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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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4. Spirit of Nationalism   

4. Spirit of Nationalism

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•  Using the Video
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•  Activities
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Activities: Author Activities

Benjamin Franklin - Author Questions

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  1. Comprehension: To what does Franklin attribute his success? What kind of advice does he offer to readers who want to model their life on his?

  2. Comprehension: What is an "erratum"? Why does Franklin adopt this term?

  3. Context: Benjamin Franklin and Jonathan Edwards were born within three years of each other, but, despite their similar ages, the two men had radically different perspectives and beliefs. Compare Franklin's Autobiography with Edwards's "Personal Narrative." How are these writers' views on morality, personal responsibility, human nature, and/or the limits of human knowledge similar? How are they different? How does Franklin both draw from and reject the Puritan tradition that was so important to Edwards?

  4. Context: Examine the paintings and sculptures of Franklin featured in the archive. What different images of Franklin do these representations provide? If Franklin were choosing among them for an image for the cover of his Autobiography, which of the representations of himself do you think he would choose? Why?

  5. Exploration: How did Franklin's Autobiography influence subsequent American autobiographies? How were his values translated and reinterpreted by writers like Frederick Douglass or Zitkala Sa?

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