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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
- Overview Questions
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Activities: Author Activities

Thomas Jefferson - Author Questions

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  1. Comprehension: What grievances against British rule are outlined in the Declaration of Independence?

  2. Context: Examine the diagrams and photographs featured in the archive of the campus Jefferson designed for the University of Virginia. Why might Jefferson have chosen this design for his ideal "academical village," as he called it? What kind of educational space does the campus construct for its students? What values are reflected in its design? With these questions in mind, think about the design of your own campus or school. What do you think the architects of your campus had in mind when they planned it? How might their goals have been similar to or different from Jefferson's?

  3. Context: Read the contextual material in "The Awful Truth: The Aesthetic of the Sublime" featured in this unit. Examine Jefferson's description of the Natural Bridge in Query V of Notes on the State of Virginia and then look at the image of the Natural Bridge featured in the archive. How does Jefferson describe the Natural Bridge? What effect does it have on him when he visits it? Why does he shift to the second person when he describes the Bridge's effects? Why does he view it as "the most sublime of Nature's works"? How does the Bridge compare to other natural or human-made wonders you may have visited (the Grand Canyon, the Rocky Mountains, the Empire State Building, the Hoover Dam, or Niagara Falls, for example)?

  4. Exploration: The Puritans' Mayflower Compact, John Winthrop's "Model of Christian Charity," and the Declaration of Independence all function as early American articulations of shared values. How do these documents compare to one another? How did American values change over the course of 150 years? What does the Declaration, an eighteenth-century text, have in common with the Puritan documents?

  5. Exploration: Sentences and phrases from the Declaration of Independence are often recycled in American political and cultural documents. Think of some instances when you may have heard the Declaration quoted. Which sections are quoted most often? Why? How do you think interpretations and uses of the language of the Declaration have changed since Jefferson's time?

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