The Early Romantics – The Fireside Poets


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 two fireside poets – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 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. “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.



Below you will find the link to both of Longfellow’s short poems you will be analyzing – “The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls” and “The Cross of Snow”, as well as Bryant’s poem “The Chambered Nautilus”. 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.

11th Grade American Literature Spring 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!

Click here to watch the notes over Romanticism!

11th Grade American Literature Spring 2017

Andrew Jackson – On Indian Removal

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.


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:

  • jackson-meme-rulesThe 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 Spring 2017

The Expedition of Lewis and Clarke – Synthesizing Multiple Perspectives

As we examining the Era of Expansionism, it would be impossible to skip the contributions of the thousands of pages of information supplied by the expedition of Lewis and Clarke. Recording daily notations on the flora and fauna of the west, as well as the Native inhabitants, weather patterns, natural resources and maps charting the terrain, the team members of the expedition provided the young America with valuable 1st person accounts of the new frontier into which we wished to expand.

As you read through the journal salmonlcentries that appear in your text, and in the attached document below, you will see the contribution of not just Lewis and Clarke, but also expedition members Floyd, Gass, Ordway, and Whitehouse. As you read through these be sure to consider the questions below, as we will discuss them in class:

  • Which writer provides the most descriptive account vs. the most factual account?
  • Why is it important for modern reader to analyze all the accounts from each given writer for each day?
  • How should a modern reader synthesize this information to create a more complete understanding of their journey?
  • Even after synthesis, is our understanding of the journey still affected by historical bias?

**A Note About Spelling In The Attachment (from 144613-004-50D3A138the source,
The spelling and capitalization of Lewis, Clark, and other members of the expedition have been retained as nearly as possible, but some conventionalizing has been necessary. Uncrossed t’s and undotted i’s and the like have been silently corrected. Misspelled words have been corrected in brackets when necessary for clarity. When letters or words defy comprehension, conjectural readings have been given in brackets with a question mark signifying the editor’s uncertainty. With ambiguous spelling, the journalist’s typical spelling has been taken as a guide, or the modern spelling has been adopted in disputed cases. With Clark that is nearly impossible. One researcher discovered that Clark spelled the word Sioux “no less than twenty-seven different ways.” Little can be promised in the way of consistency, for no rule can stand against Clark’s inimitable style.

Click here for the handout of the expedition letters not included in your textbook.

11th Grade American Literature Spring 2017

Women of Color during the American Revolution – Phyllis Wheatley

Throughout our study of the literature of the American Revolution we have been primarily reading the texts of the founding fathers and other men of the period. However, women played an important role in the founding of our country and contributed greatly to its literature and political texts. Two women that made significant contributions to the arts and politics are Phyllis Wheatley and Abigail Adams.

Phillis Wheatley



Brought from Africa on the slave trade, Phyllis Wheatley was given a formal education by her masters, and went on to write some of the most beautiful poetry of early America. Hidden in her poems were criticism of race, religion, and the institution of slavery in America.


In class today we began analyzing her poem ‘On Being Brought from Africa to America’. Please watch the video below of this analysis if you need to review!







11th Grade American Literature Spring 2017

Slave Narratives – The Interesting Life of Olaudah Equiano

So far we have examined the stories of the Native people of America, the Puritans who settled here in the 1600’s, and the founding fathers and their dreams of freedom.

As our country was in its earliest stages as colonies, slavery slowly made its way to our shores and, unfortunately, stuck around until the late 19th century. The life of slaves was grueling, and more horrific than many of use can imagine.

EquianoExeterpaintingWhile the stories of many of these individuals are lost to us forever, we do have a few examples in the form of slave narratives. One of these is these narratives is that of Olaudah Equiano, who later went on to buy his freedom from slavery and moved to England to fight in the early abolitionist movement gaining strength in Europe. As we read through excerpts of his narrative, remember to analyze his language use and ask yourself ‘why did he make these choices’ and ‘how did this help him reach his audience’?

Please click here to access the excerpt from Equiano’s narrative.

Remember, you must also complete a constructed response using the RACE method to answer the following question:

“What did the reader’s of Equiano’s time learn about the ‘accursed trade’ of slavery that they may not have previously been aware of? How did Equiano’s story effectively inform them of these details? Cite evidence to support your answer.”

11th Grade American Literature Spring 2017

“Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death” and “The Declaration of Independence”

The faces that these guys are pulling are PRICELESS.

The faces that these guys are pulling on Henry are PRICELESS.

As we read two of the most important and powerful texts in the Revolutionary Period – Patrick Henry’s “Speech to the Virginia Convention” and Thomas Jefferson’s “Declaration of Independence”, you will need to continue practicing your ability to analyze rhetoric clearly and efficiently through the SOAPSTone PLUS/Arch method.


  • Be sure to complete the SOAPSTone Plus Analysis for Patrick Henry’s “Speech to the Virginia Convention”.
  •  Complete an analysis of Jefferson’s use of Ethos, Pathos and Logos in ‘The Declaration of Independence”.



Please watch the videos below to review our notes from class:

11th Grade American Literature Spring 2017

Anne Bradstreet Poetry Analysis and Video Notes



Anne Bradstreet – and some ducks.

Please see the video below for the notes over Anne Bradstreet that you will need for class. Remember to keep in mind the differences between to emotional appeals in Bradstreet’s poetry and their effectiveness compared to Bradford’s appeals in Of Plymouth Plantation… you will need to discuss this in depth at some point this week!


Click here to watch the Anne Bradstreet Video Notes.

As we analyze both ‘The Author to Her Book’ and ‘The My Dear and Loving Husband’, but sure to pay attention to how Bradstreet always manages to book-end her expressions of humanity and worldliness with her pious beliefs. Also, be sure to know the significance behind many of her allusions!



11th Grade American Literature Spring 2017

What skills will I need to demonstrate on Unit Test 1?

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:

Native American Literature

The Oral Tradition

Creation Stories

Early Explorers

Excerpt from Conquistador ‘De Orbo Novo’

Puritan Literature

The Puritan Culture

William Bradford’s ‘Plymouth Plantation’

Anne Bradstreet’s ‘T o My Dear and Loving Husband’

Johnathan Edwards ‘Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God’.


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

Identifying archetypes

Identifying theme

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.


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

Sinners In The Hands of An Angry God – Johnathan Edwards

lordian guard portada

As we move into ‘The Great Awakening’ in our study of American Literature, we will be analyzing the rhetorical power of Edward’s famous sermon, “Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God”. Edward’s use of startling imagery and terrifying depictions of the wrath of God are shocking even for today’s modern audience, but would have been absolutely terrifying to the members of his congregation during his own time period.

Below you will find a brief video with background information on Edwards that YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY WATCH FIRST, follow by a PDF of the Sermon and the audio to the sermon. Download the PDF and follow along as you listen to the Youtube video of the sermon… make notes of the rhetoric Edward’s uses. This homework should take roughly an hour tonight, but all you have to do is listen and make light annotations!  (I would suggest looking back at the Mary Rowlandson post if you don’t remember what all you should be looking for when you conduct a rhetorical analysis!)

Click here for the PDF of his full sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God”.

Click here for the shortened version of “Sinners In the Hands of An Angry God.”

And finally, click here for the full audio of his sermon. 



Can’t wait to discuss this with you tomorrow! 🙂


11th Grade American Literature Spring 2017