedom from the kind of greed and violence that caused them such harrowing
loss and pain. Have they achieved their goal? Has America?
Assignment: Write an essay in which you construct your own vision of America, engaging the texts we
have read this term to write your response to the implicit question this course asks: What is your
response to the way America has been imagined and how do you imagine America?
Ideas to Consider: This semester we started with a sermon that imagined the Massachusetts Bay Colony
as city upon a hill, a Christian model of charity that fulfilled a covenant with God to create
a new, more pure way of life with a greater commitment to God. We moved onto the ways America has
been imagined since then, the cleavages wrought by the civil war and slavery, and how that has
impacted race relations as they are represented in the film and literature of the twentieth century.
We have reviewed the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War and now, with 2004, the
“war on terror.” We have read some of the most important literature and non-fiction of the century,
including W.E.B. DuBois, John Dos Passos, Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison and Shirley Jackson.
We have watched some of the more significant films of the century, including Birth of a Nation,
Sullivan’s Travels, The Manchurian Candidate, and now The Village. What is your response to these
representations? Have we become a city upon a hill, a beacon of freedom? Applying Foucault to
these texts, do they suggest that we have become a perverse version of what Winthrop imagined
in 1630 when he said: “We shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us?”
Have we become subjects of that gaze, divided and fragmented from one another? Or are we instead,
as Pratt suggests, developing methods of questioning the legitimacy of those with power over us,
creating a contact zone in which we “clash and grapple” with one another? Are we neither of these
extreme visions but something in between, something more complicated?
Reminders: Final draft must be at least five pages long, contain an introductory paragraph and a
central thesis or argument. Each paragraph must have a project, a point that the rest of the
paragraph works to support/elucidate through engagement (quotation and analysis or detailed
description) with, preferably, multiple texts (may pick and choose among texts that best support
your idea). Please include a concluding paragraph as well in which you answer: What does
it all mean?,” taking a macro-view of the issues/ideas raised in your paper.
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