English III: American Literature
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English III: American Literature

This course is a survey of the major authors and time periods of American literature. A major goal of this course is to understand literature as a part of history and the various artistic/philosophical/political movements recognizing their characteristics. Students will also discover the unique contributions and talents of the various authors.

This is, however, NOT a dry class! Students have fun in this challenging and fast-paced course because the works are relevant and interesting! Students will begin with the works of several Puritan authors including Cotton Mather and Jonathan Edwards, recognizing the Puritan roots of this country. Students will then follow American history through the Enlightenment and colonial periods in Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography. He is an exceedingly interesting and compelling individual. Romantic (and not the kiss-kiss-hug-hug type of romance) writers Nathaniel Hawthorne’s and Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories mark the beginning of a truly unique national literature, and students will come to recognize the dark romance as a distinct genre. The poetry of Poe and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow rounds out the Romantic era. The fall semester ends with the hilarious short stories of Mark Twain. Over the break students will read Twelve Years a Slave, a moving and gripping account of a man held prisoner as a slave, but no other homework will be assigned. In the spring semester, students begin with the haunting Civil War tale The Red Badge of Courage, a masterpiece of naturalist fiction by Stephen Crane before move rapidly into the 20th century. The poetry of Robert Frost introduces students into the modern era and is followed by writers of the Lost Generation. Students will learn to discern elements of post-modern fiction from a variety of perspectives. The Great Gatsby displays the fruitlessness and hopelessness of the flappers yet provides some moral lessons; Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea offers a lesson in perseverance. John Steinbeck’s novella The Pearl causes pupils to question the American dream, corruption, greed, and love of family. Students will also receive a sampling of other American authors through the study of short stories.  The year is finished with My Antonia, a tale that causes introspection into the development of meaningful relationships and the idea of America as home to many cultures.

This course is rigorous and in some ways life-changing in that students typically must wrestle with some real-life questions when discussing these works. It is not hyperbole to state that no real education of an American student is complete without an understanding of American literature. The class includes reading comprehension, vocabulary quizzes, discussion questions, projects, and several papers.

Course description and class content developed by Jess Woods for exclusive use with Excelsior Classes.

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Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God and Other Puritan Sermons by Jonathan Edwards, et.al.; Dover Thrift Edition; ISBN: 978-0486446011
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin; Dover Thrift Edition; ISBN: 0-486-29073-5
Young Goodman Brown and Other Short Stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne; Dover Thrift Edition; ISBN: 0-486-27060-2
The Raven and Other Favorite Poems by Edgar Allan Poe; Dover Thrift Editions; ISBN: 0-486-26685-0
The Gold Bug and Other Tales by Edgar Allan Poe; Dover Thrift Editions; ISBN: 0-486-26875-6
Evangeline and Other Poems by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; Dover Thrift Editions; ISBN: 0-486-28255-4
Humorous Stories and Sketches by Mark Twain; Dover Thrift Editions; ISBN: 0-486-29279-7
12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup; Graymalkin; ISBN: 978-1631680021
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane; Barnes and Noble Classics; ISBN: 9781593081195
The Road Not Taken and Other Poems by Robert Frost; Dover Thrift Editions; ISBN: 0-486-27550-7
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald; Scribner; ASIN: 0743273567
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway; Scribner; ISBN: 0684801221
The Pearl by John Steinbeck; Penguin; ISBN: 014017737X
My Antonia by Willa Cather; Dover Thrift Editions; ISBN: 0486282406

Jess Woods currently resides in upstate New York with her husband and three children. Though she spent her childhood and adolescence in Georgia, Jess has lived in eight different states and has a fondness for traveling and experiencing different regions, as each one has taught her something about herself and about community. Jess enjoys reading, writing, and all things music (ok, most things music). Teaching is the perfect career for her since she loves being able to experience an appreciation for words and story come alive within other people.

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