Activities: Video Activities
What is American literature? What are the distinctive voices and styles in American literature? How do social and political issues influence the American canon?
Video Comprehension Questions: What changes in literary style are discussed in the video? Why did some Jewish American critics condemn Philip Roth's novels as anti-Semitic while Ellison was charged with not "being black enough"? Why is N. Scott Momaday's The Way to Rainy Mountain hard to classify?
Context Questions: What traditions influenced each of these writers? How are these writers' ethnic traditions reflected in what and how they write?
Exploratory Questions: Ellison's Invisible Man has been hailed as a classic novel of American literature. What makes a piece of literature a classic?
How are American myths created, challenged, and reimagined through this literature?
Video Comprehension Questions: How is the concept of "the American Dream" challenged in this unit? Why do so many people still think of the 1950s and 1960s as a wonderful, peaceful time, as envisioned in sitcoms like Happy Days or movies like American Graffiti? Who is excluded from these scenarios?
Context Questions: Ellison, Roth, and Momaday explore the role of minority Americans in the armed forces, particularly in World War II. How does this war inform the construction of the American hero during the 1950s and 1960s?
Exploratory Questions: What American myths do you associate with the 1950s and 1960s? Some possibilities might be the idyllic imaginary world that television provided in programs like Leave It to Beaver or My Three Sons. Others might include the notions that "popularity leads to success in life," that "good always wins and evil always loses," or that "everyone has a fair chance at success if they just try hard." How do these myths relate to the authors and events covered in the video?
What is an American? How does literature create conceptions of the American experience and American identity?
Video Comprehension Questions: How do Roth, Ellison, and Momaday define America or Americans? Why does the Invisible Man leave the South? What is he looking for, and what does he find when he arrives in 1930s New York City? What does N. Scott Momaday mean when he describes his childhood as a "Pan-Indian experience"?
Context Questions: How do the themes and styles of these writers reflect economic, cultural, and political changes in American culture in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s? Consider changes occurring with the civil rights movement, the Cold War, and the social rebellion sparked by the Vietnam War that extended to the needs of women, gay and lesbian Americans, and members of other minority groups..
Exploratory Questions: Ellison, Roth, and Momaday use ethnic stereotypes. When is using stereotypes useful and when is it not?
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