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Caraway

What did "American Literature" look like for you?

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I'm compiling a booklist - but I'm not sure what I want to do besides the books.  Did you all just read and discuss?  Follow a guide?  Use a curriculum?

Trying to strike a balance between getting the most out of it and getting to enjoy the experience of reading the books.

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DIY American Lit. here. Mostly just read/discussed. We did use excerpts from a few guides to jump-start discussion, or to get an idea for doing a few written reader responses.

 I will also say that American Lit. was the least favorite year of all our high school lit. -- and DSs enjoyed lit. So much of American Lit. is dark and depressing (rather ironic for the nation with optimistic individualism and the cheerful idea that you can immigrate/work hard/become whatever you want 😉 ). However -- both The Great Gatsby and The Old Man and the Sea, while depressing, were both surprise big hits with everyone -- beautiful language and writing esp. for Great Gatsby. DSs also really enjoyed Call of the Wild, in addition to the short stories by Ray Bradbury and by Flannery O'Connor.

I went with about 2 dozen short stories and some novellas that year so we could cover more authors. We just watched the plays, with the day before going over background info on author/times of the work, and then discussing the day after watching the play -- bam.done. 

We also did any nonfiction, essays, speeches, and biographies as part of ourAmerican History, since those are analyzed very differently than novels/novellas, short stories, plays, and poetry. Works/authors we covered that year:

1600s = Anne Bradstreet - poetry
1700s = Phyllis Wheatly -- poetry
1820s = Washington Irving -- short stories
1830s-1850s
- Edgar Allen Poe -- "The Raven" (poem) + short story
- Herman Melville -- Billie Budd (novella) -- in retrospect, we all wish we'd done Bartleby the Scrivner instead (short story
- Nathaniel Hawthorne -- The Scarlet Letter (short novel)
1860s-1870s
- Emily Dickinson -- poetry
- Walt Whitman -- poetry
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow -- poetry
- Ralph Waldo Emerson -- poetry; essay
- Henry David Thoreau -- essay
- Mark Twain -- Huckleberry Finn -- novel -- + Day They Came to Arrest the Book (Hentoff) -- YA novel 
1880s-1890s
- Ambrose Bierce -- short story
- Bret Harte -- short story
- Stephen Crane -- short stories
1900s-1920s
- O. Henry -- several short stories
- Jack London -- Call of the Wild -- novella/short novel
- Richard Connell -- Most Dangerous Game -- short story
- F. Scott Fitzgerald -- The Great Gatsby -- novel
- Thornton Wilder -- Our Town -- play; we watched a video of a production
1930s-1950s
- Langston Hughes -- Thank You Ma'am (short story); poetry
- Robert Frost -- poetry
- James Thurber -- The Catbird Seat; The Secret Life of Walter Mitty -- short stories
- The Pearl (Steinbeck) -- novella
- The Old Man and the Sea (Hemingway) -- novella
- Ray Bradbury -- short stories (previous years = Fahrenheit 451 & Something Wicked This Way Comes)
1960s-1970s
- Lorraine Hansberry -- Raisin in the Sun -- play; we watched a video of a production
- Flannery O'Connor -- short stories
- Shirley Jackson --- The Lottery -- short story
- Ursula Le Guin -- The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas -- short story (previously did her Earthsea trilogy)
- Margaret Craven -- I Heard the Owl Call My Name -- short novel


If I were do it again, I would include some contemporary meaty YA books from American authors of different ethnic backgrounds. (YA is often shorter, so you can get more works in there. 😉 )

Edited by Lori D.
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Boy #1 never did an official American Lit course, but managed a good spread of American lit sprinkled into his other English reading for each year.  I also handed him a few volumes of the Norton Anthology of American Lit and let it be a free read for part of a year.  He found out that he loves short stories, and spent a solid month with Poe -reading, discussing, comparing Poe to other gothic/horror/mystery writers, and he did a few nice essays with all that.    We also found out that he hated analyzing poetry, so we went very light on that.  I chose the Billy Collins approach... instead of beating it to death.  🙂   A lot of literary analysis at my house is done by discussion.  Sometimes short essays afterward ("...that was a good point, I liked that comparison- why don't you take that idea and write a few paragraphs on that.")   

Boy #2 did Lightning Lit, his freshman year, and has also had many other novels, plays, short stories, bios, added into his other years' English credit.  He has connected much better with biographies and speeches, so we have discussed and analyzed those more, and some other genres (poetry again!) have gotten less time. 

Just for the record, it pains me to type that... I love words and I enjoy poetry.   Sigh.

Boy #2 will be doing a breeze through Scott Foresman's American Reads: The United States in Literature next year, simply because I want to be purposeful in exposing him to some eras/genres of American lit that he really hasn't had much time with yet. 

Boy #3 will do Lightning Lit next year (freshman year).   And who knows what else after that. 😉

 

Edited by Zoo Keeper
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