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, themes, and imagery; however, there format and structure 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. His first wife Mary Potter died in 1835 after a miscarriage. His second wife Frances Appleton died in 1861 after sustaining burns when her dress caught fire. Longfellow sustained severe burns to his face trying to put out the flames, which he hid under his beard afterwards. His severe grief over her death meant he wrote less, and instead translated his previously written poetry into other languages.

 

Picture1William Cullen Bryant 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 of slavery. 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. 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 and poet from 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. 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 diseases to their patients if they didn’t take precautions and properly sanitize. 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 themes of the Romantic period. You will also be completing a project with these poems – the instructions and assignment is attached below as well.

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

Click here to access the assignment and grading rubric.

Click here for an annotated copy of the poems. 

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2019

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. The five major themes we’ll be looking at include:

  • Imagination and Escapism
  • Looking to the Past for Wisdom
  • The Common Man as a Hero
  • Nature as a Source of Spirituality
  • The Importance of the Individual

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’) – this 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 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. 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 movement known as “Transcendentalism” (they had their own literary magazine, The Dial, which Fuller edited).  They valued imagination and believed that one could find God in nature. 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 critiqued Emerson’s idealism. Melville, Hawthorne and Poe are often categorized as ‘Dark Romantics’. Dark Romantics are much less confident about the notion the common man as a hero, as believed by Transcendentalists. They believe that individuals are prone to sin and self-destruction, depression, low morals and a lack of wisdom. Dark Romantics saw the natural world as dark, decaying, and mysterious – not a spiritual place to be close to God.  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 2019

Revolutionary Women: Phillis Wheatley

Phillis 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. One woman that made significant contributions to the arts was Phillis Wheatley.

 

Brought from Africa on the slave trade, Phillis 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 a celebration of her faith and a criticism of 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!

Click here to access the poem.

 

We will be exploring the following questions about Wheatley’s poem in class – remember, our ‘how’ and ‘why‘ questions are the important ones to consider!

  • What is her overall tone in the poem?
  • How does she establish that tone?
  • What symbols and/or metaphors did she use throughout the poem?
  • How did she use symbols and/or metaphors effectively to give her poem multiple meanings or ‘layers’?
  • How would you describe the theme of the poem?

This is the fourth poem we have analyzed and annotated together or in small group – you will have to work with a poem on your own for this unit test. Please make sure you are practicing and becoming comfortable with close reading and analysis!

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2019

The Declaration of Independence

We are examining our founding document – an amazing piece of text that brought us to where we are today, and inspired other nations to declare those own free and independent states.

The original Declaration of Independence, ink on parchment. It has been damaged by light and improper storage, and the text has almost faded completely over the past 241 years.

A facsimile copy of The Declaration of Independence, struck in the 19th century. Copies, posters and prints of the document are made from this copy, not the original.

 

Click here to view the real Declaration of Independence at the National Archive.

As we read, analyze and discuss this document please remember that we are looking at not only its importance historically but also its use of effective syntax, and its rhetorical appeals.

Please see the videos below over the history of the document and a performance of the Declaration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today we also learned how to take DoodleNotes, using The Declaration as an example. Please click here to access the notes.

As we analyze the text, remember to look for the appeals to rhetoric and be able to explain how the syntax of the document make its more effective.

The text of the Declaration can be divided into four sections–the introduction, the preamble, the list of grievances, and the conclusion.  Please see the resources below to help you as we analyze this document in small groups, including the declaration itself, vocabulary from the document that may give you trouble, and your instructions for analysis with your group. 

Please see the breakdown you complete of the DOI as a class in the images below – you can click on them to open the full size image:

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2019

“Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death” by Patrick Henry and Joseph Galloway’s “Address to the Continental Congress”

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 Joseph Galloway’s “Address to the Contintential Congress” you will be practicing analyzing rhetoric through the SOAPSTone PLUS method.  As we read through the texts together in class and discuss the use of rhetorical questions and extended metaphor, but sure to add our discussion to your analysis worksheet. You will also need these notes for the argumentative essay later this week.

Be sure to review the videos below from class today on Patrick Henry’s background, and the performance of his speech, if you were unable to get all of the notes:

Additionally, click here to access Henry’s speech if you have misplaced your copy, and click here to access the in-depth analysis packet you will be creating with your groups.

For my ESOL students, click here for a copy of the speech with explanations in the margins. 

Please see the video below for the notes over Galloway

And click here to access his speech if you misplaced you copy.

Finally, we analyzed and compared Henry and Galloway’s roles as Patriots and Loyalist in class, as well as completing a SOAPSTone over them – see the image below for our comparison notes.

 

Finally, you each summarized the main idea of each of the paragraphs in Galloway’s speech – see the images below for your summaries.

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2019

Revolutionary Literature

As we transition from literature of the Puritan period to literature of the American Revolution, it is important for you to understand that history and its accompanying literature transition SLOWLY – the colonist did not simply wake up one day and realize ‘Hey, we’re in a new literary time period! Let’s change our writing style and beliefs overnight!’. We began to see the slow shift from theocratic colonies governed by religion to a more secular, democratic society with civil courts. Below you will find our notes from class outlining what exactly happened to transition the ideas of the Puritan period to the ideas of the Revolutionary period. Additionally, you will also find a complete list of ideas, concepts, beliefs and characteristics of the Revolutionary period that you may refer to throughout this unit.

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Common Beliefs

  1. Faith in natural goodness – a human is born without taint or sin
  2. Perfectibility of a human being – it is possible to improve situations of birth, economy, society, and religion
  3. The power of reason 
  4. The attitude of helping everyone
  5. Outdated social institutions cause unsociable behavior – religious, social, economic, and political institutions, which have not modernized, force individuals into unacceptable behavior (in response to the Great Awakening and the Salem Witch trials)

Functions of the Writers of this Period

  1. A searching inquiry in all aspects of the world around
  2. Interest in the classics as well as in the Bible
  3. Interest in nature
  4. Interest in science and scientific experiments
  5. Optimism – experiments in Utopian communities
  6. Sense of a person’s duty to succeed
  7. Constant search of the self – emphasis on individualism

 

(*note: the end of the above video covers Revolutionary literature)

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2019

Sinners In The Hands of An Angry God – Johnathan Edwards

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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. You can use the SOAPSTone Plus method we learned in class for this:

As we begin to examine an author’s use of rhetoric to achieve a specific purpose remember that this will be a huge part of AP Language next semester! That means you need to practice the method of SOAPSTone Plus. Begin practicing the SOAPSTone Plus analysis method – you will use it from now on!

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After you have become comfortable with just finding the use of these rhetorical devices, you can begin analyzing texts in the Arch Method. This will streamline you note taking over your analysis, and can be a life saver during the timed Rhetorical Analysis essay on the AP Language and Composition Exam. Below you can find a sample of the Arch Method process, as well as an example of how to conduct the Arch Method Analysis with Mary Rowlandson’s “A Narrative of the Captivity”.

 Arch Method Arch Method Rowlandson

*Click on the images for an enlarged view

Click here for “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! 🙂

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11th Grade American Literature Fall 2019