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American Protest Literature

At various points in this nation’s history, protest literature has marked American culture and society. Generally speaking, American protest literature challenges the status quo, calls society out on their questionable behaviors, or promotes social change in some way. Protest literature can cover a wide variety of topics and encompass countless political perspectives and opinions. Literature can be motivated by religious teachings, ideas of social injustice, or political philosophies. Protest literature can take on a variety of forms, from editorials in newspapers to pamphlets to works of art including such diverse materials as poems, drama, and song lyrics.

As one traces American history, one can trace the path of protest literature.American Protest Literature

  • The works of Thomas Paine and John Dickinson - “Common Sense” and “Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania,” respectively - each demonstrate critical moments in American protest literature.
  • Challenges to the institution of slavery, from Frederick Douglass’ “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July” to David Walker’s “Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World,” would forever shape who were are as a nation.
  • The women’s rights movement – including Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s The Solitude of Self - and the Progressive era - evident in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle - would also demonstrate the connection between protest literature and social change.
  • Quintessential works such as “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
  • There are other pieces not readily seen as pieces of literature, such as song lyrics of individuals like Tupac or Eminem, to form the breadth of American protest literature and chronicle the various struggles that have taken place in this nation throughout its history.

The impact of English language imperialism remains at the center of a hotly contested scholarly debate. Although the literature on the subject is too complex and multifaceted to be summarized concisely, a common theme in the literature seems to be that English should be recognized as the commodity that it is in a global economy. However, it is also frequently recommended that English instruction should be wholly voluntary and, as much as is possible, taught using a value-neutral, culturally sensitive pedagogical methodology.

While economic and technological factors and variables served as the primary engines of the globalization process, social, cultural, political, religious, and historical factors also played a role. In some cases, these cultural elements provided the most direct evidence of the changes wrought by the process of globalization.

The process of globalization, as well as the growing prevalence and influence of the English language, has been particularly problematic in the context of the Islamic world. The closely-held religious beliefs of many Muslims often compel them to regard English as the symbolic emissary of a cultural value system that stands in opposition to many tenets of their own worldviews. This tension has grown even more acute in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the United States’ military resulting military against several majority-Islamic nations.

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