The Foreign Mission School and Religious Tolerance in America

The relationship between earlier settlers, and later Americans, and the Native inhabitants of this country is an ongoing topic that we revisit in the texts we study in class.  In our class discussions we have noted the use of stereotypes when referring the Native Americans – the term ‘Native America’ itself in its homogeneous application, the ‘Noble Savage’ and ‘Wise Chief’, the ‘Indian Princess’ and the ‘Squaw’ and the barbarous ‘Savage’. We have also discuss how the Native American individuals themselves also seemed to purposely play into these stereotypes knowing that, unless they appeared to fulfill the preconceived notions of the white settlers and early Americans, there was a greater chance of their protests and pleas being ignored (See the post over Red Jacket’s speech for more information on this).

While many of the founders of the nation practiced Deist principals regarding religion, Christianity was still the dominant religion and touchstone for most Americans. The conflict between Puritan ideals and the Catholics and Quakers eventually shifted into the conflict between Protestants and all other religions (even other sects of Christianity) by the time of expansionism. In the early days of settlement, the conversion of the Native American was seen as a vital step to ‘civilizing’ the new world (as we discussed in our readings of Mary Rowlandson’s Captivity Narrative and Ben Franklin’s ‘Notes Concerning the Savages’), and as America set her eyes westward to expand, so the need to convert and assimilate the Native people of the American west to Christianity became another vital step in expansion.

One of the earliest accounts of this attempt at conversion took place at The Foreign Mission School. As we discuss and analyze the writings of Native American and Hawaiian students of this school, it is important to have a deeper understand of its history and historical context. 

The Foreign Mission School in Cornwall, Connecticut was founded with the

plan that it would draw young men from world cultures, educate them, convert them to Christianity, and then send them back to their native lands to spread their new found religion. Click here to listen to the podcast episode over ‘The Heathen School’. 

And click here to read and listen to a recent interview with the author of the new book “The Heathen School: A Story of Hope and Betrayal in the Early Republic” and read a short excerpt from the book

We we be examining the letters of two Cherokee students at The Foreign Mission School, David Brown and Elias Boudinot, to a Swiss Baron that wanted to fund the school. These letters were written at the insistence of the school’s principal who claimed that the letters were the students’ own writing except for the changing of “a very few words”.

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Elias Boudinot

Click here to read the letters of The Foreign Mission School students.

You will be working together in small groups to conduct a rhetorical analysis of the letters, focusing on the syntax, diction and rhetorical devices used by the students of the mission school to achieve their purpose of securing further funding for the school. Be prepared as a class the effectiveness of the author’s writing during the time period and compare that to its effectiveness to a modern readership. Also be able to discuss the reliability of the letter as a primary source document, and  cite specific evidence from the text that adds or detracts from its credibility.

*Note: If you are interested in researching or learning more about the issue of religious tolerance in America, this article from The Smithsonian can provide a jumping off point for more information – Click here for the Smithsonian article.

 

  • How does the school to achieve their purpose of securing further funding for the school?
  • How would you rate the effectiveness of the author’s writing during the time period and compare that to its effectiveness to a modern readership?
  • Cite specific evidence from the text that adds or detracts from its credibility.
11th Grade American Literature Fall 2015

Walt Whitman – The Father of Free Verse, The Father of American Poetry

I usually attempt to remain unbais in my presentation of the authors, texts, events and ideas that we discuss in class – however, I cannot do so when it comes to Whitman. I love Walt Whitman. As we study his poetry in class I hope you can come to appreciate him as well – not just his style and the innovations that he brought to American poetry, but also for the message that his poetry contains.

crawfordillustration6

Walter “Walt” Whitman was an American poet, essayist and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse. His work was very controversial in its time, particularly his poetry collection Leaves of Grass, which was described as obscene for its overt sexuality.

Click here to watch a brief background video over Whitman and his poetry.

In class we will be analyzing Whitman’s poem “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking” and selection stanzas from “Song of Myself”. Please note, “Song of Myself” is essentially the American epic – almost 60 stanzas, so you will only be reading parts of it (though I encourage you to read it all on your own!).

Click here to access both poems.

whitman-grouping

Whitman has the distinction of being one of the only American writer who, due to his long life publishing, is legitimately placed in two literary time periods – Transcendentalism and Realism. His early works, specifically Leaves of Grass, are obviously influenced by Emerson and the ideals of Transcendentalism, but as he aged and the politics of the Civil War took center stage in America, his style slowly changed and adapted to reflect the new literary tropes of the time. We will be reading early and later works of Whitman to help you observe the change in his style.

Additionally, there is a fantastic documentary by the PBS Program ‘The American Experience’ that devles into Whitman the poet in depth. For those of you that enjoy these poems or want to know more about Whitman in general, I would suggest watching it!

Click here for the American Experience documentary on Whitman.

 

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2015

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!

Click here to watch the notes over Romanticism!

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2015

Nathaniel Hawthorne and “Young Goodman Brown”

nathaniel_hawthorne

Emanuel Thomas Peter Austrian, 1799?1873 A Young Girl with Pink Hair Ribbons ca. 1860 Watercolor on mother-of-pearl in gold-plated copper alloy locket 1 7/8 in. (4.76 cm) Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Albert T. Friedmann M1950.11                                                      Photo by John R. Glembin

‘Faith’ in her pink ribbons.

 

Born in Salem, Massachusetts in 1804, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote novels The Scarlet Letter, The House of Seven Gables, and the short story “Young Goodman Brown,” among others. Descendants from Judge Hathorne of the Salem Witch Trails, Nathaniel Hawthrone changed the spelling of his name early in life in order to disassociate himself from his family’s ancestral past, and often examined the themes of guilt and sin and religious hypocrisy.

Spanning the ‘expansionist’ period and often being paired with Poe as a ‘Dark Romantic’, Hawthorne’s work helps us transition from Expansionism to Romanticism in our study of literary time periods and movements in America.

 

 

For more information about Nathaniel Hawthorne, please view the video below:

 

Hawthorne’s short story, “Young Goodman Brown” is an allegorical tale that examines Hawthorne’s two popular themes. Following Young Goodman Brown into the woods at night, Hawthorne examines our assumptions about our neighbors, our ourselves and our faith as Americans.

Please see the images and documents below to review our notes from class today, and to read the story.

Click here to read the story.

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11th Grade American Literature Fall 2015 Fall 2016

Walt Whitman – The Father of Free Verse, The Father of American Poetry?

I usually attempt to remain unbais in my presentation of the authors, texts, events and ideas that we discuss in class – however, I cannot do so when it comes to Whitman. I love Walt Whitman. As we study his poetry in class I hope you can come to appreciate him as well – not just his style and the innovations that he brought to American poetry, but also for the message that his poetry contains.

 

Walter “Walt” Whitman was an American poet, essayist and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse. His work was very controversial in its time, particularly his poetry collection Leaves of Grass, which was described as obscene for its overt sexuality.

Born in Huntington on Long Island, Whitman worked as a journalist, a teacher, a government clerk, and—in addition to publishing his poetry—was a volunteer nurse during the American Civil War. Whitman’s major work, Leaves of Grass, was first published in 1855 with his own money.  Whitman’s self-published Leaves of Grass was inspired in part by his travels through the American frontier and by his admiration for Ralph Waldo Emerson. This important publication underwent eight subsequent editions during his lifetime as Whitman expanded and revised the poetry and added more to the original collection of twelve poems. Emerson himself declared the first edition was “the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed.”

Whitman published his own enthusiastic review of Leaves of Grass. Critics and readers alike, however, found both Whitman’s style and subject matter unnerving. According to The Longman Anthology of Poetry, “Whitman received little public acclaim for his poems during his lifetime for several reasons:  this openness regarding sex, his self-presentation as a rough working man, and his stylistic innovations.” A poet who “abandoned the regular meter and rhyme patterns” of his contemporaries, Whitman was “influenced by the long cadences and rhetorical strategies of Biblical poetry.” The work was an attempt at reaching out to the common person with an American epic. He continued expanding and revising it until his death in 1892. After a stroke towards the end of his life, he moved to Camden, New Jersey, where his health further declined. When he died at age 72, his funeral became a public spectacle.

Click here to watch a brief background video over Whitman and his poetry.

In class we will be analyzing Whitman’s poem “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking” and selection stanzas from “Song of Myself”. Please note, “Song of Myself” is essentially the American epic – almost 60 stanzas, so you will only be reading parts of it (though I encourage you to read it all on your own!).

Click here to access both poems.

whitman-grouping

Whitman has the distinction of being one of the only American writer who, due to his long life publishing, is legitimately placed in two literary time periods – Transcendentalism and Realism. His early works, specifically Leaves of Grass, are obviously influenced by Emerson and the ideals of Transcendentalism, but as he aged and the politics of the Civil War took center stage in America, his style slowly changed and adapted to reflect the new literary tropes of the time. We will be reading early and later works of Whitman to help you observe the change in his style.

Click here for later works from Whitman that we will be examining.

Additionally, there is a fantastic documentary by the PBS Program ‘The American Experience’ that devles into Whitman the poet in depth. For those of you that enjoy these poems or want to know more about Whitman in general, I would suggest watching it!

Click here for the American Experience documentary on Whitman.

 

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2015 Uncategorized

Unit Test – American Romanticism

To prepare for the final unit test over American Romanticism, please be sure to review the information in the list below. I have also included the constructed response prompts you will have to choose from – so make sure that you annotate and bring the texts you need with you!

 

For the multiple choice:

  • Be able to identify poetics and devices in “Tide Rises, Tide Falls”, “The Chambered Nautius”, “I like to see it lap the miles”, the first stanza of “Out of the Cradle, Endlessly Rocking”, and the ‘what is grass’ section of “Song of Myself”.
  • Be able to answer questions regarding Emerson’s use of diction, his syntax, the use of paradox and parallelism and how this was influenced by his target audience.
  • Be able to answer questions regarding Thoreau’s use of metaphor, imagery and paradox and how this was influenced by his target audience.

 

For the short answer:

  • Be able to answer questions over the syntax, diction figurative language and authorial importance for The Fireside Poets, Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman.
  • Be able to answer general questions about the ideals of Transcendentalism.
  • Be able to answer general questions that relate issues of the Romantic period back to the Expansionist period (Indian Removal, the boom of big business, the advancement of industry).
  • Be able to discuss the writing style of the Dark Romantics.

 

For the constructed response:

Choose one of the the following prompts to write about…

Examine the form, style and content of the works of the Fireside Poets we read in class (Longfellow and Bryant) and the speech ‘The American Scholar’ by Emerson. Which of these would you consider the first uniquely ‘American’ text? Support your answer with evidence from the text.

 

Emerson, Thoreau and Whitman all used paradox in their text that we read in class. Examine their writings and explain how each of them used this technique, and why.

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2015

“Pond Scum: Why Do We Love Henry David Thoreau?”

nds15001-2

This assignment is like the Russian Nesting Dolls of analysis – analyze Thoreau, then discuss literary criticism, then read Kathryn Schultz’s criticism of Thoreau, then criticize Schultz’s criticism.

As we have analyzed the work of Thoreau and discussed different types of literary criticism that can be utilized when reading literature, I wanted to direct your attention to an article that was published in The New Yorker this week by Kathryn Schultz, entitled “Why Do We Love Henry David Thoreau?”. Rarely do the texts we read in class end up as current event articles in the news, so when it happens we need to stop and take a closer look.

As you read Schultz’s article, consider the questions she is posing about Thoreau and his work –

  • Why had Thoreau been so cherished?
  • How did his work make it into the ‘canon’ of American Literature?
  • What is the ‘canon’ and who decides what texts end up there?
  • Can a text ever leave the canon?
  • What critical lens has Thoreau been viewed with in the past? Is this wrong?
  • Is there a ‘right’ critical lens to use when examining a text?
  • Why is Schultz re-examining Thoreau now?
  • What critical lens is she using?

You will also need to generate your own questions to ask each other and prompt discussion during Socratic Seminiar tomorrow! If you lost your copy of the article from class –

You can download a PDF version of the article here.

Or you can visit the New Yorker website and read the article.

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2015