• "Three Shots": Ernest Hemingway's Nick Adams

    Ernest Hemingway at his writing desk in Kenya. Earl Theisen. Gelatin silver  print, 1953.

    In this lesson, students study issues related to independence and notions of manliness in Ernest Hemingway’s “Three Shots” as they conduct in-depth literary character analysis, consider the significance of environment to growing up and investigate Hemingway’s Nobel Prize-winning, unique prose style. In addition, they will have the opportunity to write and revise a short story based on their own childhood experiences and together create a short story collection.

  • Poetry of The Great War: 'From Darkness to Light'?

    "Almost Buried." One of the most compelling photographs of World War I

    The historian and literary critic Paul Fussell has noted in The Great War and Modern Memory that, "Dawn has never recovered from what the Great War did to it." With dawn as a common symbol in poetry, it is no wonder that, like a new understanding of dawn itself, a comprehensive body of "World War I Poetry" emerged from the trenches as well.

  • Midnight Ride of Paul Revere — Fact, Fiction, and Artistic License

    The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, Grant Wood

    This lesson encourages close study of Wood's painting, American Revolution primary sources, and Longfellow's poem to understand the significance of this historical ride in America's struggle for freedom. By reading primary sources, students learn how Paul Revere and his Midnight Ride became an American story of patriotism.

    Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
    Curriculum Unit

    Faulkner's As I Lay Dying: Form of a Funeral (5 Lessons)

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    Overview

    "The reason for living was to get ready to stay dead for a long time" -- Addie Bundren in Faulkner's As I Lay Dying

    William Faulkner's self-proclaimed masterpiece, As I Lay Dying, originally published in 1930, is a fascinating exploration of the many voices found in a Southern family and community. The following lesson examines the novel's use of multiple voices in its narrative. Faulkner:

    often told his stories using multiple narratives, each with their own interests and biases, who allow us to piece together the 'true' circumstances of the story, not as clues in a mystery, but as different melodies in a piece of music that form a crescendo. The conclusion presents a key to understanding the broad panorama surrounding the central event in a way that traditional linear narratives simply are unable to accomplish.
    Evan Goodwin on Faulkner

    The novel's title—As I Lay Dying—invokes a first-person speaker, presumably the voice of the dead mother, Addie Bundren. Yet she only speaks once in the novel, and she is dead, not dying, throughout most of the novel (aside from the beginning chapters). How does Faulkner's form for the novel—a series of competing voices and perspectives presented as a multiple-voice narrative—work for or against the novel's title?

    Students will also explore the context of the novel, examine background information on social and economic conditions in the rural South in the first decades of the twentieth century. This background will enable the teacher and students to "place" Faulkner's novel historically and sociologically; Faulkner wrote about his own time and a place he knew well. Faulkner's life will be presented, briefly, so that parallels can be drawn between his life and the life depicted in the text. Faulkner grew up in a small Mississippi town in a middle-class family and saw in his surroundings perfect models for characters like the Bundren family and their neighbors. In the lessons of this curriculum unit, students will

    • Explore the use of multiple voices in narration
    • Learn about the social and economic conditions of the rural South in the 1920s and about William Faulkner's life.
    • Read, annotate, and discuss the text in class, individually and in groups.

    Guiding Questions

    • How does Faulkner's form for the novel—a series of competing voices and perspectives presented as a multiple-voice narrative—work for or against the novel's title?
    • What does the final portrait of the Bundrens look like? Are they as rotten as Addie's corpse, full of despair and dissolution? Or are they a tribute to the vigor and resolve of a Southern family, who successfully complete an overwhelming task? Does Faulkner truly resolve this issue?

    Learning Objectives

    • Define Faulkner's place in American literary history
    • Describe Faulkner's "South" in the context of the historical South
    • Understand and explore the use of multiple voices in narration
    • Examine the Bundren family through the subjective evidence provided by a multiplicity of characters

    Preparation Instructions

    Review the lesson plan. Locate and bookmark suggested materials and other useful websites. Download and print out documents you will use and duplicate copies as necessary for student viewing.

    Download, print, and copy the PDF used in Lesson 2.

    Voice:

    The voice of the narrator helps shape the way that readers encounter the story. The voice can reveal the narrative point-of-view, the background of the speaker (such as education level, social standing, and so on), and the relationship of the narrator to others in the story. An omniscient narrator, for example, often gives the impression of authorial investment and oversight, but maintains distance from the characters. A character speaking from his own point-of-view, however, creates a sense of a limited but intimate perspective. Faulkner's ability to shift narrative voice in As I Lay Dying results in a rich tapestry of often competing perspectives, where information is doled out in small bits, left to the reader to piece together in an understanding of the larger (yet not complete) family portrait of the Bundrens.

    Review with your students a basic introduction to literary terms, including "point of view," or distribute a student handout on literary terms that is available at Purdue's Online Writing Lab, via the EDSITEment-reviewed Internet Public Library.

    William Faulkner on the Web, available via EDSITEment-reviewed Internet Public Library, is the strongest representative of William Faulkner materials online. Below are a few key sections of the website that might prove helpful in teaching this lesson:

    • Commentary on As I Lay Dying
    • Bundren Genealogy, which gives an overview of the immediate Bundren family unit (note: click on the names in the image to get more information).
    • Character List for As I Lay Dying, with links to descriptions
    • WFotW links to William Faulkner (1897-1962) from the Instructor's Guide for The Heath Anthology of American Literature (3rd ed.). While the Heath deals with Faulkner's short stories, the introductory material might prove useful for preparation.

    A general review of Literature in the American South is available through the EDSITEment-reviewed website Documenting the American South. While not specific to As I Lay Dying (although it does discuss other Faulkner novels), the section Civil War discusses representations of the Civil War in literature in a manner immediately relevant to the study of Faulkner's work:

    But the southern writer … has been less concerned to reconstruct the actual time of the struggle than to recount the consequent loss of the antebellum southern culture and, in the response to this loss, the creation of a postbellum culture of survival.
    [from Civil War, Encyclopedia of Southern Culture edited by Charles Reagan Wilson and William Ferris.]

    The section Humor provides details on many aspects of the amusing and the grotesque often found in Southern literature, attributes obvious in Faulkner's As I Lay Dying:

    Southern humor, like much of the best southern writing in general, has been boisterous and physical, often grotesque, and generally realistic. On the whole, it has no doubt been better received and more appreciated outside the region than in it … William Faulkner was certainly a puzzle to the people of Oxford in his time. Writing has never been a particularly admired occupation in the South, and its comic writers, as well as the most perceptive serious writers, have singled out aspects of southern culture that many southerners would sooner forget. This combination has produced what many southern readers would no doubt characterize as a literature of betrayal.
    (From Humor, Encyclopedia of Southern Culture edited by Charles Reagan Wilson and William Ferris.)

    The Lessons

    The Basics

    Grade Level

    9-12

    Subject Areas
    • Literature and Language Arts > Place > American
    • Literature and Language Arts > Genre > Common Core
    • Literature and Language Arts > Genre > Novels
    Skills
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Discussion
    • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
    • Internet skills
    • Interpretation
    • Literary analysis
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Writing skills
    Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
    Curriculum Unit

    Letters from Emily Dickinson: 'Will you be my preceptor?' (3 Lessons)

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    Overview

    In 1862, Emily Dickinson, one of the most innovative poets of the 19th century, ventured a letter to Thomas Wentworth Higginson, an editor, writer, and longtime contributor to the Atlantic Monthly who would become her long-time correspondent and mentor. She asked, "Are you too deeply occupied to say if my verse is alive?" Long perceived as a recluse who wrote purely in isolation, Dickinson in reality maintained many dynamic correspondences throughout her lifetime and specifically sought out dialogues on her poetry. These correspondences—both professional and private—reveal a poet keenly aware of the interdependent relationship between poet and reader.

    Similarly, Dickinson's letters expose a poet fully engaged in the process of crafting a persona. In another note to Higginson in the first year of their correspondence, Dickinson wrote, "When I state myself, as the representative of the verse, it does not mean me, but a supposed person." For students of writing, who often struggle to develop a distinctive voice, and then to modify that voice for different audiences, Dickinson's dialogues offer an instructive model. Ultimately, reading Emily Dickinson's letters alongside her poems helps students to better appreciate a remarkable voice in American literature, grasp how Dickinson perceived herself and her poetry, and-perhaps most relevant to their own endeavors—consider the ways in which a writer constructs a "supposed person."

    In this curriculum unit, students will explore Dickinson's poetry as well as her letters to Higginson and her sister-in-law Susan Huntington Gilbert Dickinson. They will work individually and in groups to reflect on Dickinson's views and the process by which she writes; assume the role of a critic/correspondent and analyze Dickinson's poetry, specifically noting the effectiveness of her persona; and, finally, emulate her writing style while, at the same time, synthesizing what they've learned about poetic voice in a poetry-writing exercise on "There's a certain Slant of light."

    Guiding Questions

    • How does Emily Dickinson perceive herself as a poet, especially as reflected by her correspondences with Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Susan Huntington Gilbert Dickinson?
    • In what ways does this perception manifest itself in her poetry?

    Learning Objectives

    • Recognize Emily Dickinson's poetic style
    • Engage in textual analysis and critical thinking
    • Reflect upon the concept of artistic persona and the creative process
    • Adjust their writing style to different purposes
    • Use imaginative writing techniques

    Preparation Instructions

    • For Lesson One, download the pdf worksheet, Emily Says, and cut out each individual quotation for distribution to student groups.
    • For Lesson Three, download and copy the PDF worksheet, Emulate Emily.
    • Re-read a number of Dickinson's poems to reacquaint yourself with her unique style. The poems used in this lesson are "Safe in their Alabaster Chambers" (216, 1859 and 1861 version), "They shut me up in Prose-" (613), "I dwell in Possibility-" (657), "There's a certain Slant of light" (258). More Dickinson poems are available at the Academy of American Poets or the American Verse Project. Note Dickinson's use of metaphors to express her ideas and her rejection of grammatical conventions, and her dependence on poetry to achieve understanding.
    • Since this lesson addresses Dickinson's persona, it is also helpful to review a few essays on how Dickinson is perceived today. You may want to read the Dickinson biography on the EDSITEment-reviewed website Academy of American Poets, and explore a few of the pieces, specifically Sandra Gilbert's essay, at Titanic Operas, Folio 1, available on the Dickinson Electronic Archives through the Academy of American Poets site. Central to this lesson is the well-known myth of Emily Dickinson as a ghost-like figure, dressed entirely in white and confined to her father's home in Amherst. Conversely, it's significant to note the extent of Dickinson's formal education and the value she placed on literature. Dickinson was well-versed in the poetry and prose of the 19th century, having read and appreciated, among others, the Brontës, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Thomas Carlyle, and George Eliot. As you read the biographies, pay attention to disparate views. While some scholarship portrays Dickinson as a romantic, heartsick figure (i.e., as someone weak who was acted upon), more recent feminist readings tend to view her as deeply aware of the image she actively created of herself.
    • Read at least pages 444 through 447 of Emily Dickinson's Letters, Thomas Wentworth Higginson's article for the October 1891 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, at the EDSITEment-reviewed American Memory Project. Higginson excerpts many of Dickinson's letters to him in this piece. Consider the ways in which Dickinson simultaneously seeks Higginson's input and resists his recommendations. Also, note her particular writing style and think about her views on poetry. Her letters suggest that, for her, writing poetry was instinctive, but they also reveal that she understood her writing in the context of other literary works. (As you read this piece, know that Higginson corrected, so to speak, Dickinson's grammar when he published her letters. For a better look at her unadulterated style, see the manuscripts in the Dickinson Electronic Archives, discussed below.)
    • In his essay, Higginson writes, "Even her letters to me show her mainly on her exaltee side; and should a volume of her correspondence ever be printed, it is very desirable that it should contain some of her letters to friends of closer and more familiar intimacy." For a glimpse of this intimacy, explore the "Emily Dickinson Writing a Poem" site, part of the Dickinson Electronic Archives, which is available through the EDSITEment-reviewed Academy of American Poets. Read the "Introduction," the letters between Dickinson and her sister-in-law Susan, and the manuscript excerpts. Pay particular attention to how Sue comments on Dickinson's poetry, how Dickinson in turn responds to Sue's suggestions, and how she expresses an awareness of herself as a poet writing for a greater audience. Think about how this exchange is more personal than the one between Dickinson and Higginson.

    The Lessons

    The Basics

    Grade Level

    9-12

    Subject Areas
    • Literature and Language Arts > Place > American
    • Literature and Language Arts > Genre > AP Literature
    • History and Social Studies > People > Women
    • Literature and Language Arts > Genre > Poetry
    Skills
    • Creative writing
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Discussion
    • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
    • Interpretation
    • Literary analysis
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Poetry writing
    • Representing ideas and information orally, graphically and in writing
    • Textual analysis
    • Using primary sources
    Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
    Curriculum Unit

    From Courage to Freedom: Frederick Douglass's 1845 Autobiography (3 Lessons)

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    Overview

    In 1845 Frederick Douglass published what was to be the first of his three autobiographies: the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself. As the title suggests, Douglass wished not only to highlight the irony that a land founded on freedom would permit slavery to exist within its midst, but also to establish that he, an American slave with no formal education, was the sole author of the work. Written in the years following his 1838 escape from his Maryland slaveholder, the narrative reveals numerous instances of Douglass's courage on his journey from slave to free man. Douglass himself punctuates this route by sharing with the reader his tenacious and ingenious efforts at learning how to read and write, his risky physical opposition to a "nigger-breaker," and his escape to New York. These courageous acts pale, however, beside his most overt and possibly dangerous act: the publishing of his autobiography before his freedom had been purchased. Indeed, in 1845 Douglass was still legally a slave; at any time he could have been betrayed, hunted down, captured and returned to his master who, more than likely, would have sold Douglass further down South as punishment. It was not until 1847, while Douglass was traveling and lecturing in England that friends bought his freedom. For Douglass, however, his personal declaration of freedom and independence occurred two years earlier with his Narrative.

    The Narrative in itself is remarkable for the views on slavery and slaveholders that Douglass bravely presents. First, Douglass asserts his humanity in the face of the dehumanizing institution of slavery. In doing so, he sets an example to other slaves to insist upon their humanity, and he persuades his reading audience to acknowledge this humanity, too. He claims as his intellectual birthright the opportunity to learn to read and write. He refuses to accept anything less than his own physical, spiritual, and intellectual freedom. Moreover, he never hesitates to criticize directly—often with withering irony—those who uphold slavery and those who prefer a romanticized version of it. Pitilessly, Douglass offers the reader a first-hand account of the pain, humiliation and brutality of the South's "peculiar institution." His is not an account of moonlight, magnolias, and happily singing workers. Instead, he points out the cruelty and the corrupting influence of power not only on the victim, but also on the perpetrator—the slave holder. Lastly, Douglass's Narrative is a courageous work because it confronts the misuse of Christianity in perpetuating the widely held belief in the slave owner's "God-given" right to own or sell other human beings.

    In this curriculum unit, students will read Douglass's narrative with particular attention devoted to chapters 1, 2, 6, 7, 9, and 10. They will analyze Douglass's vivid first-hand accounts of the lives of slaves and the behavior of slave owners to see how he successfully contrasts reality with romanticism and powerfully uses imagery, irony, connotative and denotative language, strong active verbs, repetition, and rhetorical appeals to persuade the reader of slavery's evil. Students will also identify and discuss Douglass's acts of physical and intellectual courage on his journey towards freedom.

    Guiding Questions

    • How does Frederick Douglass's skilled use of language paint a realistic portrait of slavery?
    • How successful is Douglass in persuading the reader of the evils that slavery inflicts on both slave and slaveholder alike?

    Learning Objectives

    • Analyze and understand a specific type of historical and literary primary document, the slave narrative/autobiography.
    • Recognize and explain the use and effectiveness of precise word choice, imagery, irony, and rhetorical appeals.
    • Learn to look for and contrast instances of reality and romanticized myth by using the slave narrative as a source for historical study.

    Preparation Instructions

    • Locate Douglass's 1845 Narrative at the EDSITEment-reviewed Library of Congress American Memory Project
    • Familiarize yourself with the history of slave narratives by reading William L. Andrews' "An Introduction to the Slave Narrative" found at the EDSITEment-reviewed UNC Chapel Hill's Documenting the American South website. This essay explains the purpose of the slave narrative as "to enlighten white readers about both the realities of slavery as an institution and the humanity of black people as individuals deserving of full human rights." The essay touches upon the popularity of the narratives before the Civil War and also notes specific characteristic traits of the slave narrative—traits which can easily be seen in Douglass's narrative. For example, the slave narrator portrays the plight of slaves as "a kind of hell on earth." "Hope contends with despair" and then "impelled by faith in God and a commitment to liberty and human dignity comparable to that of America's Founding Fathers," the slave narrator finds sanctuary and freedom in the North. Andrews's essay concludes by noting the influence of slave narratives upon modern black autobiography.
    • Obtain a concise overview of Douglass's life at the EDSITEment-reviewed National Park Service Links to the Past: American Visionaries—Frederick Douglass website. The site offers a complete overview of Douglass's life, whereas the 1845 Narrative itself ends with Douglass's freedom.
    • The EDSITEment-reviewed website Silva Rhetoricae has definitions and examples of the following persuasive appeals and rhetorical devices (click on the word to see in-depth definitions and examples):
      • Persuasive Appeals (overview)
      • Logos: appeal to reason
      • Ethos: appeal to one's own character
      • Pathos: appeal to emotion
      • Irony
      • Repetition (repetitio)

        Other terms that might be of use in the conversation include imagery, connotation, and denotation. Definitions and examples are available both at Wikipedia and Dictionary.com, available via the EDSITEment-reviewed Internet Public Library:
      • Imagery: (Wikipedia) (Dictionary.com)
      • Denotation—generally, the literal meaning of a word: (Wikipedia) (Dictionary.com)
      • Connotation—generally, the possible supplementary, implied meanings behind a literal meaning (Wikipedia) (Dictionary.com)
      • Wikipedia provides the following examples to describe the difference between Denotation and Connotation:
        • For example, the word "city" connotes the attributes of largeness, populousness. It denotes individual objects such as London, New York, Paris.
        • For example, a stubborn person may be described as being either strong-willed or pig-headed. Although these have the same literal meaning (i.e. stubborn), strong-willed connotes admiration for someone's convictions, while pig-headed connotes frustration in dealing with someone.

          Teachers may want to create a handout or a power point file for students with definitions and examples of persuasive appeals, repetition, irony, imagery, connotative and denotative language as found at these sites.
      Since Douglass does use the "n-word"—nigger—at times in his narrative, teachers may want to alert their students to that fact and perhaps give them some historical and cultural context for the word. When reading aloud, students should be given the option to say or not say the word—if they should encounter it—as they please. The classroom must be a comfortable place for all if Douglass's narrative is to be studied well and appreciated.
    • Read John Picker's introduction to spirituals and the essay on spirituals by Thomas Wentworth Higginson's essay "Negro Spirituals" found at the EDSITEment-reviewed American Studies at the University of Virginia For a concise history of spirituals see also www.negrospirituals.com
    • To extend the lesson on spirituals, review the EDSITEment lesson plan Spirituals, which explores how spirituals play a role in African-American history, from the Underground Railroad to the Civil Rights Movement.

    The Lessons

    The Basics

    Grade Level

    9-12

    Subject Areas
    • History and Social Studies > People > African American
    • Literature and Language Arts > Place > American
    • History and Social Studies > Themes > Civil Rights
    • Literature and Language Arts > Genre > Biography
    • Literature and Language Arts > Genre > Essay
    Skills
    • Compare and contrast
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Discussion
    • Evaluating arguments
    • Historical analysis
    • Interpretation
    • Literary analysis
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Online research
    • Writing skills
    Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
    Curriculum Unit

    William Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury": Narrating the Compson Family Decline and the Changing South (5 Lessons)

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    Overview

    Published in 1929, The Sound and the Fury is often referred to as William Faulkner's first work of genius. It was only his fourth novel, yet it is widely considered to be one of the greatest contributions to American literature and one of Faulkner's most heartfelt literary creations. In the canon of great works, it is primarily recognized for its experimental form. Faulkner's style is characterized by frequent time shifts, narrator shifts, unconventional punctuation and sentence structure, as well as a stream-of-consciousness technique that reveals the inner thoughts of characters to the reader.

    This curriculum unit will examine narrative structure and time, narrative voice/point of view, and symbolism throughout The Sound and the Fury (with sections referred to as the "Benjy," "Quentin," "Jason," and "Dilsey" chapters). Students will engage in a close reading of the full novel and in activities that prompt them to consider the changing narrative structure and voice throughout the novel and the relationship between such changes and characterization. Students also will trace the decline of the Compson family. Upon completing this curriculum unit, students will have a solid understanding of the novel and of the changing South, and they will be able concretely to analyze the novel in spoken and written forms.

    Guiding Questions

    • How does Faulkner use narrative structure, time, voice/point of view, and other devices such as symbolism throughout each chapter of The Sound and the Fury?
    • How does Faulkner characterize Benjy, Quentin, Jason, Dilsey (and Caddy), document the decline of the Southern Compson family, and portray the changing the American South?

    Learning Objectives

    • Define Faulkner's place in American literary history
    • Describe Faulkner's "South" in the context of the historical South and understand how the South was changing socially and economically in the early 20th century
    • Understand narrative voice/point of view and its relation to content
    • Understand symbolism and its relationship to plot and narrative structure
    • Gain a firm understanding of The Sound and the Fury's plot and its use of time

    Background

    The Sound and the Fury is an emotionally charged work that is difficult for most mature readers, let alone junior and senior high school students. Yet it is not impossible to teach, nor is it out of the reach for most advanced students. In the novel, as in most of his works, Faulkner wrestles with moral themes, yet it is the structure of the narrative—at once stylistically compelling and yet obscure—that both ranks it as great among American literary classics and renders it so very complex for readers.

    The Sound and the Fury details the moral decay of the Compsons, a once-prosperous aristocratic family from Mississippi, with a lineage that stretches back to before the Civil War and includes a military general and a former governor of Mississippi. The tale is told in flashbacks, unfolding over at least three different periods of time and from more than one point of view. Benjy Compson, the thirty-three year old retarded son of Jason and Caroline Compson, is the moaning and slobbering "idiot" who narrates the first of four chapters; his older brother, the sensitive, Harvard-educated Quentin Compson, narrates the second chapter; the mean-spirited and stingy younger brother Jason IV narrates chapter three; and chapter four is relayed by an omniscient narrator who tells the story of this family decline by ironically focusing on the maid Dilsey, rendered powerless by virtue of her race and position, and yet the de facto matriarch of this family and its only source of stability.

    The Sound and the Fury continued to explore Faulkner's themes from earlier works related to the decline of the American South, as well as issues of morality, sin, and redemption, although one could rightly argue that his overarching concern was with the nature of human existence. These latter concepts are woven into a complex tapestry of race and class-consciousness and internecine struggle as the Compsons contend with the interrelated dynamics of family honor and feminine virtue within the context of social acceptability, life's perceived order, and the element of time.

    • The South: What is it, Where is it?, excerpted from John Shelton Reed's My Tears Spoiled My Aim and available via EDSITEment-reviewed American Studies at the University of Virginia, might be a good way to quickly review the multiple perspectives of the South. The article is lengthy, and uses statistics ranging from the 1920s to the 1980s, so it is intended as supplementary background information for the teacher.
    • For the purposes of this curriculum unit, the terms point of view and narrative voice will be used interchangeably. While some teachers might want to enhance the lesson by distinguishing between narrative voice and focalization, this lesson adopts the broader approach to point of view since the student is already grappling with a complex text. Point of view, then, here includes both 'who sees' (often termed focalization) and who speaks (often termed 'voice').

    Preparation Instructions

    • Review the lesson plan and the websites used throughout. Locate and bookmark suggested materials. Download and print out documents you will use and duplicate copies as necessary for student viewing. The following worksheets are available for use, with their respective lessons in the curriculum unit noted in parentheses.
    • Students can access the novel and some of the activity materials via the Student LaunchPad.
    • Review the curriculum unit overview and the pre-reading activities for students.
    • Warn students to anticipate difficult reading ahead. While Benjy's version of events in the first chapter is complex and even difficult to read, for example, ask students to focus less on creating a firm initial sense of what happened and more on how the structure of Benjy's thoughts influences their sense of the Compson family's place in time and in culture.
    • Prepare students for Faulkner's use of offensive racist terms and racial stereotypes by setting the context of Faulkner's time and place. The article "Keeping Faulkner in the Classroom," by Lisa Hickman of Rhodes College (available from Southeast Missouri State University's Center for Faulkner Studies) will help you prepare students for such issues.

    The Sound and the Fury is an emotionally charged work that is difficult for most mature readers, let alone junior and senior high school students. Yet it is not impossible to teach, nor is it out of the reach for most advanced students. In the novel, as in most of his works, Faulkner wrestles with moral themes, yet it is the structure of the narrative—at once stylistically compelling and yet obscure—that both ranks it as great among American literary classics and renders it so very complex for readers.

    The Sound and the Fury details the moral decay of the Compsons, a once-prosperous aristocratic family from Mississippi, with a lineage that stretches back to before the Civil War and includes a military general and a former governor of Mississippi. The tale is told in flashbacks, unfolding over at least three different periods of time and from more than one point of view. Benjy Compson, the thirty-three year old retarded son of Jason and Caroline Compson, is the moaning and slobbering "idiot" who narrates the first of four chapters; his older brother, the sensitive, Harvard-educated Quentin Compson, narrates the second chapter; the mean-spirited and stingy younger brother Jason IV narrates chapter three; and chapter four is relayed by an omniscient narrator who tells the story of this family decline by ironically focusing on the maid Dilsey, rendered powerless by virtue of her race and position, and yet the de facto matriarch of this family and its only source of stability.

    The Sound and the Fury continued to explore Faulkner's themes from earlier works related to the decline of the American South, as well as issues of morality, sin, and redemption, although one could rightly argue that his overarching concern was with the nature of human existence. These latter concepts are woven into a complex tapestry of race and class-consciousness and internecine struggle as the Compsons contend with the interrelated dynamics of family honor and feminine virtue within the context of social acceptability, life's perceived order, and the element of time.

    • The South: What is it, Where is it?, excerpted from John Shelton Reed's My Tears Spoiled My Aim and available via EDSITEment-reviewed American Studies at the University of Virginia, might be a good way to quickly review the multiple perspectives of the South. The article is lengthy, and uses statistics ranging from the 1920s to the 1980s, so it is intended as supplementary background information for the teacher.
    • For the purposes of this curriculum unit, the terms point of view and narrative voice will be used interchangeably. While some teachers might want to enhance the lesson by distinguishing between narrative voice and focalization, this lesson adopts the broader approach to point of view since the student is already grappling with a complex text. Point of view, then, here includes both 'who sees' (often termed focalization) and who speaks (often termed 'voice').

    The Lessons

    The Basics

    Grade Level

    9-12

    Subject Areas
    • Literature and Language Arts > Place > American
    • Literature and Language Arts > Genre > Novels
    Skills
    • Compare and contrast
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Discussion
    • Interpretation
    • Journal writing
    • Literary analysis
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Online research
    • Representing ideas and information orally, graphically and in writing
    • Using primary sources
    Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
    Curriculum Unit

    Introduction to Modernist Poetry (3 Lessons)

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    Overview

    The English novelist Virginia Woolf declared that human nature underwent a fundamental change "on or about December 1910." The statement testifies to the modern writer's fervent desire to break with the past, rejecting literary traditions that seemed outmoded and diction that seemed too genteel to suit an era of technological breakthroughs and global violence.”
    —from the EDSITEment-reviewed Academy of American PoetsThe Modernist Revolution: Make It New

    Modernist poetry often is difficult for students to analyze and understand. A primary reason students feel a bit disoriented when reading a modernist poem is that the speaker himself is uncertain about his or her own ontological bearings. Indeed, the speaker of modernist poems characteristically wrestles with the fundamental question of “self,” often feeling fragmented and alienated from the world around him. In other words, a coherent speaker with a clear sense of himself/herself is hard to find in modernist poetry, often leaving students confused and “lost.”

    Such ontological feelings of fragmentation and alienation, which often led to a more pessimistic and bleak outlook on life as manifested in representative modernist poems such as T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” were prompted by fundamental and far-reaching historical, social, cultural, and economic changes in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The rise of cities; profound technological changes in transportation, architecture, and engineering; a rising population that engendered crowds and chaos in public spaces; and a growing sense of mass markets often made individuals feel less individual and more alienated, fragmented, and at a loss in their daily worlds. World War I (WWI), moreover, contributed to a more modern local and world view.

    Understanding the context of literary modernism (specifically, modernist poetry) is important for students before they analyze modernist texts themselves. To that end, this three-lesson curriculum unit begins with Lesson One: “Understanding the Context of Modernism Poetry,” followed by Lesson Two: “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” which features “warm-up” exercises to give students initial bearings for reading and analyzing modernist poetry. The curriculum unit ends with T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”; this lesson requires students to analyze modernist poetry in more depth and detail. You may extend the unit by teaching additional modernist poets such as Marianne Moore, Jean Toomer, William Carlos Williams, and Ezra Pound.

    Guiding Questions

    • What are several historical, social, and cultural forces that prompted the modernist movement? What were the effects of these influential factors?
    • What are the primary characteristics of modernist poetry?

    Learning Objectives

    • Students will understand the literary context of modernism.
    • Students will be able to define and understand in context common poetic devices.
    • Students will be able to analyze several modernist poems.
    • Students will understand the historical, social, and cultural context of modernism at large.

    Preparation Instructions

    • Review the lesson plan. Locate and bookmark suggested materials and other useful websites. Download and print out documents you will use and duplicate copies as necessary for student viewing.
    • To reference any literary device mentioned in this curriculum unit, visit Norton’s Glossary of Literary Terms, available via the EDSITEment-reviewed American Academy of Poets.

    The Lessons

    The Basics

    Grade Level

    9-12

    Subject Areas
    • Literature and Language Arts > Place > American
    • Literature and Language Arts > Place > British
    • History and Social Studies > U.S. > The Emergence of Modern America (1890-1930)
    • Literature and Language Arts > Genre > Poetry
    Skills
    • Compare and contrast
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Interpretation
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Poetry analysis
    Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
    Curriculum Unit

    American Literary Humor: Mark Twain, George Harris, and Nathaniel Hawthorne (3 Lessons)

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    The Unit

    Overview

    In this three-part curriculum unit, students examine structure and characterization in several short stories and consider the significance of humor through a study of several American writers. One or all lessons can be taught individually or linked together as a unit on 19th-century American humor. In Lesson One: Mark Twain and American Humor, through skits and storytelling, students first examine the structure of Twain's story "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" and the role he creates for his tall-tale storyteller, Simon Wheeler. They then investigate Twain's use of dialect by continuing a story that Wheeler starts to tell, imitating his comic style. In Lesson Two: Southwest Humorists and George Washington Harris, students compare Twain's story with one of the Sut Lovingood stories by Harris, again examining the story's structure by performing it as a skit. After considering how this structure "frames" the trickster Sut Lovingood, as compared to the frame Twain creates for his trickster, Jim Smiley, students produce a character sketch of Harris' comic protagonist and a sample of his humorous dialect. Finally, in Lesson Three: Nathaniel Hawthorne and Literary Humor, students read a humorous story by Nathaniel Hawthorne in order to gain perspective on various brands of humor and their significance within the context of American literary tradition. After debating the merits of "moral" humor like Hawthorne's as compared with the "folk" humor of Harris and Twain, students test the possibilities of blending these traditions by recasting a paragraph of Hawthorne's story in dialect style.

    Guiding Questions

    • What is the history of American literary humor in the 19th century?
    • What are some conventions of American literary humor?

    Learning Objectives

    • Analyze the use of literary conventions and devices to develop character and point of view in the short story
    • Discuss the purposes and significance of literary humor
    • Examine Mark Twain's storytelling style in relation to that of other American humorists, such as George Washington Harris and Nathaniel Hawthorne

    Background

    Mark Steadman, in his "Humor in Literature" entry from the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture (published 1989) available at the EDSITEment-reviewed Documents of the American South, describes four general periods of humor in American Southern literature, the first two of which are relevant to the unit: 1830 to 1860 and 1860 to 1925 (the remaining two comprise the range of dates remaining before and after the second World War). These two early periods are detailed in the first four paragraphs of the article, with specific mention of Mark Twain (1835-1910) and his predecessor George Washington Harris (1814-1869), and prove useful as a general introduction to the subject. The influence of writers like Harris and his peers is evident in Mark Twain's "Jumping Frog," most notably in the structure and narration of the story. As Steadman argues, "Generally these writers carefully separated themselves from the disreputable characters of their sketches by using an "envelope" structure, in which a literate narrator introduced the illiterate character who told the story." This, of course, describes the frame structure of "Jumping Frog" exactly, exhibiting Mark Twain's careful use of his predecessors' strategies.

    The final lesson in this unit presents Nathaniel Hawthorne's New England sensibility as a contrast to the southern vernacular presented in the two other stories. Published in 1837 in Hawthorne's Twice-Told Tales, "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" presents a sharper satire, with a more refined narrative style. Students discuss the narrative style of the story and compare the story's themes and humor to that of the others presented in this curriculum unit.

    For information about the authors covered in this lesson, the biographies of Harris and Twain are both available at Documents of the American South. A biography of Nathaniel Hawthorne is available at the EDSITEment-reviewed Hawthorne in Salem.

    Each lesson also contains background information relevant specifically to the writer and stories presented there, and should be reviewed during lesson preparation.

    Preparation Instructions

    The Lessons

    The Basics

    Grade Level

    9-12

    Subject Areas
    • Literature and Language Arts > Place > American
    Skills
    • Creative writing
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Cultural analysis
    • Debate
    • Discussion
    • Evaluating arguments
    • Historical analysis
    • Internet skills
    • Interpretation
    • Literary analysis
    • Representing ideas and information orally, graphically and in writing
    • Writing skills