This painting is Cole's famous "Oxbow"--it depicts the Connecticut River Valley area. Landscape paintings don't necessarily have much in the way of narrative, but many scholars have highlighted the way the river takes the form of a question mark and, with it, seems to ask a question about American development on our attitude toward the landscape. What do you think Cole is saying here?
--Bryant's poem "The Prairies" is very much about the history of the native peoples who lived in Illinois previously. How does Bryant envision their history and how does his vision of the future settlement of the land by whites fit into that history?
--The poem is framed by Bryant's solitary experience of the empty prairie landscape. What is his perspective on the landscape? What does being alone out there mean to him? What do you think is the over-arching tone (happy, sad, or something else) to the poem?