Spotlight on Historical Context – Creating A Transcendentalist Utopia

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If it weren’t for the Transcendentalist, the summer of 1969 and the Hippie Communes of the 1970’s may have never happened – the idea of communal living and finding a ‘heaven on earth’ didn’t start in the 20th century, but way back in the 1840’s.

In the 1840s, Boston’s West Roxbury suburb — which was completely rural at the time — was home to an experiment in transcendentalist utopian living: the Brook Farm community. The idea was to create an environment of balance and equality. But as is often the case when a group of people unprepared for the realities of living off the land try to live off the land, the Brook Farm Community wasn’t a completely successful endeavor. Many famous Transcendentalist are connected to Brook Farm – Nathaniel Hawthorne lived there, and Emerson was invited on multiple occasions. Additionally, many of the women at Brookfarm were able to experience more personal freedoms than they had at any other point in their lives, contributing to the first wave of Feminism and the Women’s Suffrage Movement that was taking off in America.

Click here to listen to the podcast about the Brook Farm Community – A Transcendental Heaven on Earth

0520417cc1f0f804f082843ee3a6dacdIn addition to Brookfarm, there was also Fruitland, the community start by educational reformer and Transcendentalist Bronson Alcott. That name may be familiar as his daughter, Louisa May Alcott, is a famous Transcendentalist herself and author of the novel Little Women. The Alcott family lived in Concord, Massachusetts and was connected to many of the most famous Transcendentalist of the day – Hawthorne was good friends with Bronson, and bailed him out of debt on many occasions; Louisa was neighbors with Emerson, and would visit Thoreau at his cabin on Walden Pond, bringing him fresh wildflowers. The Alcott’s serve as a reminder that the Transcendental movements brought new ideas not just about scholarship and philosophy, but also education, slavery and women’s rights.

Click here to listen to the podcast on Bronson Alcott

And click here to listen to the podcast on Louisa May Alcott

Mrs Pierce Recommends

Emerson – The Father of Transcendenalism

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In class today we began our study of the Transcendentalist – a group of close knit free-thinkers and non-conformist, largely from Massachusetts, that changed the future of American Literature. Please see the video below for the background notes on Transcendentalism, as well as background information on Emerson.

In class we are reading  his tenth essay, ‘Circles’, and completing an in-depth analysis of the extended metaphor of the circle and how Emerson connects the ideas of Nature, The Individual, Society, and God/Spirituality.

Please click below to access copies of the essay from class.

Click here to access ‘Circles’.

See below for images from our notes and discussion in class:

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11th Grade American Literature Fall 2017

Diagramming Sentence: Interjections

Before you can effectively write using the English language, or even analyze how others use writing effectively, you need to be familiar with the basic parts and components of the English language. I know grammar isn’t your favorite subject to study and learn (hey, it isn’t my favorite either), BUT knowing and being able to identify these smaller component of your own language will allow you to write more effectively and assess and improve your own writing as the year progresses.

This week we will be examining how to correctly diagram sentences with interjections.

Interjections show excitement or emotion.

You diagram these sentences as follows:

Now practice with the sentence below:

  1. Mrs Lewis, did you wave at the hippopotamus?
  2. Laura, can you or Marian drive me to the creepy abandoned amusement park?
  3. SO ADORBS! Those two baby kittens are cuddled with that puppy!
  4. Mom, your yellow vase fell on the floor and broke into many pieces and I did not knock it over.
  5. YIKES! He barely missed being hit by that car!
11th Grade American Literature Fall 2017

The Early Romantics – The Fireside Poets

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Until the third decade of the 19th century, America had little literature to call its own. Fireside poets represented a “coming of age” for the young country, as a first generation of poets took their name from the popularity of their works which were widely read as family entertainment (and in the schoolroom). These poets chose uniquely American settings and subjects, but their themes, meter, and imagery, however, were borrowed from  English tradition. Though not innovative, they were literary giants of their day, and by examining their poems for images of American daily life, politics and nature we can see the beginnings of the Romantic writings that follow.

 

You will be examining the poetry of  fireside poets – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, Oliver Wendall Holmes, James Russell Lowell and William Cullen Bryant.

 

The Mount of the Holy Cross – Colorado

Longfellow is by far the most famous of the Fireside Poets. No other American poet, not even Robert Frost, has matched Longfellow’s popularity at the height of his career. A bust of Longfellow was placed in the Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey (alongside Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton. Longfellow was a classmate of Nathaniel Hawthorn. He believed his task was to create in memorable form a common heritage for Americans and in the process to create an audience for poetry.

 

Picture1You should remember Bryant from our unit over Expansionism in American Literature, as we read his news article ‘On the Right to Strike’. The fame he won as a poet while in his youth remained with him as he entered his eighties; only Longfellow and Emerson were his rivals in popularity over the course of his life. He wrote poems, essays, and articles that championed the rights of workers and immigrants. In 1829, Bryant became editor in chief of the New York Evening Post, a position he held until his death in 1878. His influence helped establish important New York civic institutions such as Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 1884, New York City’s Reservoir Square, at the intersection of 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue, was renamed Bryant Park in his honor. “Thanatopsis,” if not the best-known American poem abroad before the mid nineteenth century, certainly ranked near the top of the list, and at home school children were commonly required to recite it from memory. At his death, all New York City went into mourning for its most respected citizen.

John Greenleaf Whittier was the son of two devout Quakers, he grew up on the family farm and had little formal schooling. From 1831 until the Civil War, he wrote essays and articles as well as poems, almost all of which were concerned with abolition. In 1833 he wrote Justice and Expedience urging immediate abolition. In 1834 he was elected as a Whig for one term to the Massachusetts legislature; mobbed and stoned in Concord, New Hampshire, in 1835. He moved in 1836 to Amesbury, Massachusetts, where he worked for the American Anti-Slavery Society. Whittier founded the antislavery Liberty party in 1840 and ran for Congress in 1842. While Whittier’s critics never considered him to be a great poet, they thought him a nobel and kind man whose verse gave unique expression to ideas they valued. The Civil War inspired the famous poem, “Barbara Frietchie,” but the important change in his work came after the war. From 1865 until his death in 1892, Whittier wrote of religion, nature, and rural life; he became the most popular Fireside poets

James Russell Lowell was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of the Reverend Charles Lowell and Harriet Spence. An ardent abolitionist, Lowell published widely in many anti-slavery newspapers, such as the Pennsylvania Freeman and the Anti-Slavery Standard. He also published a number of literary essays, political pamphlets, and satirical works, such as The Biglow Papers, a series of satirical verses written in opposition to the Mexican War. In 1853, Lowell’s wife and three of their four children fell ill and died. Two years later, he returned to Harvard to replace Longfellow as professor of modern languages and literature. He spent the following year traveling and studying in Europe, then returned to Harvard to teach for the next twenty years. Known for his politics and personal charm, Lowell was appointed to the position of United States Minister to Spain in 1877, then served as United States Minister to England from 1880 to 1885.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. was an American physician, poet, and polymath based in Boston. A member of the Fireside Poets, he was acclaimed by his peers as one of the best writers of the day.  He was also an important medical reformer. In addition to his work as an author and poet, Holmes also served as a physician, professor, lecturer, and inventor, and although he never practiced it, he received formal training in law. He began writing poetry at an early age; one of his most famous works, “Old Ironsides”, was published in 1830 and was influential in the eventual preservation of the USS Constitution. Following training at the prestigious medical schools of Paris, Holmes was granted his M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1836. He taught at Dartmouth Medical School before returning to teach at Harvard and, for a time, served as dean there. During his long professorship, he became an advocate for various medical reforms and notably posited the controversial idea that doctors were capable of carrying puerperal fever from patient to patient. Holmes retired from Harvard in 1882 and continued writing poetry, novels and essays until his death in 1894.

Below you will find the link to the poems you will be analyzing. Remember, you need to not only analyze the poem in depth, but be sure to make connections between the content of these poems and the ideals of the Romantic/Transcendental writers we will be reading later.

Click here to access the poems in case you lost your hardcopy from class.

Click here to review the rubric you will need to use for your presentation.

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2017

American Romanticism

The “Romantic Period” refers to literary and cultural movements in England, Europe, and America roughly from 1770 to 1860.  Romantic writers (and artists) saw themselves as revolting against the “Age of Reason” (1700-1770) and its values.  They celebrated imagination/intuition versus reason/calculation, spontaneity versus control, subjectivity and metaphysical musing versus objective fact, revolutionary energy versus tradition, individualism versus social conformity, democracy versus monarchy, and so on.

Other elements that influenced the writing of the Romantic period was that the frontier promised opportunity for expansion, growth, freedom (which Europe lacked as it had nothing new to ‘discover’); the spirit of optimism invoked by the promise of an uncharted frontier; the new cultures and perspectives brought in by immigration; the polarization of the industrial north and agrarian south;
and the growth of secularism that had begun in the Puritan Era, and now resulted in Americans looking for new spiritual roots.

As we have discussed in class multiple times, it is very hard to define literary movements are draw a clear line between when this literary era began and ended and when another starts. This is very true for the Romantic period.  Early writers in the Romantic periods are often identified as The Fireside Poets -the first group of American poets to rival British poets in popularity in either country. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier,Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, and William Cullen Bryant are the poets most commonly grouped together as the ‘Fireside Poets’. Their strict focus on form and meter make their writer seem very British and Victorian when contrasted with later Romantics, but the content of their poetry usually focuses on uniquely American images (images of nature or the frontier,American home life and contemporary politics ). In general, these poets preferred conventional forms over experimentation, and this attention to rhyme and strict metrical cadences made their work popular for memorization and recitation in classrooms and homes. At the peak of his career, Longfellow’s popularity rivaled Lord Alfred Tennyson’s in England as well as in America, and he was a noted translator and scholar in several languages—in fact, he was the first American poet to be honored with a bust in Westminster Abbey’s Poet’s Corner.

Emerson and Thoreau, along with Margaret Fuller, are a part of a literary/philosophical/theological movement known as “Transcendentalism” (they had their own literary magazine, The Dial, which Fuller edited).  They privileged imagination and wanted to resuscitate spiritual values in a era in which institutional religion dominated (or so they felt).  According to them, we are, if we only knew it, Gods in ruin, with the power to regain our spiritual birthright by attending to the divine within. Walt Whitman is also a Transcendental writer, and heavily influenced by Emerson – however, his unique style separates him from other Transcendental writers. As the longest living Romantic writer, Whitman published well into the 1880’s, and later in life readers can see a definite shift in his writings that reflect the work of other Realist (the period after Romanticism)

Dickinson, Melville, Hawthorne and Poe however, were not Transcendentalists, and often (implicitly or explicitly) critique Emersonian idealism. Melville, Hawthorne and Poe are often categorized as ‘Dark Romantics’. Dark Romantics are much less confident about the notion perfection is an innate quality of mankind, as believed by Transcendentalists. They believe that individuals are prone to sin and self-destruction, not as inherently possessing divinity and wisdom. Secondly, while both groups believe nature is a deeply spiritual force, Dark Romanticism views it in a much more sinister light than does Transcendentalism, which sees nature as a divine. For these Dark Romantics, the natural world is dark, decaying, and mysterious; when it does reveal truth to man, its revelations are evil and hellish. Finally, whereas Transcendentalists advocate social reform when appropriate, works of Dark Romanticism frequently show individuals failing in their attempts to make changes for the better.

If all of this sounds really confusing, as all of these periods and genres seems to be overlapping and happening simultaneously, hopefully this graphic will help:

Romanticism Bubbles

Make sure you have a clear understanding of Romanticism and its various sub-genres before we return from fall break! For all of my audio/visual kids out there, please click the link below to watch a short video that covers the Romantic period!

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2017

What skills will I need to demonstrate on Unit Test 3?

Remember, as you prepare for our first Unit Test, you will have to demonstrate the skills we have been practicing in class, not just the information you have learned. You will need to be familiar with the content from:

 

  • Background notes on the Expansionist Period, the Cult of Domesticity and Republic of Motherhood, and the events leading up to The Indian Removal Act.
  • Thomas Jefferson’s letters to John Adams, Chastellux and Merriweather Lewis.
  • The letters of David Brown and Elias Boudinot to the Baron De Campagne on behalf of the Foreign Mission School.
  • The poem “On Equality of the Sexes” by Judith Murray
  • The excerpt of the article “What is the profession of Woman?” by Catherine Beecher
  • The excerpt from the news report “A picture of factory life” by an Anonymous Lowell Mill girl
  • The primary source documents relating to the Indian Removal Act, including:
    • The Cherokee Constitution of 1827
    • A first person account from a Cherokee tribesman on the success of the ‘civilizing’ project among the Cherokee
    • Andrew Jackson’s Second State of the Union Address
    • “To the Cherokee Tribe of Indians”, from Andrew Jackson
    • The memorial of a delegation of the Cherokee Nation of Indians
    • A petition by ladies of Steubenville, OH, against Indian removal
    • A memorial and protest of the Cherokee Nation
    • John Burnett’s Story of The Trail of Tears
    • Letter from Chief John Ross defending the Cherokee’s right to their land
    • Letter to the Cherokee’s from Major General Scott

But you will also need to show me you can use the skills you’ve practiced with these texts:

 

  • Understanding how an author’s persona can change, and therefore affect their use of rhetoric.
  • Comparing and contrasting how different authors address the same audience or purpose.
  • Understanding how historical context informs a reading of a text.
  • Identifying tone, and pointing to words or phrases the set tone.
  • Understanding how a writer appeals to their audience with ethos, pathos and logos.
  • Understanding what effects reliability or bias.
  • Analyzing a text for literary devices
  • Citing textual evidence.
  • Writing constructed responses using the RACE method.
  • Diagramming sentences with coordinating conjunctions. and compound subjects, predicates, adverb, adjective and prepositional phrases.

Be sure to review your notes, go back and watch the videos and posts on this site, and feel free to contact me via Remind 101 if you have questions while you review and study.

 

 

11th Grade American Literature Spring 2017

Andrew Jackson – On Indian Removal, and The Trail of Tears

As we examine the effects of manifest destiny on the American identity, we must also remember to pay attention to how westward expansion and the resulting idea of ‘America’ affected the country’s native inhabitants.

Since the beginning of the course we have examined the representations of the Native Americans in early American texts and literature. As we approach the end of American westward expansion and enter into the Romantic period of American literature, it is important to examine multiple perspectives surrounding the Indian Removal Act and Trail of Tears to have a richer understanding of this important event and the rhetoric surrounding it.

Please view the videos below for contextual information that will help you analyze these documents:

Below you will find a the link to our reading materials for this assignment – 11 different documents over the removal of the Native Americas of the southeast by the Indian Removal Act. The documents include:

  • The Cherokee Constitution of 1827
  • A first person account from a Cherokee tribesman on the success of the ‘civilizing’ project among the Cherokee
  • Andrew Jackson’s Second State of the Union Address
  • “To the Cherokee Tribe of Indians”, from Andrew Jackson
  • The memorial of a delegation of the Cherokee Nation of Indians
  • A petition by ladies of Steubenville, OH, against Indian removal
  • A memorial and protest of the Cherokee Nation
  • John Burnett’s Story of The Trail of Tears
  • Letter from Chief John Ross defending the Cherokee’s right to their land
  • Letter to the Cherokee’s from Major General Scott

As you read these documents, be sure to analyze the use of rhetoric and pay attention to the author’s choices in regards to diction and syntax. You will need to complete SOAPSTone Plus analysis for the documents and a series of constructed responses that cite textual evidence.

Click here to access the documents.

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2017