How to Use This Course
American Literature in Historical Context studies American literature and its development from pre-colonization through the present day. Numerous authors are studied as well as the times and culture in which they lived. Students look at what influenced their writing and how their writing influenced others. Answer keys, assessments, and optional devotionals are included.
In order to fully grasp an understanding of American literature and how it has progressed over the centuries, it is important to study the cultural and historical events of the time. The American literature of today is extremely different from that written at the beginning of the nation.
It is useful to note that many times literary works reflected social changes before they occurred in society at large. For good or evil, it is clear throughout the history of America that literature had a great impact on society. We’re going to look at several key questions as we read the literature for this course including:
1. What national events may have impacted the author’s work?
2. Was the author trying to impact society with their work?
3. How were women represented?
4. How were minorities represented?
5. Were there any cultural shifts which impacted the literature?
6. What can be learned about the culture from the work?
I hope you enjoy this study through American literature and thoughtfully consider the social changes, both positive and negative, which may have been affected by the popular literature of various periods of American history.
Links are provided to read all main readings free online.
Unit One: Weeks 1-4
?-1700: Pre-Colonization through early colonization
- Main Readings: Myths and Legends of the Sioux by Marie L. McLaughlin and Viking Tales by Jennie Hall
- Additional Readings and Authors: Mayflower Compact, William Bradford, Edward Winslow, and William Penn
Unit Two: Weeks 5-8
1700-1775: Early Colonization
- Main Reading: Poems on Various Subjects by Phillis Wheatley
- Additional Readings by: Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Johnathan Edwards, and George Whitefield
Unit Three: Weeks 9-12
1776-1820: American Revolution and Post-Revolution
- Main Reading: The Sketchbook of Jeffrey Crayon by Washington Irving
- Additional Readings and Authors: Hannah Foster, Federalist Essays, and Charles Brockden Brown
Unit Four: Weeks 13-16
1820-1860: Pre-Civil War
- Main Reading: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and short stories by Edgar Allen Poe
- Additional Authors: James Fenimore Cooper, Frederick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Herman Melville
Unit Five: Weeks 17-20
1861-1877: Civil War and Reconstruction
- Main Reading: Little Women (1868) by Louisa May Alcott
- Additional Authors: Harriet Ann Jacobs, Abraham Lincoln, Mary Chestnut, Emily Dickinson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Mark Twain
Unit Six: Weeks 21-24
- Main Reading: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
- Additional Authors: Susan B. Anthony, Booker T. Washington, Walt Whitman, Kate Chopin, Stephen Crane, Kate Douglas Wiggin, and Nora A. Smith
- Parents: Please note, there is some offensive language in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Please use discretion when assigning this selection to your students or feel free to substitute with another selection.
Unit Seven: Weeks 25-28
1902-1940: World War I, Roaring 20s, Great Depression
- Main Readings by: Thornton Burgess
- Additional Authors: Frank L. Baum, Grace Livingston Hill, Edith Wharton, O. Henry, and Paul Lawrence Dunbar
Unit Eight: Weeks 29-32
1941-1969: World War II, Korean War, Civil Rights
- Main Reading: Nancy Dale: Army Nurse by Ruby Lorraine Radford
- Additional Authors: Langston Hughes, Ray Bradbury, Agatha Christie, E. E. Smith, and Edgar Rice Burroughs
Unit Nine: Weeks 33-36
- Main Readings: Two Novels of Your Choice
- Additional Authors: Maya Angelou and Shel Silverstein
This course counts as a language arts credit. Students who complete the entire course, including all assignments, and spend approximately 180 hours on the course, may earn one full academic credit.