Bryan Harvey
Literature, Composition and Rhetoric, Language, Grammar and Vocabulary
Material Type:
High School
Harlem Renaissance, Literary Analysis, Parallelism, Poetry, Rhetoric
Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike
Media Formats:
Downloadable docs

Education Standards (12)

Harlem Renaissance poetry and the art of parallel structure

Harlem Renaissance poetry and the art of parallel structure


This resource intends to help students understand how parallelism is about more than mechanics and actually central to building thematic concepts.  

Harlem Renaissance poetry -- Analyzing parallelism for meaning

This lesson is rather brief. I often use it as a review of parallelism (after having taught or reviewed the skill much earlier in the year). In this way, this lesson often functions as an example of both spacing and interleaving, meaning it picks certain skills up that were taught much earlier in a student's school year or school career and attempts to fashion them in a slightly different light). In addition to the lesson being a review of parallelism, the final product of the assignment is written under the assumption that a teacher has already introduced students to methods of either rhetorical or literary analysis. 

The idea here is that students look at poetry as a strong example of where parallelism not only creates clarity and conciseness but clearly connects and emphasizes ideas. The vertical nature of poetry often reveals (or highlights) how parallelism works (or is structured) in ways that prose, which operates horizontally cannot. Poetry also functions in a way as art so the parallelism, while important for building meaning in prose, is often necessary for building meaning in poetry. The parallelism creates the juxtaposition, the comparison, the meaning to be found in the symbolism.


The PDF includes sentence templates for identifying and describing examples of parallelism succinctly. The final assignment is adjustable (and should be adjusted to fit a particular teacher's needs), but asks students to move from identifying the presence of parallelism to analyzing and interpreting its thematic functions. I have used this assignment with both AP and general education students. With the latter, I waited until the second semester because I didn't think they were ready to complete the final writing assessment (although I do think they could have complete the templates and readings much earlier in the year).