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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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3. Utopian Promise   

3. Utopian

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Activities: Author Activities

John Woolman - Author Questions

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  1. Comprehension: What rhetorical strategies and appeals does Woolman use to argue against slavery in Some Considerations on the Keeping of Negroes? Which are most persuasive? Which do you think would have been most effective in persuading other eighteenth-century Americans to abolish slavery?

  2. Context: Woolman's Journal has been celebrated as a particularly beautiful and effective example of "plain style." How does his use of this style compare to that of other plain stylists discussed in this unit (Bradford, Bradstreet, and Penn, for example)? What kinds of values and beliefs might Woolman's style reflect? Are they the same or different from the values held by Puritan plain stylists?

  3. Exploration: How do Woolman's concerns prefigure later social movements in America (abolitionism, civil rights issues, the development of welfare programs, for example)? Can you trace his influence in any contemporary discussions of social justice issues? What might Woolman think of contemporary American society? How would he feel about the ongoing problems of racism, bigotry, pov-erty, violence, and materialism?

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