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Artifacts and Fiction - Workshop in American Literature
Home Sessions Overview Six Step Process Discipline Tutorials
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The term "artifact" is used to mean some item (such as a painting, a map, a song, or a newspaper advertisement) that documents a particular historical era or cultural practice. Artifacts & Fiction pairs the reading of artifacts with the reading of literature; this pairing is a way to enhance critical thinking skills while providing a source for historical and cultural contexts of American literature. By using the Six Step Process modeled in the workshop videos, it is possible to select appropriate artifacts, to perform a close reading of them, and to use that reading to deepen understanding of American literature.
 
Six Step Process
Step 1.Decide on a literary text you will use for your lesson.

Step 2.Make your goals explicit: What cultural and historical connections do you want to explore by using an artifact in connection with the literature you have chosen?

Step 3.Identify the time period of the text: When was the text written? What is the time period of the setting?

Step 4.Select an artifact that is contextually appropriate. In order for the artifact to be contextually appropriate, you will need to answer yes to at least one of the following questions:
a. Was the artifact created when the text was written? Or does the time period the artifact was created correspond with the time period in which the novel is set?

 AND

b. Does the image fit with what you plan to do with the work of literature? (Just because it is from the right period doesn't mean the image tells the intended story).

Step 5.Do a close reading of the artifact: Who created it? Who is the audience? What assumptions can you make about it? Where and when was it created? What historical and cultural significance does it have?

Step 6.Identify connections between the artifact and the literature: How does the artifact enhance the historical context of the literary text? What additional cultural information can the artifact provide to increase critical thinking and reading?



The American Passages Web site can be extremely useful in identifying appropriate artifacts. This site includes an archive of over 3000 artifacts, including sound, text, and images, and is searchable by time period, type of artifact, relevant literary movement, geographical region, ethnic group, or keyword. See the Workshop Overview for additional information about where to locate artifacts and ways to use them in the classroom.


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