Charlotte Perkins Gilman – The Yellow Wallpaper


Over the next two days we will be reading the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. A feminist, social reformer and novelist, Gilman based the story of “The Yellow Wallpaper” on her own experiences with depression and the popular 19th century ‘rest cure’. In her short story she examines the impact that this ‘cure’ has on the mental state of her female protagonist, and makes a clear statement against the control that a patriarchal society held over every aspect of women’s lives in the 19th century.


As we examine this text, remember to apply the lens of Feminist Criticism to your analysis. If you’ve forgotten how to do this, remember:

Feminist Criticism:  Feminist criticism is concerned with the impact of gender on writing and
reading. It usually begins with a critique of patriarchal culture. It is concerned with the place of female writers in the literary cannon. Finally, it includes a search for a feminine theory or approach to texts. Feminist criticism is political and often revisionist. Feminists often argue that male fears are portrayed through female characters. They may argue that gender determines everything, or just the opposite: that all gender differences are imposed by society, and gender determines nothing.

Advantages: Women have been underrepresented in the traditional cannon, and a feminist approach to literature attempts to redress this problem.

Disadvantages: Feminists turn literary criticism into a political battlefield and overlook the merits of works they consider “patriarchal.” When arguing for a distinct feminine writing style, they tend to relegate women’s literature to a ghetto status; this in turn prevents female literature from being naturally included in the literary cannon. The feminist approach is often too theoretical.

Checklist of Feminist Critical Questions:

  • To what extent does the representation of women (and men) in the work reflect the place and time in which the work was written?
  • How are the relationships between men and women or those between members of the same sex presented in the work?
  • What roles do men and women assume and perform and with what consequences?
  • Does the author present the work from within a predominantly male or female sensibility?
  • Why might this have been done, and with what effects?
  • How do the facts of the author’s life relate to the presentation of men and women in the work? To their relative degrees of power?
  • How do other works by the author correspond to this one in their depiction of the power relationships between men and women?

Please click here for access to Gilman’s story “The Yellow Wallpaper”.

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2017

Immigration, Indian Wars and Classicism in Post-Civil War Amercia

As we wrap up our unit on Realism it is important to you examine the perspectives of multiple groups in America, and their issues and concerns, after the Civil War. The three main groups we will be analyzing are immigrants to the United States (Chinese and Irish), the Native Americans, freed slaves, women and the poor. There is a lot of intersection between these groups and their causes and concerns, so know that as we examine and discuss these texts you may see many similarities.

Click here to access our primary source documents

Coming to America: Immigration and the Rise of Nativism


As immigrants from China flocked to America to work on the Transcontinental railroad in the west, Irish and Italian immigrants flocked to the large factory cities of the American Northwest. Support for immigration waned at the end of the 19th century, with many Americans becoming distrustful of, and resenting, the influx of immigrants. Review the video below, and read the primary source document “Very Few Become Americanized” and “The Dives of New York are Hot-Beds of Crime”.




Free at Last: Life for Former Slaves after the Civil War

voter-intimidtn-1876Though finally granted their freedom, after the Civil War former slaves had to navigate life in an America that was not always receptive to their inclusion. The lack of education that slaves were burdened with made life after the war even more difficult, and the Jim Crow and Black Codes were enacted to limit African America’s rights to property, legal representation and ability to vote. Review the video below, and read the primary source documents “The people of both races will have equal accommodations” and “We had only our ignorance”.




The Last Indian Wars: An End to America’s Native People

011669mThough systematic removal, expulsion and killing of the Native Americans has been taking place for over 400 years, by the end of the 19th century the last of the battles and skirmishes between the Native people of American and the new ‘Americans’ would come to their bloody conclusion. As the last of the tribes in the west refused to be relocated again and leave their homes, they came into direct conflict with the U.S. Government and the American citizens of the Southwest. Many young Native Americans were sent to camps and schools to ‘civilize’ them and assimilate them forcibly into white American culture. After the Indian Wars ended, the Native people of America were largely confined to reservations, and the 500+ year resistance against the non-Native people ended. Review the video, and read the primary source documents “Massacre of the Cheyenne Indians”, “I will fight no more forever” and “It was one long grave of butchered women and children and babies”.  Note – these documents are very accurate, and as a result graphic, in their recounting of Native American experiences.



Women after the Civil War: “All my sex are doomed to political subjection”

wmarriagecThe Suffrage movement continued on after the end of the Civil War, with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony leading the way. The fight for women’s suffrage would continue on for another 40 years before women were given the right to vote. As the 19th century closed and the 20th century began, the Suffrage movement also began to focus more on issue of women’s education, legal rights and representation, domestic abuse, employment and access to medial care and birth control. We will definitely revisit the role of women’s rights again in the Harlem Renaissance and the Modernist period – until then, be sure to review the video below and read the primary source “All my sex are doomed to political subjection”.




After you’ve read these primary source document, complete a SOAPSTone Analysis for each.


Ask yourself these three questions as you analyze and compare these documents (hint: they may end up being your topic for classroom debate or an essay prompt later).


  1. How does the tone and voice of the document impact your perception of the events discussed? In which documents do you think the author was initially controlling the tone to achieve their purpose?
  2. Are they any documents, or sections of the documents, that contradict each other? What does this tell us about the author, context and purpose?
  3.  How do the experiences of the different groups represented in these primary source documents relate to previous documents we’ve read? How do they continue the story of these minority groups in America from our last unit?
11th Grade American Literature Fall 2017

Paul Lawrence Dunbar – We Wear the Mask


Paul Laurence Dunbar was an American poet, novelist, and playwright of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Dunbar’s parents had both been slaves prior to the Civil War, and he was apart of the first group of African Americans to be born free and emancipated from slavery in the United States. His work focused on the dialect and language of the Southern slaves and African Americans, though he had a difficult time publishing this work. He wanted to record and preserve the language of the southern African Americans, as slaves had been kept illiterate, and he knew that this history would be lost. Eventually Dunbar would go on to write poems, stories and articles in standard forms, and would receive acclaim and praise for them.


In class we are analyzing Dunbar’s poem ‘We Wear The Mask’, and tracing how not only the tone of the poem shifts in each stanza, but also how the speaker feels about the ‘mask’ they where. Please be sure to analyze this poem thoroughly, and it will be on your test!


Click here to access Dunbar’s poem.

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2017

Naturalism in American Literature

As we move away from the Realist period in American literature and into the 20th century, we approach the literary period known as ‘Naturalism’. While many of the other periods of writing in American literature had fairly distinct timelines and major events that acted as ‘endcaps’, the Naturalist period overlaps many of the other time periods – Realism, and The Harlem Renaissance. While very similar to Realism, there are distinct differences between the two periods:realism-and-naturalism-in-acting-context-6-638

As we read through these texts, pay attention to how we are finally presented with stories that have characters who struggle with their emotions and their own psychology. We will also be examining stories that develop the struggles of characters in poverty and characters who are disenfranchised in society.


Please watch the video below to catch up on your in-class notes if you missed them!

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2017

Lincoln’s Oration Throughout the Years

As we continue to examine primary source documents from the Realist period of American Literary history, we turn to one of the country’s most amazing Presidential writers, Abraham Lincoln.

We have discussed how a speaker’s audience, purpose and persona impact their writing and oration, as well as the way they employ rhetorical devices. In this lesson we are going to continue that examination, but also consider how these elements chance over the course of a speaker’s life. When an individual acquires new experiences, adapts their perspective to encompass more and new viewpoints, and when their persona changes – how does this affect their writing and public speaking?

Before we read Lincoln’s speeches, we’ll be looking at an article from The Smithsonian by former Presidential adviser Ted Sorensen in which he discusses Lincoln’s skill as a speech-writer and orator. 

For this assignment you will be looking at three of Lincoln’s speeches:

  • “The 2nd Inaugural Address” (given by an older Lincoln as President, in the middle of the Civil War…this speech is in your textbook).

As you read and analyze these speeches, consider the following questions:


11th Grade American Literature Fall 2017

Fredrick Douglas, “What to the Slave is the 4th of July?”

One of the greatest orators in American history, Fredrick Douglas was born a slave and worked tirelessly his entire life not only to escape his bondage, but to educate himself and be an active member of social and political causes. Born in 1818 in Maryland, Douglas was the son of a slave and an unknown white man. Douglas was taught basic reading and literacy skills by his master’s wife before being send to Edward Covey, a known ‘slave breaker’, where he experienced unbelievable cruelty before escaping in 1838. Douglas would go on to join the Abolitionist movement, become a member of a local black church, be inspired by and work with William Loyd Garrison, support the suffrage of women and even meet with and council Abraham Lincoln in the White House.

Below is a selection from one of Douglas’ most famous speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”. Douglas was asked to deliver this speech by an abolitionist group in order to celebrate the anniversary of America’s independence on July 4th. While the organizers of the celebration no doubt expected a rousing speech y Douglas (who at this point was known as an amazing orator), they also expected a speech that would celebrate the ideals that America was founded upon and celebrating that 4th of July – the ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and freedom and equality for all. Douglas did deliver a rousing speech that day, but one that very openly questioned the hypocrisy of asking an escaped slave to speak about freedom. Below you will find the PDF of the annotated version of this speech from my video – please make sure that as you walk through the analysis of the speech you pay close attention to Douglas’ use of parallelism and irony to achieve his purpose, as well as his use of rhetorical questions and imagery.

Click here to access the PDF of the speech.

Please  see videos below for an analysis of Douglas’ speech, “What to the Slave is the 4th of July?”

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2017 Spring 2017

Women’s Rights – Sojourner Truth and Elizabeth Cady Stanton


One of the major issues that we are examining during the Realist period is the fight for women’s rights. In class we will be examining the work of two women – Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Sojourner Truth.

Each of these women worked to further the cause of suffrage and the abolitionist movement.

One of the main figureheads of the suffrage movement in America, Stanton wrote the ‘Declaration of Sentiments’, which were presented in 1848 at the Seneca Falls Convention. Stanton not only fought for women’s right to vote, but also for women’s property rights, employment rights, custody  rights, and right to birth control.


Click here to read her ‘Declaration of Sentiments’

sojourner_truth_lc1In addition to Stanton, Sojourner Truth also worked to support the cause of suffrage and abolition. Born into slavery, Truth would have 13 children (11 of them sold into slavery themselves, never to be seen again) before escaping to freedom. She then took on the role of public speaker, and used her own experience to encourage others not only to support the abolition of slavery but also the equality of women. Though she was illiterate herself, her speaking was clear and powerful. Many different versions of her famous ‘Ain’t I A Woman?’ speech exist today, but all of them share the similarity of tone and passion.

Click here to read her speech ‘Ain’t I A Woman?’




BONUS: Did you know that the original document ‘The Declaration of Sentiments’ has been lost? Click here to listen to an AMAZING podcast episode from the ladies over at ‘Stuff You Missed in History Class’ to learn more!

Be sure to watch the second half of the ‘Women in the 19th Century’ Crash Course video below!

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2017