American Studies at the University of Virginia

The site is a repository of scholarly concentrations on such humanities topics as the 1930s, cultural maps, American literature, avant-garde and postmodern art exhibitions, and the U.S. Capitol building as an American icon. The site houses hypertexts of several American authors, including: Harriet Jacobs, Herman Melville, Mark Twain, and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

  • Interactive: Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart

    Created February 23, 2010
  • Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart: Teaching Through the Novel

    Created February 19, 2010
    Things Fall Apart books

    This lesson introduces students to Achebe's first novel and to his views on the role of the writer in his or her society.

  • Folklore in Zora Neale Hurston's "Their Eyes Were Watching God"

    Photograph of Zora Neale Hurston.

    Learn how writer Zora Neale Hurston incorporated and transformed black folklife in her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. By exploring Hurston’s own life history and collection methods, listening to her WPA recordings of folksongs and folktales, and comparing transcribed folk narrative texts with the plot and themes of the novel, students will learn about the crucial role of oral folklore in Hurston’s written work.

  • Metaphorical Gold: Mining the Gold Rush for Stories

    Bound for the Klondike gold fields. Chilkoot Pass, Alaska.

    Explore the Alaskan Gold Rush by "mining" EDSITEment resources for primary texts and period photographs. Just as writer Jack London discovered "metaphorical gold" in the Yukon, students can search several online databases for period details that will enhance their own narratives based on the Gold Rush era.

  • Critical Ways of Seeing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in Context

    Depiction of Huckleberry Finn on 1917 sheet music cover

    By studying Mark Twain's novel, Huckleberry Finn, and its critics with a focus on cultural context, students will develop essential analytical tools for navigating this text and for exploring controversies that surround this quintessential American novel.

  • Esperanza Rising: Learning Not to Be Afraid to Start Over

    Mexican woman farm laborer picking tomatoes in a California field, 1938.

    In this lesson students will look behind the story at the historical, social, and cultural circumstances that help account for the great contrasts and contradictions that Esperanza experiences when she moves to California. The lesson also invites students to contemplate some of the changes Esperanza undergoes as she grows from a pampered child into a resourceful and responsible young woman.

  • Pioneer Values in Willa Cather's "My Antonia"

    Portrait of Willa Cather from the Carl Van Vechten collection,

    Students learn about the social and historical context of Willa Cather’s My Antonia and work in groups to explore Cather's commentary on fortitude, hard work, faithfulness, and other values that we associate with pioneer life.

  • The "Secret Society" and Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby

    "Jazz Baby," 1919. From Historic American Sheet Music, 1850–1920

    In F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, "class struggle" is portrayed as an intensely personal affair, as much a tension within the mind of a single character as a conflict between characters. Students' own experience of the struggle to belong can provide a starting point for an exploration of the mixed emotions--jealousy, admiration, desire, resentment--that characterize main character Nick Caraway's attitude towards the "secret society" of wealthy Easterners. Other lesson activities also include a close study of the text and an examination of Fitzgerald's letters and other statements.

  • Jack London's The Call of the Wild: "Nature Faker"?

    Photo of the dog that inspired Jack London's Buck. Copyright Richard Bond and  Helen Abott.

    A critic of writer Jack London called his animal protagonists “men in fur,” suggesting that his literary creations flaunted the facts of natural history.  London responded to such criticism by maintaining that his own creations were based on sound science and in fact represented “…a protest against the ‘humanizing’ of animals, of which it seemed to me several ‘animal writers’ had been profoundly guilty.”  How well does London succeed in avoiding such “humanizing” in his portrayal of Buck, the hero of his novel, The Call of the Wild?