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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

Edward Taylor - Teaching Tips

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  • Taylor's use of puns and elaborate metaphors can make his work difficult for students to understand, especially when Taylor relies on archaic terms having to do with trades such as carpentry, weaving, smithing, printing, domestic economy, or horticulture. Have students use the Oxford English Dictionary to look up the complete history of unfamiliar terms (examples might include "nipper," "squitchen," "selvage," "knot," "stock," "fillet," "distaff," "huswifery," "quilt ball," "kenning," "rigalled," or "receipt"). Use their research to investigate both the cultural context of Taylor's imagery and his playful use of the different meanings of a single image.

  • Ask students to examine the different metrical forms and stanzaic patterns at work in Taylor's poetry. Why does he use heroic couplets in the "Preface" to God's Determinations (found in The Norton Anthology of American Literature) only to switch to other forms in the later sections of the poem? How does the predictable, relatively rigid ababcc verse form of the Preparatory Meditations relate to the complicated spiritual struggles explored within the poems? You can use students' formal analyses of the poems to investigate the relationship between the ritualistic and the sincere, the irrational and the rational, within Taylor's Puritan theology.

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