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American Passages: A Literary Survey

American literary movements and authors in the context of history and culture.

A video course on American literature for college-level instruction and teacher professional development; 16 half-hour video programs, instructor’s guide, study guide, and website.

American Passages: A Literary Survey is a 16-part American literature course. The video programs, print guides, and Web site place literary movements and authors within the context of history and culture. The course takes an expanded view of American literary movements, bringing in a diversity of voices and tracing the continuity among them. The materials, which are coordinated with the Norton Anthology of American Literature, can be used as the basis of a one or two-semester college-level course or for teacher professional development.

How To Use This Site

The American Passages site contains Unit-based materials (organized by literary movements), Author-based materials (organized alphabetically) and a 3000-item searchable Archive of historical and cultural artifacts.

STRUCTURE AND PURPOSE
The goal of American Passages is

To encourage readers’ critical appreciation of American literature by enhancing the understanding of its diversity, continuity, and position within American history and culture.

The web, video, and print materials meet this goal in 3 ways:

  1. Encouraging the critical appreciation of American Literature by providing materials to support the traditional goals of an American Literature survey course:
    • to teach close reading skills and narrative strategies
    • to introduce significant American writers, styles, themes, and concerns
    • to stimulate users to compare, contrast and make connections between texts
    • to illustrate how American Literature has changed and evolved over time.
  2. Promoting diversity and continuity by respectfully presenting the canonical works while thoughtfully integrating works and voices that have traditionally been unheard, ignored, or discounted.
  3. Advocating for an understanding of American Literature in a broader contextual framework by using biographical, historical, and cultural contextual materials to support and enrich the readings.

AMERICAN PASSAGES encourages an open-ended thematic approach to American literature, with an organizing principle of five Guiding Questions:

  1. What is an American?
  2. What is American Literature?
  3. How do place and time shape an author’s works, and our understanding of them?
  4. What characteristics of a literary work have made it influential over time?
  5. How are American myths created, challenged and re-imagined through this literature?

THE INSTRUCTOR GUIDE
Each Unit of the Instructor Guide includes thematically-organized contextual materials ready for classroom use. The Guides can be viewed as web pages with hyperlinks to corresponding materials in the Online Archive, and in PDF for easy downloading and printing.

Each Guide includes discussion questions and activities organized by cognitive level: Comprehension, Contextual Understanding, and Deeper Explorations.

ONLINE ARCHIVE
The Online Archive includes more than 3000 Items, in a variety of categories, including:
Visual Arts (painting, sculpture, textiles etc.)
Historical Documents
Material Culture Items (furniture, clothing, technology, etc)
Literary Texts
Photographs
Music Recordings
Author and Critic interview Recordings
Literary Text Audio Recordings

Each Item in the Archive is accompanied by an Item description, explaining the Item’s relevance to appropriate literary works. All Items are available in a small format for quick viewing and a full screen format for printing or projection. All items are cleared for download, printing and use in educational settings (user agreement).

All Items are cross-referenced and easily accessed through a high-powered Archive Search feature, allowing users to select from literary movements, geographical regions, type of artifact, key words and other pertinent criteria.

THE VIDEO SERIES
The Video Series features sixteen 30-minute documentaries rich with artifacts illustrating the contextual settings of the literary movement. Each episode has interviews with leading scholars and award-winning authors, as well as brief re-enactments of critical moments from the texts. Each program can be viewed as a “stand alone” or can be used as part of a series. Produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting, each episode is a rich and compelling entry into a literary movement.

Individual Program Descriptions

EPISODE 1: NATIVE VOICES
Native Americans created a rich and highly developed tradition of oral literatures in the Americas. This episode opens the series exploring that richness by introducing Native American oral traditions through the work of three contemporary authors: Leslie Marmon Silko (Laguna Pueblo), Simon Ortiz (Acoma Pueblo), and Luci Tapahonso (Navajo).

Interviews
Joy Harjo, Poet/Musician, Professor of English (UCLA) (Muscogee/Creek)
Rex Lee Jim, Writer (Navajo)
N. Scott Momaday, Pulitzer Prize winning author (Kiowa/Cherokee)
Simon Ortiz, Author (Acoma Pueblo)
Greg Sarris, Professor of English (Loyola Marymount University) (Coast Miwok Tribal Chairman/Pomo)
Luci Tapahonso, Author, (Navajo)

EPISODE 2: EXPLORING BORDERLANDS
Chicana writer Gloria Anzaldúa tells us that the border is “una herida abierta [an open wound] where the lifeblood of two worlds is merging to form a third country-a border culture.” This episode explores the literature of the Chicano borderlands and its beginnings in the literature of Spanish Colonization.

Interviews
Gloria Anzaldúa, Author
Cherrie Moraga, Author
Juan Bruce-Novoa, Professor of Spanish and Portuguese (University of California, Irvine)
Maria Herrera-Sobek, Professor of Chicana Studies (University of California, Santa Barbara)
Sonia Saldivar-Hull, Professor of English (University of Texas, San Antonio)
Elliot Young, Assistant Professor of English (Lewis and Clark College)

EPISODE 3: UTOPIAN PROMISE
When British colonists landed in the Americas they created communities that they hoped would serve as a “light onto the nations.” But what role would the native inhabitants play in this new model community? This episode compares the answers of two important groups, the Puritans and Quakers, and exposes the lasting influence they had upon American identity.

Interviews
Michael J. Colacurcio, Professor of American Literary and Intellectual History to 1900 (UCLA)
Emory Elliott, Literary Scholar and Professor of English (University of California, Riverside)
Gary Nash, Award winning author and Professor of American History (UCLA)
Priscilla Wald, Associate Professor of English (Duke University)

EPISODE 4: SPIRIT OF NATIONALISM
The Enlightenment brought new ideals and a new notion of selfhood to the American colonies. This episode begins with an examination of the importance of the trope of the self-made man in Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography, and then turns to the development of this concept in the writings of Romanticist Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Interviews
Michael J. Colacurcio, Professor of American Literary and Intellectual History to 1900 (UCLA)
Bruce Michelson, Author and Professor of English (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)
Carla Mulford, Associate Professor of English (Pennsylvania State University)
Dana Nelson, Professor of American Literature (University of Kentucky)
John Carlos Rowe, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, (University of California, Irvine)
Rafia Zafar, Director of African and Afro-American Studies (Washington University, St. Louis)
April R. Selley, Associate Professor of English (The College of Saint Rose)

EPISODE 5: MASCULINE HEROES
In 1898, Frederick Jackson Turner declared the frontier as the defining feature of American Culture, but American authors had uncovered its significance much earlier. This episode turns to three key writers of the early national period (James Fenimore Cooper, John Rollin Ridge, and Walt Whitman) and examines the influential visions of American manhood offered by each author.

Interviews
Sherman Alexie, Award winning author and filmmaker
Blake Allmendinger, Author and Professor of English (UCLA)
Ramon Saldivar, Author and Professor of American Literature (Stanford University)
April Selley, Associate Professor of English (The College of Saint Rose)
Richard Slotkin, Author and Professor of American Studies (Wesleyan University)

EPISODE 6: GOTHIC UNDERCURRENTS
What was haunting the American nation in the 1850s? The three writers treated in this episode, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Emily Dickinson, use poetry and prose to explore the dark side of nineteenth-century America.

Interviews
Nina Baym, Norton Anthologies Lead Editor
Emory Elliott, Literary Scholar and Professor of English (University of California, Riverside)
Karen Halttunen, Author and Professor of History (University of California, Davis)
Robert Stone, Award winning author, Poet and Professor of English (Yale University)
Priscilla Wald, Associate Professor of English (Duke University)

EPISODE 7: SLAVERY & FREEDOM
How has Slavery shaped the American Literary Imagination and American Identity? This episode turns to the classic slave narratives of Harriet Jacobs and Frederick Douglass, and the fiction of Harriet Beecher Stowe. What rhetorical strategies do their works use to construct an authentic and authoritative American self?

Interviews
Nina Baym, Norton Anthologies Lead Editor
Frederick Douglass IV, Great-Great Grandson of Fredrick Douglass
John Carlos Rowe, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, (University of California, Irvine)
Richard Yarborough, Associate Professor of English and African American Studies (UCLA)
Rafia Zafar, Director of African and Afro-American Studies, (Washington University, St. Louis)

EPISODE 8: REGIONAL REALISM
Set in the antebellum American South, but written after Emancipation, Mark Twain’s novel Adventure’s of Huckleberry Finn remains a classic of American Literature. This episode compare Twain’s depiction of Southern vernacular culture to that of Charles Chestnutt and Kate Chopin, and in doing so, introduces the hallmarks of American Realism.

Interviews
Jocelyn Chadwick, Author and Associate Professor of Education (Harvard University)
Emory Elliott, Literary Scholar and Professor of English (University of California, Riverside)
Bruce Michelson, Author and Professor of English (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)
Nell Irvin Painter, Award winning author, Director of African-American Studies and the Edwards Professor of American History (Princeton)

EPISODE 9: SOCIAL REALISM
This episode presents the authors of the American Gilded Age, such as Edith Wharton, and juxtaposes them with social realists like Anzia Yezierska. These writers expose the double world that made up turn of the century New York: that of the elite, and that of the poorest of the poor. Which of these realities is the more truly American?

Interviews
Judith Baskin, Author, Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Harold Schnitzer Family Program in Judaic Studies (University of Oregon)
Bruce Michelson, Author and Professor of English (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)
Abby H.P. Werlock, Author, Former President of the Edith Wharton Society.

EPISODE 10: RHYTHMS IN POETRY
Amidst the chaos following World War I, Ezra Pound urged poets to “Make it New!” This call was heeded by poets, ranging from T.S. Eliot to Jean Toomer. This episode explores the modernist lyrics of two of these poets: William Carlos Williams and Langston Hughes. The program asks, “What is modernism? How did these poets start a revolution that continues until this day?”

Interviews
Jacqueline K. Dirks, Associate Professor of History and Humanities (Reed College)
Pancho Savery, Author and Professor of English (Reed College)
Lisa M. Steinman, Poet and Chair of the English Department (Reed College)
Alice Walker, Award winning author and poet
Rafia Zafar, Director of African and Afro-American Studies, (Washington University, St. Louis)

EPISODE 11: MODERNIST PORTRAITS
Jazz filled the air and wailed against the night. Caught in the sway, American prose writers traveled to Paris and sought the forbidden-the slang, the dialects, and the rhythms of the folk and of everyday life. Writers such as Hemingway, Stein, and Fitzgerald forged a new style: one which silhouetted the geometry of language, crisp in its own cleanness.

Interviews
Emory Elliott, Literary Scholar and Professor of English (University of California, Riverside)
Pancho Savery, Author and Professor of English (Reed College)
Catharine Stimpson, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Science (New York University)
Robert Stone, Award winning author, Poet and Professor of English (Yale University)

EPISODE 12: MIGRANT STRUGGLE
Americans have often defined themselves through their relationship to the land, and by the early 20th c. this relationship had taken on social and political ramifications. This episode traces the social fiction of three key American voices: that of John Steinbeck, Carlos Bulosan, and Helena Maria Viramontes.

Interviews
Cherrie Moraga, Playwright and Artist in Residence (Stanford University)
Louis Owens, Award winning author and Professor of English (Choctaw/Cherokee) (University of California, Davis)
Vicky Ruiz, Professor of History and Chicano/Latino Studies (University of California, Irvine)
Sonia Saldivar-Hull, Professor of English (University of Texas, San Antonio)
Greg Sarris, Professor of English (Loyola Marymount University) (Coast Miwok Tribal Chairman/Pomo)
Helena Maria Viramontes, Featured author

EPISODE 13: SOUTHERN RENAISSANCE
What secrets lurk in the American South in this era between world wars? This episode uncovers the revisioning of Southern myths during the modernist era by writers William Faulkner and Zora Neale Hurston.

Interviews
Dorothy Allison, Award winning author
Don H. Doyle, Nelson Tyrone, Jr., Professor of History (Vanderbilt University)
Carla Kaplan, Author and Professor of Literature, American Studies and Gender Studies (University of Southern California)
Ramon Saldivar, Author and Professor of American Literature (Stanford University)
Alice Walker, Award winning author and poet
Rafia Zafar, Director of African and Afro-American Studies, (Washington University, St. Louis)

EPISODE 14: BECOMING VISIBLE
This episode guides the viewer through the works and contexts of ethnic writers from 1945-1965. Starting with the works of Ralph Ellison, Philip Roth, and N. Scott Momaday, we explore the way writers from the margins took over the center of American culture.

Interviews
Judith Baskin, Author, Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Harold Schnitzer Family Program in Judaic Studies (University of Oregon)
John Callahan, Ralph Ellison’s Literary Executor and Morgan S. Odell Professor of Humanities (Lewis & Clark College)
Joy Harjo, Poet/Musician, Professor of English (UCLA) (Muscogee/Creek)
N. Scott Momaday, Pulitzer Prize winning author
Greg Sarris, Professor of English (Loyola Marymount University) (Coast Miwok Tribal Chairman/Pomo)
Pancho Savery, Author and Professor of English (Reed College)
Eric Sundquist, Professor of English (UCLA)
Wendy Wasserstein, Tony Award, Dramatists Guild Award, and Pulitzer Prize winning Playwright

EPISODE 15: POETRY OF LIBERATION
For many, the 1960s mark the true end of modern America. Whereas the modernists remained serious about the transcendent nature of art, the artists of the 1960s wanted an art that was relevant. They wanted an art that not only spoke about justice, but also helped create it. This episode explores the innovations made in American poetry in the 1960s and 1970s by Allen Ginsberg, Amiri Baraka, and Adrienne Rich.

Interviews
Michael Bibby, Associate Professor of English (Shippensburg University)
Maria Damon, Author and Associate Professor of English (University of Minnesota)
Anne Waldman, Author, Poet and Co-founder of The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics (Naropa University, Boulder)
Crystal Williams, Author, Poet and Assistant Professor of Creative Writing (Reed College)

EPISODE 16: SEARCH FOR IDENTITY
Even as the poets were fostering a rebellion, contemporary prose writers began creating a new American Tradition comprised of many strands, many voices, and many myths about the past. This episode closes the series by exploring the search for identity by three American writers: Maxine Hong Kingston, Sandra Cisneros, and Leslie Feinberg.

Interviews
Dorothy Allison, Award winning author
Mary Pat Brady, Assistant Professor of English and Latino Studies, (Cornell University)
Patricia Chu, Author and Associate Professor of English (George Washington University)
Sandra Cisneros, Award Winning Author and Poet
Leslie Feinberg, political activist, journalist, and author of Stone Butch Blues, Transgender Warriors, and TransLiberation: Beyond Pink or Blue.
Greg Sarris, Professor of English (Loyola Marymount University) (Coast Miwok Tribal Chairman/Pomo)

Advisory Board

The web site for American Passages: A Literary Survey can be used alone or as part of a complete set of integrated materials, including web, video and print. Through a partnership between Oregon Public Broadcasting and W.W. Norton & Company, these materials have been developed to present recursive and complimentary content.

All materials in the American Passages project were supervised by an Advisory Board led by Laura Arnold, Academic Director.

Laura Arnold (Reed College) brings expertise to the project in the fields of technology and teaching, poetics, early American literature, and Native American literature. She has been the recipient of Fulbright, NEH, and Culpeper grants, and is working on a cultural edition of Experience Mayhew’s Indian Converts.

Randy Bass (Georgetown University) is one of the leading national pedagogues in the field of technology and American Literature, and teaches courses on integrating media and electronic resources with the study of literature. Bass is the Director of the American Studies Crossroads Project and the Editor of the electronic resources supporting the Heath Anthology of American Literature.

Sacvan Bercovitch (Harvard University) has reshaped the way literary critics understand the field of early American literature, through groundbreaking books such as Puritans Origins of the American Self and The American Jeremiad and his role as an editor of the new Cambridge Literary History of the United States.

Janice Gould (Willamette University) is the author of several books of poetry including Earthquake Weather and Beneath My Heart. She is also an important voice in the study of poetics, particularly the poetics of witness. Gould is of Maidu descent.

Ann Green (Jackson Community College) has extensive publications and national presentations in the use of technology in the humanities at the Community College level and across the disciplines. She teaches her American Literature courses in computer-mediated classrooms using virtual classroom software and bulletin board systems, specializing in collaborative learning over networks.

Terri Johanson (Oregon Community Colleges) focuses on the uses of “distributed learning” (online, video, interactive television, particularly asynchronous and mixed-mode deliveries) and how those modalities can be employed to create active learning environments. She is Director of Distance Learning for OCC, and also serves as Co-Director of the Oregon Technology Infusion Project (OTIP).

Michael McLeod is an independent producer and director. His most recent projects include several programs for the PBS investigative series Frontline and the one-hour PBS documentary Y2K: The Winter of our Discontent.

Bruce Michelson (University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana) brings both a broad-based knowledge of American Literature and a love of Mark Twain to the American Passages project. Michelson is the author of the Teacher’s Guide for the Norton Anthology of American Literature and is the author of Literary Wit, Mark Twain on the Loose, and Wilbur’s Poetry: Music in a Scattering Time..

Gary Nash (University of California, Los Angeles) is a critical voice in the world of U.S. History; before multiculturalism became buzzword he was arguing for recognition of the multiethnic origins of American literature. In addition to being an author of the National History Standards, Nash is the author of numerous books of his own, including Forbidden Love: The Secret History Of Mixed-Race AmericaFirst City: Philadelphia And The Forging Of Historical Memory. and The Urban Crucible.

Sonia Saldívar-Hull (University of Texas, San Antonio) contributes a strong feminist perspective and expertise in Chicano/a studies to the project. Professor Hull is the author of Feminism on the Border: Chicana Gender Politics and Literature (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), and is currently working on creating a women studies program at the University of Texas, San Antonio.

Greg Sarris (Loyola University) is a writer, literary critic and author of numerous screenplays and teleplays, including his award-winning adaptation of his novel, Grand Avenue for HBO. Sarris is highly regarded for his work on orality and Native American Studies as well as for his work in the field of Ethnic Studies more generally. Sarris is the tribal chairman of the Coastal Miwok and a member of the Pomo Indian tribe.

Pancho Savery (Reed College) brings an emphasis on dramatic arts as well as African American Studies. A published poet, he also regularly teaches in modern drama, Native American Studies, African American Studies, and American literature. Savery is the co-editor of Approaches to Teaching Ellison’s Invisible Man (New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1989).

Eric Sundquist (University of California, Los Angeles) is a crucial voice in the field of American literature. In award winning, works such as To Wake the NationsHome as Found, and The Hammers of Creation, Sundquist is known for his ability to pair canonical and noncanonical voices. With interests ranging from Faulkner, to Fredrick Douglass, to Jewish American literature, Sundquist’s work focuses on understanding texts, authors and their cultural contexts.

Site Credits

American Passages: A Literary Survey was created by Oregon Public Broadcasting in partnership with W.W. Norton & Co. The website was created by Amazing Online Marketing.

Oregon Public Broadcasting

Oregon Public Broadcasting is a highly experienced producer of educational content with expertise in both traditional and new media approaches to formal education, community outreach, and television production.

OPB has produced many series for Annenberg Media, including THE UNSEEN UNIVERSE: An Introduction to Microbiology and A WORLD OF ART: Works in Progress, a series on contemporary artists, REDISCOVERING BIOLOGY: Molecular to Global Perspectives a multi-media series for secondary teacher professional development, and READING LITERATURE, READING CULTURE (wt), a teacher workshop series on interdisciplinary approaches to American Literature. OPB has also been the co-producer for video series and digital materials to accompany several McGraw Hill textbook publications.

OPB has a long history of producing web sites, teachers’ guides and other curriculum materials to accompany educational and PBS broadcast series. Working in close concert with National Advisory Boards, OPB’s staff has produced curriculum materials in the humanities and sciences for a variety of grade levels and teacher professional development.

OPB is also a major producer of PBS Primetime documentary series, and has created programming for NOVAFRONTLINE, and other strands, as well as numerous specials and limited series.

To go to the Oregon Public Broadcasting web site, click here

W.W. Norton & Company

W. W. Norton & Company, the oldest and largest publishing house owned wholly by its employees, carries out the imperative of its founder to “publish books not for a single season, but for the years.” The roots of the company date back to 1923, when William Warder Norton and Margaret D. Herter Norton began publishing lectures delivered at the People’s Institute, the adult education division of New York City’s Cooper Union. Norton has since earned a reputation for its distinguished publishing programs in both the trade and college areas, with particular strengths in music, history, psychology, and literature. Begun in the 1960s, the Norton Anthologies have changed the teaching of literature worldwide. Norton now publishes close to 400 books a year; its 220 employees remain dedicated to independent publishing.

To go to the W.W. Norton and Company website, click here.

Amazing Online Marketing

AMAZING! is a full-service Web development team which has been helping clients build attractive, dynamic, information-driven websites since 1995. Through our experience with Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, the Oregon Department of Human Services, Oregon Public Broadcasting and other non-profit and governmental agencies, we have developed skills and experience unique in the Oregon Web community. We work extensively with non-profits because we firmly believe in education and outreach work, reflecting that belief in our own mission statement:

AMAZING! is dedicated to building a better world, one website at a time. 

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American Passages: A Literary Survey

Credits

Produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting. 2003.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-564-6

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