In this lesson plan, students will examine the Puritans in four different mediums. This unit begins with a rhetorical analysis of an excerpt of John Winthrop’s “Model of Christian Charity” in which students develop an understanding of how the Puritans understood their group identity and relationship to God. Following that, students will explore the poetry of Anne Bradstreet and Edward Taylor, tracing parts of speech and seeing how a different literary form can enhance our understanding of the Puritans. Accompanying this exploration of literature, students will examine several works of art to provide a visual point of reference for the Puritans and understand how their ideology manifests in other forms. Capping off this examination of primary sources, students will view clips from the 2016 film The Witch and identify where the Puritan worldview appears in this dynamic medium and consider what resonance the Puritans have for our contemporary moment.
In each lesson and for homework, students will also engage in conversation with Puritan beliefs through written responses. Some of these responses are personal, with the intention of having the students draw on their own experience and looking for points of similarity and/or differences with the Puritans. Others require students to assume the perspective of a Puritan as a way of further developing their understanding of the Puritans. This style of engagement, as opposed to more formal styles of literary analysis, will situate the students in the world of the Puritans and bring an immediacy to their study of the Puritans. The hope being, ultimately, that students can begin to conceive of the Puritans as real people and not just distant historical figures.