The Dark Romantics and Young Goodman Brown

A part of the Romantic period, the Dark Romantics were a group of writers that, instead of focusing on the beauty of nature and the inherit good in man, focused instead on the supernatural, spooky and darker side of nature and the inherit evil that was possible in man. Death grief, mental illness and the supernatural were all common in the poems and short stories of the Dark Romantics. You may recognize some of the writers in this group – Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville. In class we will also be studying Emily Dickinson during this period, though there is some debate on whether or not she is truly a ‘Dark Romantic’ writer.

First, be sure to review the video from class over the Dark Romantics:

Our first Dark Romantic tale will be Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘Young Goodman Brown’. Before reading this story let’s review an important literary concept that will be very important to understanding Hawthorne’s purpose – the allegory.

In class we discussed the classic allegory of the cave from Plato, where prisoners only know the world through the shadows of objects reflected on the cave wall by firelight. One prisoner escapes and see the real world outside of the cave; he is determined to go back and share what he has found with the other prisoners – however, few dare to leave the cave to find out about the real world for themselves, and most don’t believe this man.

 

We also discussed other allegorical stories you may be familiar with – the story of the hare and the tortoise, or George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

 

In Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown”, we see a young man travel one night into the woods outside of Salem, leaving his sweet wife at home to worry for him. On the way through the woods he meets a series of characters that challenge his beliefs and reveal to him the true nature of man and himself. Hawthorne set his story during the Puritan period – Hawthorne’s own great-great grandfather, Judge John Hathorne convicted’witches’ to hang during the Salem Witch trails; his great-great-great grandfather William Hathorne persecuted Quakers. These events and Hawthorne’s family history feature prominently in his story, including “Young Goodman Brown”.

As you read the story, remember our discussion that each of the characters serves as a symbols for a larger idea, or has very specific symbols associated with them. For example, Brown’s wife is “Faith” – her name serves as an obvious symbol for what she represented. The Old Man in the story has a black walking stick that looks like a snake – this is closely associated with what his character is meant to represent in the story. As you read, keep track of the character’s actions and the symbols associated with them in your Character Analysis Chart. We will use this after we finish reading the story to help us understand the deeper allegorical meaning that Hawthorne is trying to make.

Click here to read the story of Young Goodman Brown

Click here to find a copy of the Character Analysis chart if you misplaced yours.

Click here to find the discussion questions for the story if you have misplaced yours.

we discussed how the symbolic meaning of the character’s names can help you to better understand the overall allegory of the story. As you read, be sure to keep track of the character’s actions and the symbols associated with them in your character analysis chart. We will use this analysis to help us discuss what we believe the allegorical message of the story to be by the end.

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

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

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.

Click here to see the change in his writing style from the Romantic to the Realist period in his poem “Come Up From The Fields Father”.

11th Grade American Literature Spring 2018

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

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

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.

Click here to listen to a podcast over Whitman. 

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2017

Thoreau’s Walden

Henry_David_Thoreau_-_Dunshee_ambrotpe_1861Friend and follower of Emerson, Henry David Thoreau is probably the most well known and well read of all the Transcendentalist. His book, Walden  is a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings.The work is part personal declaration of independence, social experiment, voyage of spiritual discovery, satire, and manual for self-reliance. First published in 1854, it details Thoreau’s experiences over the course of two years, two months, and two days in a cabin he built near Walden Pond, amidst woodland owned by his friend and mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson, near Concord, Massachusetts. The book compresses the time into a single calendar year and uses passages of four seasons to symbolize human development.

 

 

WaldenScan-1121300001

The one room cabin Thoreau built himself and lived in on the shores of Walden Pond.

Although Thoreau is held today in great esteem, his work received far less attention during his lifetime, and a considerable number of his neighbors viewed him with contempt and the book found only marginal success during Thoreau’s lifetime. It was not until the twentieth century that Thoreau’s extraordinary impact on American culture was felt. In the upsurge in counterculture sentiment during the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights era, Walden and “Civil Disobedience” inspired many young Americans to express their disavowal of official U.S. policies and declare ideological independence, even at the risk of arrest.

 

Click to watch a video that tours Walden Pond and Thoreau’s cabin by the woods.

 

Walden also expressed a critique of consumerism and capitalism that was attractive to the ‘hippies’ and others who preferred to drop out of the bustle of consumer society and pursue what they saw as greater and more personally meaningful aims. Moreover, Thoreau politicized the American landscape and nature itself, giving us a liberal view on the wilderness whose legacy can be felt the current environmentalism. He did not perceive nature as a dead and passive object of conquest and exploitation, as it was for many of the early pioneers for whom land meant survival. Rather, he saw in it a lively and vibrant world unto itself, a spectacle of change, growth, and constancy that could infuse us all with spiritual meaning if we pursued it.

The American poet Robert Frost wrote of Thoreau, “In one book … he surpasses everything we have had in America”, while John Greenleaf Whittier, a contemporary of Thoreau, criticized what he perceived as the message in Walden that man should lower himself to the level of a woodchuck and walk on four legs. He said: “Thoreau’sWalden is a capital reading, but very wicked and heathenish… After all, for me, I prefer walking on two legs”.

journal71-72

Thoreau’s original journals from his time at Walden Pond.

As you read through the excerpts of Walden this weekend, be sure to look for examples of Thoreau’ main themes – simplicity, self-reliance and ‘progress’ (think about our discussions during Expansionism for this one!). Also, you will need to be able to discuss how Thoreau is at once a student of Emerson, and also how he interprets Emerson’s Transcendental ideals in a new light, or how he contributes new ideals to Transcendentalism.

 

 

Click here to watch an overview of Thoreau’s Walden

 

Near Concord, Massachusetts --- Autumn Trees at Walden Pond --- Image by © Mick Roessler/Corbis

Near Concord, Massachusetts — Autumn Trees at Walden Pond —

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2017

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

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