Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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3. Utopian Promise   

11. Modernist Portraits

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

Activities: Author Activities

Susan Glaspell - Teaching Tips

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  • Like many other female authors writing about women, Susan Glaspell did not receive much critical attention until the "rediscovery" of forgotten texts during the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Trifles is an especially effective play to help students consider what influences both our cultural values and the literary canon: the male characters' dismissal of women's realm of expertise parallels decisions made about what characterizes "great" literature. Students may have difficulty seeing what is at stake in the play's subtle storyline; the "clues" the women find in Minnie Wright's housekeeping may not be immediately obvious to students, as they are not to the men who ignore them. To be certain that they have understood the subtext of the dialogue and stage directions, you might ask students to explain what happens in several of the moments when the female characters discover something that the men cannot see.

  • Ask students to think about the dramatic form and their experience of reading a text that was not meant to be read but performed. You might ask them to consider the added dimensions of authorship in the case of drama: is the author of the script the sole author, or do the director, actors, and set and lighting designers complicate how we assign authorship? Ask them to think about how the dialogue and stage directions move the plot forward, and how the dramatic form shifts the way the story is presented. Glaspell adapted this play to the short-story form in "A Jury of Her Peers," which you might read in conjunction with the play to answer some of these questions.

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