Critical Ways of Seeing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in Context

Huckleberry Finn opens with a warning from its author that misinterpreting readers will be shot. Despite the danger, readers have been approaching the novel from such diverse critical perspectives for 120 years that it is both commonly taught and frequently banned, for a variety of reasons. Studying both the novel and its critics with an emphasis on cultural context will help students develop analytical tools essential for navigating this work and other American controversies. This lesson asks students to combine internet historical research with critical reading. Then students will produce several writing assignments exploring what readers see in Huckleberry Finn and why they see it that way.

Guiding Questions

How does a critic's cultural context help explain his or her opinions about a book?

What influences in my cultural context help explain my opinions about a book?

How does acknowledging my opinions' origins in the culture around me, and recognizing that changes in culture cause changes in opinions, affect the way I state my opinion?

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, students will be able to: Read and write literary criticism

Perform historical/biographical analysis of non-fiction works

Define cultural context and describe aspects of others' contexts as well as their own

Make inferences and develop the ability to provide convincing evidence to support their inferences