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Study Questions

  • 1. What are the key differences between the melting pot myth and foundational myths that focus on historical personae? Why should we consider the melting pot as a foundational myth of the US?
  • 2. Describe different versions of the melting pot myth and contextualize them historically. Who is included and who is excluded when and why?
  • 3. How does melting pot rhetoric describe the interaction between whites and indigenous populations in North America in the early republic, and how does it refer to the interaction between the American-born population and immigrants in the Progressive Era? Discuss similarities and differences.
  • 4. Contrast the melting pot as a national model with notions of assimilation and ideas of cultural pluralism.
  • 5. Zangwill’s play The Melting Pot uses a romance plot to overcome ‘old world’ histories and differences. Discuss the suitability of romantic discourse for the affirmation of the melting pot myth.
  • 6. What role does religion play in melting pot rhetoric, past and present?
  • 7. Discuss the notion of a ‘black’ melting pot in the US in light of the one-drop rule, notions of ‘passing,’ and mixed-race discourses. Check and discuss the following websites:,
  • 8. Discuss the metaphors of musicality that have been used to evoke the melting pot idea. What are the implications of music, singing, orchestra, and symphony for the way a new collective is imagined? Listen to Dvorak’s New World Symphony and reflect on its structure and instrumentation. Does it convey the idea of a ‘melting’ of differences?
  • 9. How does the melting pot myth connect to postcolonial theories of hybridity with regard to its approach to difference?
  • 10. Can you identify transnational dimensions of the melting pot myth and/or comparable concepts in other national and international contexts? Explore, for instance, the notion of “the cosmic race” envisioned by Jose Vasconcelos for the Americas in his “La Raza Cosmica” (1925). How can we relate it to the melting pot myth?
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