• Introducing Jane Eyre: An Unlikely Victorian Heroine

    Charlotte Brontë

    Through their interpretation of primary documents that reflect Victorian ideals, students can learn the cultural expectations for and limitations placed on Victorian women and then contemplate the writer Charlotte Brontë's position in that context. Then, through an examination of the opening chapters of Jane Eyre, students will evaluate Jane's status as an unconventional Victorian heroine.

  • Death in Poetry: A.E. Housman's "To an Athlete Dying Young" and Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night"

    Dylan Thomas and A.E. Housman each wrote poems about death that were very  different from each other.

    In this lesson, students analyze, compare, and contrast two famous but different poems about death. Students will study poetry form (elegy and villanelle) and poetic devices such as repetition and tone.

  • Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice": The Novel as Historical Source

    A contemporary portrait of Jane Austen based on an original drawing by Jane's  sister Cassandra.

    Jane Austen's classic novel offers insights into life in early nineteenth-century England. This lesson, focusing on class and the status of women, teaches students how to use a work of fiction as a primary source in the study of history.

  • William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream": Conflict Resolution and Happy Endings

    Shakespeare Puck

    The activities in this lesson invite students to focus on the characters from A Midsummer Night's Dream, to describe and analyze their conflicts, and then to watch how those conflicts get resolved.

    Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12
    Curriculum Unit

    Introduction to Modernist Poetry (3 Lessons)



    The Unit


    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


    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
    • Compare and contrast
    • Critical analysis
    • Critical thinking
    • Interpretation
    • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
    • Poetry analysis