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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

5. Masculine

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

Activities: Author Activities

Caroline Stansbury Kirkland - Teaching Tips

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  • Kirkland describes in detail many of the domestic commodities that circulate within her frontier community, both to complain about her ungrateful neighbors' habit of borrowing her possessions and to poke fun at pioneer women's pretensions in owning such luxuries as "silver tea-pots" and fancy dresses. Ask students to think about the role of commodities in Kirkland's narrative. How does she feel when she is accused of "introducing luxury" into the community when she displays her parlor carpet? How do commodities function to distinguish one "class" of women from another within the village? What kind of symbolic importance do the women in Pinckney attach to their furniture and household goods? How does gender structure the people of Pinckney's attitudes toward domestic objects, both decorative and useful? You might refer students to the contextual material on parlors featured in Unit 8.

  • Realism is usually thought of as a post-Civil War development in American literature, probably because male writers did not adopt it until the 1860s and 1870s. Kirkland's work provides clear evidence of an earlier incarnation of realism, yet she has never received the kind of critical attention afforded to the male writers who are seen as realism's "pioneers"--writers like Mark Twain and William Dean Howells. Ask students to think about the assumptions that inform our categorization and canonization of particular American writers. How does gender impact writers' reputations? How do we decide what constitutes a "school" or "movement" within American literature?

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