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

3. Utopian

•  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.
• What different European and Native American groups inhabited the eastern shores of North America in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries? What kinds of strategies did they adopt in order to forge community identities? What and whom did they exclude? What and whom did they embrace? How did their respective visions and ideals undermine, overlap, and compete with one another?

• What qualities characterize the jeremiad form? How do jeremiads work to condemn a community's spiritual decline while at the same time reaffirming the community's identity and promise?

• How did the Puritans use typology to understand and justify their experiences in the world?

• How did the image of America as a "vast and unpeopled country" shape European immigrants' attitudes and ideals? How did they deal with the fact that millions of Native Americans already inhabited the land that they had come over to claim?

• How did the Puritans sense that they were living in the "end time" impact their culture? Why is apocalyptic imagery so prevalent in Puritan iconography and literature?

• What is plain style? What values and beliefs influenced the development of this mode of expression?

• Why has the jeremiad remained a central component of the rhetoric of American public life?

• How do Puritan and Quaker texts work to form enduring myths about America's status as a chosen nation? About its inclusiveness and tolerance? About its role as a "City on a Hill" that should serve as an example to the rest of the world?

• Are there texts, or passages in texts, in this unit that challenge the myths created by the dominant society?

• Why are the Puritans, more than any other early immigrant group, considered such an important starting point for American national culture?

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