Tarvin's Blog William Tarvin's Literary Blog

American Literature

The following handouts discuss aspects of the literary works of major American writers. Click the letter of the last name of the author, which will direct you to the titles of her or his works.  There click the underlined title of the work you seek.  This will open the desired handout.


I would appreciate your comments on my analyses of these writers and their works. Click here to make your comments. The Leave a Comment Box appears after the comments by other users. Thank you.

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Bradstreet, Anne

"The Author to Her Book" and "To My Dear and Loving Husband" - Analysis of the theme and structure of "Author” and “Loving Husband.”

Brooks, Cleanth

"Keats's Sylvan Historian: History Without Footnotes" - An analysis of Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn" analyzed in Cleanth Brooks's essay "Keats's Sylvan Historian."

Bryant, William Cullen

"Thanatopsis" and "To a Waterfowl"- Analysis of the themes, structure, and symbolism of Bryant's poems "Thanatopsis" and "To a Waterfowl."

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Colonial American Literature

Overview - Analysis of the Jamestown and Massachusetts Bay settlements. Close attention is given to the religious (Calvinistic) background of the Puritans and Pilgrims.

Cooper, James Fenimore

The Deerslayer and The Prairie - Analysis of the themes and formulae of Cooper's novels, particularly The Deerslayer & The Prairie.

Cummings, E. E.

"My Father Moved through Dooms of Love" & "In Just-" - An analysis of the theme and structure of "My Father Moved" and "In Just-."

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Dickey, James

"Falling" - An analysis of the themes of Dickey's "Falling."

Dickinson, Emily

"The Soul Selects," "A Bird Came Down the Walk," "After Great Pain," " I Heard a Fly," "Because I Could Not Stop for Death," & "My Life Closed Twice" - An analysis of the themes and stylistic aspects of Dickinson's poetry and brief commentaries on some of her major poems.

Douglass, Frederick

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass - Analysis of the themes and structure of Douglass's Life.

Du Bois, W.E.B.

The Souls of Black Folk - A brief analysis of chapter 3 of Black Folk, Du Bois's criticism of Booker T. Washington.

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Eliot, T. S.

"Tradition and Individual Talent"- An analysis of Eliot's major ideas about literary criticism.

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Ferlinghetti, Lawrence

"In Goya's Greatest Scenes" - Ferlinghetti as a "Beat" poet and an analysis of the themes and imagery of his "Goya's."

Freneau, Philip

“The Wild Honey Suckle,” “The Indian Burying Ground,” and “On a Honey Bee” - Analysis of the themes and structures of the poems, “The Wild Honey Suckle, “The Indian Burying Ground,” and “On a Honey Bee.”

Frye, Northrop

"The Archetypes of Literature" - Analysis of the archetypal/mythic approach to literary criticism by the Canadian writer.

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Ginsberg, Allen

"A Supermarket in California" - Analysis of the themes and structure of "Supermarket."

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H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)

"Sea Rose" - Brief analysis of "Sea Rose."

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James, Henry

"The Art of Fiction"- Analysis of James's major critical ideas about the novel as presented in "Art of Fiction."

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Millay, Edna St. Vincent

"First Fig" and "Love Is Not All" - Analysis of the theme and structure of "First Fig" ("My Candle") and "Love Is Not All."

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New World Literature

Overview - Analysis of two Native American poems, accounts of the voyages of Christopher Columbus, and the Pocahontas episode by Captain John Smith.

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Pound, Ezra

"A Pact," "In a Station of the Metro," and "The River-Merchant's Wife: A Letter" - Analysis of the theme, structure, and imagery of "A Pact," "Metro," and "River-Merchant's Wife."

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Ransom, John Crowe

"Criticism as Pure Speculation" - Analysis of the major ideas of New Criticism, the major 20th century structural explication of literature."

Rich, Adrienne

"Aunt Jennifer's Tigers" and "Diving into the Wreck" - Analysis of the theme, structure, imagery, and symbolism of "Tigers" and "Diving."

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Sexton, Anne

"All My Pretty Ones" - Analysis of the theme and structure of "Pretty Ones."

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Tan, Amy

"Two Kinds" - Analysis of the structure, theme, and imagery of Tan's short story.

Taylor, Edward

“Meditation 8,” “Preface to God’s Determination,” and “Huswifery”- Analysis of “Meditation 8,” “Preface to God’s Determination,” and “Huswifery.”

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Wheatley, Phillis

"On Being Brought from Africa to America" - Brief analysis of Wheatley's life and "On Being Brought from Africa to America."

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Comments (29) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Your website provides very useful information. It will be useful for me if you could supply analysis of Bacon’s Essays, Addison and Steele essays (particularly prose works of English literature) etc. Thank you very much, indeed.

    • Dear Raju, I am sorry, but I do not plan to post any handouts on Bacon and Addison and Steele. The lecture notes that I have on those writers are out-of-date and, given that I am now a retired professor, I do not have the time to update those notes. Sorry.
      Best wishes,
      Dr. Tarvin

  2. Dear Dr Tarvin
    Thanks alot for providing the missing keywords of some of the handouts, I really appreciate your dedicated selfless effort in an increasingly self oriented materialistic world.
    I was happy to know that you visited our part of the world and lived there for Fifteen years,I sure hope you will visit Jordan one day because as you mentioned it is a beautiful country loaded with historry and different visions and outlooks towards life but still capable of living in harmony by holding deep respect for orher ideologies and perspectives of life.
    I truely hope you can visit us one day and we will be more than happy to show you different parts of this magnificent country. thanks again for your efforts.

  3. Dear Dr Tarvin
    i would really appreciate if you could supply the answer sheet along with the handouts for many are missing ,eg Emerson’s essays or the literature of the American renaissacne , it would really help alot if you could provide them as soon as possible.
    thanks for your efforts.

    • Dear Bouthainah,
      I am sorry for the delay, but I have finally provided Answer Keys to the Emerson and the American Renaissance handouts. However, the Answer Key versions are only in the Word Format of each document, not in the PDF format. So when you go to the Emerson and Amer. Renaissance files, be sure to click the option Word Format, which will take you out of the PDF format or directly to the Word Format versions.
      When my computer adviser comes in two weeks, I will have him put the Answer Key in the PDF format so that it will be in both formats.
      Your country code indicates that you are from Jordan. I taught in the Middle East for fifteen years or so, but I never got to visit Jordan, which I understand from some Jordanian friends I met in other Middle East countries is a beautiful country.
      If you need any other assistance, do not hesitate to contact me.
      Best wishes,
      Dr. Tarvin

  4. Hello,
    I’d like to let you know that some of the links have problems including T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and ” The Waste Land”. I need your handout on Eliot….Thanks.

    • Dear Sarah,
      Please try the British Literature section on Eliot. That site is working. My computer specialist is in the process of transferring a duplicate of the information on Eliot to the American Lit. site since Eliot is studied in both American and British Literature.

      Until the American Lit site on Eliot is up and running, please use the Eliot handout on the British Lit. site.

      Within the next week or so, I hope to have an answer key for both Eliot sites.

      Thank you for telling me about any sites that are not working; your information will receive my immediate attention.

      Best wishes,
      Dr. Tarvin

  5. I would like to know the answers to the Theodore Roethke I knew a woman handout.

    • Dear Nate, I have added an answer key at the end of the Roethke handout in the Word version. It includes an answer key to his poem “I Knew a Woman.” The answer key in the PDF version should be added tomorrow.
      I am pleased that you are using my literary handouts. If you have any other questions or comments, please contact me.

      Best wishes,
      Dr. Tarvin

  6. Dear William,
    I’m a senior lecturer at the University of Ruhuna, Sri Lanka. I look up your website for some aid for “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway and “Absalom and Achitophel” by John Dryden. I found your approach really convincing. I can use your material with my students with proper acknowledgment of your generosity to make the brilliant ideas freely available to the needy in this extremely money-conscious materialistic world. You are an exemplary academic by all means. You practice what you work on. Literature is not to make money with. Thank you and my very best wishes for a happy and productive retirement.
    Respectfully yours,

    • Dear E.A. Gamini Fonseka,
      I am very pleased that you are using my analyses of Dryden’s poem, Hemingway’s short story, Pope’s poem, Blake’s poem, and Donne’s handout in your literary classes. You certainly are a dedicated professor.
      When I decided to open my literary website, I made a commitment always to offer my handouts free.
      Because of requests, I am in the process of providing answer keys to my literary handouts, and I am also adding some new handouts which I hope you and the other users of my website will find beneficial.
      I wish you all success in your educational career. Please feel free to contact me on any literary work.


      Dr. William L. Tarvin

  7. Your webiste is AMAZING! I wish that there was something about “Upon a Wasp Chilled with Cold.”
    I use your analysis and summary for my analysis essays. Do you think it’s a smart idea to prepare my essays before the exam, so it could be easier for me, or is it just a waste of time, especially since I have to write over 25 analysis essays?

    • Dear Zainab,

      Thank you for your Oct. 22 comment about the helpfulness of my literary website, and I apologize for not answering sooner. I am sorry, but I never prepared a handout on Edward Taylor’s “Upon a Wasp Chilled with Cold.” However, there are some excellent analyses of this poem on the internet which you can find through a Google search.
      I think that writing a model essay before an essay examination is an excellent preparation tool because the process helps a student organize ideas.
      If you have any other literary questions or comments, please contact me.
      Sincerely, Professor William L. Tarvin

  8. Dear Sir

    Thank you for making your work so readily available. I am wondering if you wrote anything on “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe. I was not able to find it on your website. Thank you.

    • Patricia,

      Greeting. Please look on page 8-10 of my Edgar Allen Poe handout for a lengthy analysis of “The Raven” and a summary of Poe’s own analysis of his poem, titled “The Philsophy of Composition.” I am pleased that you used my literary site. If you have any questions, please send me a message.

      Best Wishes,
      Professor Tarvin

  9. Dear Sir,

    I just finished reading “Young Goodman Brown” by Hawthorne. It is rather an interesting story to read. I hope to investigate the theme, “Loss of faith….” I wonder, how does Hawthorne develop this theme?

    • Dear Gilbert,

      I am pleased that my website has been helpful to you.

      As to your question, the theme of a story is developed through all aspects of a story. The plot, the characters, the setting, and the names all reinforce the theme of how the devil can cause a person, Goodman Brown, to lose faith by accepting the devil’s lie that those people around him, whom he regarded as entirely holy, are in fact entirely sinful. Hawthorne believed in what the Bible teaches, that no-one (save the Messiah) is without sin, and similarly that no-one (save Satan) is totally without goodness. Thus human beings can be redeemed because they are basically good, although like Adam every person commits some sin. However, one sin in Hawthorne’s Christianity does not mean that a person is a total irredeemable sinner.

      Below I have provided the answers to the blanks in the handout which may explain this theme more completely:

      1. (1) Faith; journey
      (2) pink ribbons; pink ribbon;sky
      (3) forest; evil; evil
      (4) Devil; devil; Devil

      2. Devil; Devil; Satan; wilderness;no; Devil; Brown

      3. faith; father; evil; FAMILY.

      4. Cloyse; teacher; man; communion; teacher; Faith; Devil stick; disappears.

      5. Gookin; Salem; woman; minister; deacon;woman.

      6. (1) voice; wife; Faith; forest; pink ribbon; wife; faith; Faith; FAMILY.
      (2) Inciting; evil; forest; Faith; good; sin; devil.

      7. forest; faith;citizens; mother; converts; veiled.
      hearts; sin; crime; earth; guilt; blood; Evil; happiness.

      8. blood; evil; wife; heaven; wicked; disappear.

      9. Salem; minister; Gookin; Cloyse; pink; dreamed; distrustful; Faith; hope.

      10. Devil’s; Devil’s; evil; mankind.

      11. faith; sinner; goodness; good; goodness.

      12. faith; wilderness

      13. Goodman Brown; faith; temptations; journeys; temptation; Devil; drug; demon.

      Gilbert, I hope that these will help you understand how the theme is incorporated at every point in a Hawthorne story.

      Best Wishes,

      Dr. William Tarvin

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