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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: Video Activities

Using the Video
Deepening materials for using the video with this Unit.
What is an American? How does American literature create conceptions of the American experience and identity?
Video Comprehension Questions: How did America's Puritan heritage influence Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown"? Describe Rappaccini's scientific experiment with his daughter. In what sense is the Pequod a microcosm of American society?
Context Questions: How did the Civil War and the tensions that precipitated it influence these three writers?
Exploratory Questions: What do you think constitutes "an American"? Do these writers support or challenge your views about America?

What is American literature? What are its distinctive voices and styles? How do social and political issues influence the American canon?
Video Comprehension Questions: How is gothic literature different from other kinds of writing that are contemporaneous with it? What were some nineteenth-century social conditions that contributed to the critical outlook of gothic literature? Why is the dash important in Dickinson's poems?
Context Questions: In what sense are these texts "pessimistic" compared to others of the nineteenth century?
Exploratory Questions: All three of these writers are now considered "canonical," or essential for a complete understanding of American literary history, and many would call Moby-Dick the most important American novel ever. Melville's book was widely condemned during his lifetime, however, and only found broad appreciation by readers in the twentieth century. Why do you imagine so many people rejected it in the nineteenth century? How can a literary work be considered worthless at one time and great at another? Do you think Moby-Dick is a great novel? Why or why not?

What characteristics of a literary work have made it influential over time?
Video Comprehension Questions: What happens to Young Goodman Brown in the forest? Describe Ahab's quest: what is he looking for, and why? What themes or topics does Dickinson tend to write about?
Context Questions: Many of the gothic's concerns apply as well to the twenty-first century as to the nineteenth. What do these writers have to say about human nature and the human mind?
Exploratory Questions: Why wallow in the swampy regions of human nature? Are these works merely depressing, or do they have any positive or useful effects?

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