• 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.

  • The Red Badge of Courage: A New Kind of Realism

    Civil War-era portrait of a Federal soldier.

    The Red Badge of Courage’s success reflects the birth of a modern sensibility; today we feel something is true when it looks like the sort of thing we see in newspapers or on television news.

  • To Kill A Mockingbird and the Scottsboro Boys Trial: Profiles in Courage

    The Scottsboro Boys with their lawyer and guards (UPI photo, March, 1933).

    Students study select court transcripts and other primary source material from the second Scottsboro Boys Trial of 1933, a continuation of the first trial in which two young white women wrongfully accused nine African-American youths of rape.

  • Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird": Profiles in Courage

    To Kill a Mockingbird: Harper Lee and Mary Badham

    This lesson plan asks students to read To Kill A Mockingbird carefully with an eye for all instances and manifestations of courage, but particularly those of moral courage.

  • The Red Badge of Courage: A New Kind of Courage

    Civil War-era portrait of a Federal soldier.

    In The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane presents war through the eyes —and thoughts —of one soldier. The narrative’s altered point of view and stylistic innovations enable a heightened sense of realism while setting the work apart from war stories written essentially as tributes or propaganda.

  • 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? 

  • Lesson 4: Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying": Burying Addie's Voice

    Portrait of William Faulkner by Carl Van Vechten.

    In this lesson, students explore the use of multiple voices in narration and examine the character of Addie Bundren in Faulkner's As I Lay Dying.