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American Revolutionary Literature

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 2 months ago

American Revolutionary Literature

 

Revolutionary American literature consists mostly of documents written by the Founding Fathers, unless you count the poetry of Philip Freneau, which I have never chosen to teach.

 

One of the first activities I do with students is to have them pair up and read the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence as compared with the final draft. The final draft usually appears in American literature texts; however, some are starting to include the rough draft, usually with the edits marked in a different color. Interesting class discussions about slavery and Thomas Jefferson's views versus his practices (keeping slaves), as well as those of the country as a whole. It is also a great activity for them to see how an excellent writer's work was edited. Following this activity, my students read excerpts from The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa the African, by Olaudah Equiano and several poems by Phillis Wheatley, both of which often appear in American literature texts. Class discussions about liberty and which men are created equal follow these readings.

 

One of my most successful activities for Revolutionary literature involves a cross-curricular study of Benjamin Franklin's "Moral Perfection" (from The Autobiography, and usually included in American literature texts). I teach at a private Jewish high school, and I discovered that study of this work coincides with the Jewish concept known as cheshbon hanefesh, which means "accounting of the soul." In the month of Elul, which leads up to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, one must be reflective and repentant. Since I teach American literature chronologically, I have found that the timing for this period of reflection perfectly coincides with a study of Franklin's "Moral Perfection." After studying the work, students choose one character trait they hope to attain or one flaw they hope to correct and keep a journal for two weeks, chronicling their successes and failures with this resolution. Even if you don't teach at a Jewish school, this can be an excellent activity. The handout with instructions for this activity may be found here (PDF).


 

All of these handouts (along with many others) are gathered at my handouts page.

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