Introduction and Rationale
One of the joys of teaching American literature is being able to look at the development of ideas as the writers of our nation try to influence our national identity. The writers of regionalism, realism, and naturalism used their writing for specific ends. The regionalists wanted to preserve the aspects of areas of the country that, because of the move to the cities, were being lost. The realists wanted to show just how life is so that readers would want to (and work for) solutions to societal problems. The naturalists wanted to expose their readers to ideas that show our connection (often bleak) to nature and the world beyond our villages, towns, and cities.
A challenge in teaching this literature is that many students are not able to take pieces of literature and discern the important ideas of a period of history. In this unit, I have tried to show how the ideas of three literary periods are evident in the short fiction of the time.
This unit contains three PowerPoints (one for each of the literary periods), six short stories (all in the public domain), six sets of questions (focusing on general elements of fiction as well as the literary period), a test that that requires students to identify the specific elements of each period and to write an essay locating elements of the period in a story, a multiple choice test, a teacher’s OneNote notebook, a students’ OneNote notebook, and lesson plans for each portion of the unit.
Virginia Standards of Learning 2017
9.4 The student will read, comprehend, and analyze a variety of fictional texts including narratives, literary nonfiction, poetry, and drama.
b) Explain the relationships between and among elements of literature: characters, plot, setting, tone, point of view, and theme.
c) Interpret how themes are connected across texts.
e) Analyze the cultural or social function of a literary text.
g) Explain the influence of historical context on the form, style, and point of view of a written work.
10.4 The student will read, comprehend, and analyze literary texts of different cultures and eras.
a) Make inferences and draw conclusions using references from the text(s) for support.
e) Examine a literary selection from several critical perspectives.
f) Critique how authors use key literary elements to contribute to meaning including, character development, theme, conflict, and archetypes.
g) Interpret how themes are connected within and across texts.
h) Explain the influence of historical context on the form, style, and point of view of a literary text(s).
11.4 The student will read, comprehend, and analyze relationships among American literature, history, and culture.
a) Describe contributions of different cultures to the development of American literature.
b) Compare and contrast the development of American literature in its historical context.
c) Analyze American literature, as it reflects traditional and contemporary themes, motifs, universal characters, and genres.
d) Interpret the social or cultural function of American literature.
e) Analyze how context and language structures convey an author’s intent and viewpoint.
f) Critique how authors use key literary elements to contribute to meaning including character development, theme, conflict, and archetypes within and across texts.
h) Evaluate how specific word choices, syntax, tone, and voice support the author’s purpose.
j) Generate and respond logically to literal, inferential, evaluative, synthesizing, and critical thinking questions about the text(s).
Common Core Reading Standards for Literature 6–12
2. Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.
3. Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed).
9. Demonstrate knowledge of eighteenth-, nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century foundational works of American literature, including how two or more texts from the same period treat similar themes or topics.
Students will synthesize intellectual ideas prevalent in a specific historical period through reading literature of the period.
Students will recognize elements of a literary period in specific works of the period.