Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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Artifacts and Fiction - Workshop in American Literature
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These Tutorials use images, sound files and narrative to deepen understanding of the featured disciplines through close readings of artifacts.

Tutorial 1: Visual Arts
Item #1159 Paintings, sculpture, and other works of visual art express ideals in their own language.

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Tutorial 2: Political History
Item #6906 Speeches, protest posters, and cartoons capture the political views of various groups.
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Tutorial 3: Social History
Item #7338 The discipline of social history focuses on the lives of ordinary people. Diaries, photos, music, and clothing are all clues to social history and the lives of ordinary people.
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Tutorial 4: Oral History
Item #8010 Folk songs, interviews, and other oral histories can provide alternative views of a text's cultural setting or be studied as artifacts that help explain other literary works.
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Tutorial 5: Domestic Architecture
Item #8080 Furniture placement and interior design are two of many aspects of domestic architecture which can relay information about social attitudes and norms of behavior.
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Tutorial 6: Cultural Geography
Item #3994 The study of cultural geography focuses on how we shape our surrounding space, and how natural and man-made landscapes affect our perspectives.
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Tutorial 7: Ritual Artifacts
Item #7842 From Victorian calling cards to Puritan gravestones, ritual artifacts reveal how humans create and define order in their lives through both sacred and secular ritual objects.
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Tutorial 8: Ceremonial Artifacts
Item #2742 Native American sand paintings, priestly vestments and wedding huppahs are all objects used in religious ceremonies embodying the spiritual beliefs of the cultures they represent.
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When approaching an artifact, it is useful to think of the process for teaching close reading of literature—developing not only an understanding of what a text says (the literal plot of "what happened") but also appreciating the importance of how a text depicts what happened (the use of rhyme scheme, diction, character development, etc.).

The analysis of artifacts involves a similar process of close reading, with attention to the details of how things are represented. The way a figure is posed in a portrait (wearing a particular style of clothing, pictured with specific household objects, etc.) may reveal cultural values shared by the painter and the subject. For example, the use of rhythm and repetition in a song may indicate what information or beliefs are being emphasized, particularly if the original singers and audience for the song came from a culture that privileged the oral transmission of information.

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