American Literature 2 (From Romanticism to Realism)
Centers largely on the Civil War—attitudes leading into it; the issues that defined it, such as slavery; and how American writers responded to it. Several lessons are dedicated to the transcendentalists—most prominently Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau—and their eloquent optimism. Juxtaposing their idealism are works from Nathaniel Hawthorne, Frederick Douglass's autobiography, and several other slave narratives. Riding the proverbial line that is realism, excerpts from Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural Address showcase the true art that is political rhetoric. The unit closes with Herman Melville and Stephen Crane, authors characterized by postwar pessimism and harsh naturalism, respectively. A significant portion of the unit is dedicated to poetry, featuring in-depth looks at Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman and a comparison of the two.
These courses are rigorous, challenging, and interesting. Literature selections to be studied have been carefully selected, and provide an excellent representation of period authors and literature. Guided student discussion requires critical thinking skills as well as student concentration and investment. The stated goal of each study is to make the most of each piece of literature in terms of understanding, appreciation, analysis, contemporary connections, and personal insights. The lessons in the courses align with language arts standards and place an emphasis on textual evidence, identification of themes, and analysis of choices regarding setting, point of view, and structure.
The courses consist of a single Guide that provides a blueprint through studies that are each focused on a particular time period of literature. These Course Guides are models of efficient teacher preparation and provision. Plus, they are user-friendly. Courses assume the student has some skill and training in both literary analysis and academic writing (i.e. essays). They likewise assume the teacher/parent is comfortable interacting with students on literary topics.
Literature selections are usually available online or in anthologies. They are varied and tend to be challenging reads requiring a motivated high school student. Questions and exercises require critical thinking skills and although suggested student responses are provided, there is much room for elaboration and further discussion. The Teacher Notes section in each course encourages adding in major works to the studies and offers possible suggestions as well as movie options.American Literature courses have 20 literature studies, while the British Literature courses have 21. Each study lists the objectives of the study and has a section on Notes to the Teacher before outlining the step-by-step study procedure. There is variety in the procedure steps, but they usually involve discussing some background information followed by teacher-student interaction through one or more handouts. Discussions are sometimes suggested as group activities and sometimes as student team discussions. Masters for all the student handouts are provided in the Guide as are possible student responses. These handouts cover literary analysis topics as well as springboards into cultural or historical discussions. Most lesson procedures include some sort of writing assignment – sometimes in-class free writing; sometimes more formal essays. Lessons end with either an Interdisciplinary Connection or an Advanced Placement Extension and occasionally with both. Advanced Placement Extensions emphasize the skills necessary for success in Advanced Placement language arts exams. ~ Janice