Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

Monthly Update sign up
Mailing List signup
American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
Home About Unit Index Archive Book Club Site Search
4. Spirit of Nationalism   

4. Spirit of Nationalism

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
•  Timeline
•  Activities
- Overview Questions
- Video
- Author
- Context
- Creative Response
- PBL Projects

Activities: Author Activities

Phillis Wheatley - Teaching Tips

Back Back to Phillis Wheatley Activities
  • Ask students to read some passages from poems by Alexander Pope, the English poet who served as one of Wheatley's most important literary models (stanzas from An Essay on Man or Imitations of Horace would work well). Help them to analyze the construction of the heroic couplets Pope employed--that is, two sequential, rhymed lines in iambic pentameter--and ask them to pay attention to his ability to achieve rhythmic variety even while strictly adhering to this rigid metrical form. Have them then turn to Wheatley's poetry. Ask them to consider to what extent her work was influenced by Pope. How do the meter, rhythm, and thematic concerns of Wheatley's poetry both derive from and differ from Pope's model?

  • Wheatley made two revisions to her poem "To the University of Cambridge, in New England." Originally, the fourth line described Africa as "The sable land of error's darkest night," referring to what Wheatley perceived as the continent's paganism. The poem then went on to request the students at Harvard to "suppress the sable monster in its growth." In her revisions for the 1773 volume, Wheatley deleted the word "sable" from both lines, changing line 4 to "The land of errors, and Egyptian gloom," and altering line 28 to read "Suppress the deadly serpent in its egg." Provide students with a handout that delineates the revisions Wheatley made to her poem and ask them to think about the significance of her deletion of the word "sable." You might have them look up the etymology of the word in the Oxford English Dictionary in order to provide them with a clearer understanding of the connotations that "sable" would have held for eighteenth-century readers.

Slideshow Tool
This tool builds multimedia presentations for classrooms or assignments. Go

An online collection of 3000 artifacts for classroom use. Go

Download PDF
Download the Instructor Guide PDF for this Unit. Go


© Annenberg Foundation 2017. All rights reserved. Legal Policy