Literary Analysis of Sing, Unburied, Sing

In the book Ghostland, Colin Dickey observes, “If American history is taught to our schoolchildren as a series of great striding benchmarks, the history of America’s ghost stories is one of crimes left unsolved or transgressions we now feel guilty about” (9). In the novel Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward, ghosts figure prominently, as the narrative unfolds within the context of American history. In fact, a review of the novel “Slow Apocalypse of Black America” from The Guardian website offers this assessment: “Sing, Unburied, Sing is most effective as a poetic critique of US history.”
Your assignment is to explore the connections between Ward’s novel and American history. The primary question to answer is how does Ward’s fiction—her own ghost story–suggest the dark history of our country—one that runs counter to the ideals taught to schoolchildren. From that starting point, you should examine specific evidence from the novel to support how Ward’s novel references specific aspects of history to call attention to troubling issues from our past.

The best responses will include a well-crafted and insightful thesis that provides direction for the essay and will make a unified statement about the portrayal of history in the novel. A common mistake is to simply restate the prompt. Instead, your thesis should narrow your focus to indicate the scope of your discussion. Another suggestion is to find elements in the novel that work well together and to go beyond the most obvious incidents to indicate a close and careful reading of the text.

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Your essay should also work closely with the text, pointing to relevant passages and explaining how those passages illustrate ideas in the thesis. A successful literary analysis quotes extensively from the text and uses specific details to support your argument, so the first step in the composition process might be to identify pertinent quotes from Ward’s work. Also, for this essay, avoid the use of phrases such as “I think” or “In my opinion”; your assertions will carry more force if you state them directly without qualifiers.

An additional requirement for this essay is to include two quotes from Colin Dickey’s Ghostland, aside from the quote in the prompt. Make connections to Dickey’s work and his commentary to reinforce your ideas about the interplay between ghost stories and history.

Your essay also needs to include a work cited page that lists both texts. You may include secondary sources in your response, but all words and ideas from those sources need to be acknowledged in the essay and listed on the works cited page.

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