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

14. Becoming Visible

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

Activities: Overview Questions

Instructor Overview
A brief description of the literary movement within its historical context.
• How did this diverse array of minority and ethnic voices enrich an American literary tradition that once was defined almost exclusively by white men?

• What relationship can we see between innovations in twentieth-century popular culture, especially jazz and rock and roll, and experimentation in literary style?

• How do the writers in this unit greatly expand the conventional definitions of what it means to be an American?

• Several of these writers experienced moral, political, or psychological crises during the course of their lives and in the process became disillusioned with radical agendas and mass movements. How do these crises show in their work, and what similarities do you see between their experience with political movements and that of authors from earlier periods in American literature?

• What experimental styles and strategies become apparent in the literary works featured in this unit?

• Much of the literature in this unit responds to an age in which the pressures of conformity and assimilation led to a climate of political protest. What resemblances and differences do you see between the moral issues that these writers address and those confronted by earlier American writers?

• What relationship is conveyed between each writer and his or her own communities--both the ethnic or racial community in which he or she grew up, and the larger society encountered as an adult? How might the complexity of this relationship give each text and writer a special importance?

• The suburbs expanded in the 1950s and after, rivaling cities and rural settings as places for Americans to live. How do some writers from this unit represent the suburban experience?

• Almost all of the works included in this unit focus on the problems and challenges of forging identity. How do they achieve a measure of relevance for a broad range of American readers?

• What modern American aspirations, myths, and fears are present in the work of these writers, and how does each writer address them?

• What myths about American family life were reinforced in the popular culture of the 1950s and 1960s? How have those myths been challenged in literary works, and how have those myths endured or evolved today?

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