• Lesson 2: Kate Chopin's The Awakening: Chopin, Realism, and Local Color in late 19th Century America

    Kate Chopin. Image from the archives of the Missouri Historical Society.

    Introduce to your students concepts of realism, a literary movement in the 19th century that focused on reporting aspects of "common" life, through Kate Chopin's The Awakening.

  • 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 3: Emulating Emily Dickinson: Poetry Writing

    Emily Dickinson

    In this lesson, students closely examine Dickinson’s poem “There’s a certain slant of light” in order to understand her craft. Students explore different components of Dickinson’s poetry and then practice their own critical and poetry writing skills in an emulation exercise. Finally, in the spirit of Dickinson’s correspondences, students will exchange their poems and offer informed critiques of each others’ work.

  • Lesson 1: In Emily Dickinson's Own Words: Letters and Poems

    Emily Dickinson

    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.”

  • Lesson 2: Responding to Emily Dickinson: Poetic Analysis

    In this lesson, students will explore Dickinson’s poem “Safe in their Alabaster Chambers” both as it was published as well as how it developed through Dickinson’s correspondence with her sister-in-law Susan Huntington Gilbert Dickinson.

  • Lesson 3: From Courage to Freedom

    Frederick Douglass.

    Frederick Douglass's 1845 narrative of his life is a profile in both moral and physical courage.  In the narrative Douglass openly illustrates and attacks the misuse of Christianity as a defense of slavery.  He also reveals the turning point of his life: his spirited physical defense of himself against the blows of a white "slave-breaker."

  • Lesson 1: From Courage to Freedom: The Reality behind the Song

    Frederick Douglass.

    One myth that Southern slave owners and proponents were happy to perpetuate was that of the slave happily singing from dawn to dusk as he worked in the fields, prepared meals in the kitchen, or maintained the upkeep of the plantation.

  • Introducing the Essay: Twain, Douglass, and American Non-Fiction

    Frederick Douglass and Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens).

    The essay is perhaps one of the most flexible genres: long or short, personal or analytical, exploring the extraordinary and the mundane. American essayists examine the political, the historical, and the literary; they investigate what it means to be an "American," ponder the means of creating independent and free citizens, discuss the nature of American literary form, and debate the place of religion in American society.

  • Introducing Metaphors Through Poetry

    Celebrated American poet Maya Angelou makes extensive use of metaphors in her  poetry.

    Metaphors are used often in literature, appearing in every genre from poetry to prose and from essays to epics. This lesson introduces students to the use of metaphor through the poetry of Langston Hughes, Margaret Atwood, and others.

  • Recognizing Similes: Fast as a Whip

    American poet ee cummings made vivid use of similes in his work.

    Similes are used often in literature, appearing in every genre from poetry to prose and from epics to essays. Utilized by writers to bring their literary imagery to life, similes are an important component of reading closely and appreciating literature.