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

3. Gothic Undercurrents

•  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.
• American gothic writing tends to question and analyze rather than offer helpful answers. How do these texts critique the common nineteenth-century assumption that America stands as the unique moral and social guiding light for the world (that it is, as John Winthrop said in 1630, "a City on a Hill")?

• If the gothic explores what we might call the "dark side" of American life, what cultural fears and anxieties do we find expressed here? How does the form of this literature (especially narrative voice and point of view) help convey these anxieties?

• Gothic writers addressed key nineteenth-century cultural trends, such as westward expansion, technological and scientific progress, romantic individualism, the cult of true womanhood, and the debate over slavery and abolition. How can you see some of these trends reflected in the texts of this unit?

• Who are the inheritors of the gothic mode today? Do they share similar concerns with these writers or are their concerns new to the twentieth and twenty-first centuries?

• How do these writers explore and critique the ideas of self-reliance, free will, and the self-made man that you saw expressed by Franklin and Emerson in Unit 4?

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