American Literature

Welcome to the American Lit web page. Please select a Unit of Study:


American Literature provides an overview of our national heritage and character. It also acquaints students with the literary development of our nation as well as the aspirations, failures, and triumphs that shape the American intellect and spirit. Students will read selections from Colonial to modem authors of American literature, in the following thematic units:

Please click on one of the links above for more detailed information.


A Clash of Cultures

This unit of study will focus on the different cultures which came into contact during the years prior to and during the formation of the United States of America. Literature studied may include:

  • Trail of Tears paintingA Place at the Table - A Unit on the struggles for equality in America
  • In Harmony with Nature - Native American Traditions Native American Mythology
  • First Encounters - Accounts of Exploration and Exploitation

    • Olaudah Equiano PortraitOlaudah Equiano - Slave Narrative
      • PowerPoint - Olaudah Equiano
      • Audio - Passage spoken in Olaudah's Ibo langage
      • HW - Study Questions

    • Conquistadors
    • William BradfordWilliam Bradford - from Of Plymouth Plantation
      • HW - Study Questions

  • Between Heaven and Hell - The Puritan Tradition
  • The Right To Be Free - Writers in the Time of Revolution
    • Patrick Henry - Speech in the Virginia Convention
      • Audio - Complete speech in mp3 format
      • Text - at the Yale Law School
      • HW - Study Questions

    • Thomas Jefferson - Declaration of Independence
      • Audio - Complete text in mp3 format
      • Text - At the National Archives
      • HW - Study Questions

    • Benjamin Franklin - Poor Richard's Almanack
    • Phillis Wheatley - Letter to the Rev. Samson Occum
    • Abigail Adams - Letter to John Adams
      • HW - Study Questions on Wheatley and Adams

    • de Crèvecoeur - What is an American?




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The Spirit of Individualism

Friedrich-The Wanderer(1817)This unit of study will focus on the spirit of Romanticism as it evolved in the United States. Literature studied may include:


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The American Dream

This unit of study will focus on the richness and diversity of tha American Experience in the early parts of the 20th Century. Literature studied may include:

  • Women’s Voices, Women’s Lives - A New Literature
    • Emily Dickinson - poetry
    • Charlotte Perkins Gilman - The Yellow Wallpaper
      • Text of the short story
      • HW: Study Guide

    • Kate Chopin - The Story of an Hour
      • Text - online at Virginia Commonwealth Univ.
      • Audio - mp3
      • HW: Study Guide

    • Tillie Olsen - I Stand Here Ironing
  • The American Dream - Illusion or Reality?
  • A New Cultural Identity - The Harlem Renaissance
    • James Weldon Johnson - My City
    • Langston Hughes - poetry and non-fiction
    • Countee Cullen - Any Human to Another
    • Claude McKay - If We Must Die
    • Arna Bontemps - A Black Man Talks of Reaping
    • Zora Neale Hurston - How It Feels to be Colored Me
    • Alice Walker - from Zora Neale Thurston
    • James Baldwin - My Dungeon Shook

  • Poverty and Survival - The Great Depression
    • John Steinbeck - The Grapes of Wrath

    • T.S. Eliot - The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
      • Text - online at Wikisource
      • Text - pdf
      • Audio - read by T.S. Eliot himself
      • HW: Line by Line Study Guide
      • HW: Study Questions

    • Katherine Anne Porter - The Jilting of Granny Weatherall
    • Richard Wright - The Man Who Was Almost a Man


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War and the Individual

This unit will focus on the lives and times of people affected by wars and civil conflict, at home and abroad.

  • Remembering the Wars - World Wars I & II
    • Bernard Malamud - Armistice
    • Randall Jarrell - The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner
    • John Steinbeck - Why Soldiers Won't Talk
    • Pearl Harbor and Japanese Internment
      • Joan Didion - Letter From Paradise - audio
      • In Response to Executive Order 9066 - audio
    • John Hershey - Hiroshima
    • Kurt Vonnegut - Slaughter-House Five
      • HW: Study Questions

  • The Bomb and the Beat
    • Atomic Cafe
    • Allen Ginsburg - poetry
    • Jack Kerouac - On the Road
    • William S. Burroughs - Naked Lunch

  • The Vietnam War
    • Tim O'Brien - Ambush
    • Yusef Komunyakaa - Camouflaging the Chimera
    • Wendy Larsen and Tran Thi Nga - Deciding
  • Rights of the Individual
    • Martin Luther King - from Letter from Birmingham Jail
    • Malcolm X - from The Autobiography of Malcolm X
    • Nikki Giovanni - Revolutionary Dreams
    • Gary Soto - Mexicans Begin Jogging
    • Sandra Cisneros - Straw into Gold



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