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

9. Social

•  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 ethnic groups inhabited America's urban areas around the turn of the century?

• How did their traditions and cultural values change American culture?

• How do social realist texts represent gender?

• What kinds of issues inform social realist writing by women?

• How did Booker T. Washington and Henry Adams transform the genre of the autobiography?

• How did their work change ideas about American identity?

• How do social realist writings reflect the distinct cultures and political concerns of different ethnic groups?

• What kinds of class structures divided American society at the turn of the century? Which classes of people are depicted in realist texts?

• What political and social transformations in turn-of-the-century America led to the development of social realism? What kinds of political effects and reforms did social realist writers hope to produce?

• How did industrialism change the demographics of urban and rural society in America?

• How did immigrant culture shape life in lower-class cityscapes such as the Lower East Side of Manhattan?

• How did social realist writers depict the contrasts between American and European customs and values? Why were so many social realists interested in this question?

• How do realist writers describe the material conditions and physical surfaces of the world in which their fictional characters live? Why has their descriptive style sometimes been described as "documentary"?

• What is "limited third-person narrative"? How did the "gospel of wealth" build on and transform ideas about opportunity in America? How did writers who represented immigrant experiences challenge and broaden the myth of the American Dream?

• How did women activists and writers challenge ideas about the role of women in American society?

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