This unit is designed to help students consider what it means for a piece of literature (and by extension, its author) to be "American". They read the Iroquois creation story and your choice of several short contemporary essays on the American idea, while practicing active reading (see unit 1 handout) and essay analysis (see unit 1 handout). Early American writing is often religious, dealing with big philosophical and theological questions that seem to leave the realm of literature; tools to help students understand this are provided in "Determinism and the Question of Free Will", while "Movements in American Literature" gives students a conceptual framework as they move through the timeline.
Click here: Link to Atlantic Monthly essays on "This American Idea." [Instructors: There are lots of essays here. Pick and choose which you want your students to read. I try to make sure my selections represent as many aspects of the philosophical and political spectrum as possible. These essays are short enough to be excellent practice for students to learn how to identify author's purpose(s), organizational structure, tone, and tools. Again, see the "how to analyze an essay" handout in unit 1.]
Click here: Link to Iroquois creation story
Click here: Determinism and the Question of Free Will
Click here: Movements in American Literature
Click here: The Mighty Pen: a writing assignment on literature and ideology