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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

15. Poetry of Liberation

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
•  Timeline
•  Activities
- Overview Questions
- Video
- Author
- Context
- Creative Response
- PBL Projects

Activities: Context Activities

Core Contexts
The War in Vietnam: The War at Home
America emerged from World War II as a superpower with a dramatically transformed foreign policy. The United States became, in historian Mary Sheila McMahon's words, "a more activist and outward-looking state" as it purported to defend democratic ideals. The government felt that to protect American self-interests, defend itself against the Stalinist Soviet Union and Maoist China, and promote capitalistic democracy... Go

The Beat Generation: Living (and Writing) on the Edge
"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix . . ."
When Allen Ginsberg performed these first lines of Howl in the crowded Six Gallery in San Francisco, the 150 people in the audience began cheering. As Kenneth Rexroth remembers, Americans were feeling oppressed by what he... Go

Black Arts: A Separate Voice
The Black Arts movement arose alongside the Black Power movement in the 1960s. The movement flourished from 1965 to about 1975, and though it was short-lived, its legacy was long. Artists typically associated with Black Arts include Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni, Ed Bullins, Harold Cruse, Adrienne Kennedy, Larry Neal, and Sonia Sanchez. Black Arts, according to writer Larry Neal, was an ethical movement, meaning... Go

Extended Contexts
The Women's Movement: Diving into the Wreck
Adrienne Rich's poem "Diving into the Wreck" encapsulates the spirit of the women's movement in the 1960s. Fighting for a voice, women, from artists to housewives, joined together and demanded to be heard. Rich's poem speaks to this sense of inclusion in the first line, where she uses the first-, second-, and third-person to address the reader, signaling that both as individuals and as a community women need to fight for... Go

Poetry of Transcendence: Poets Look to the American Landscape
The postwar period was in many ways imbued with an atmosphere of spiritual searching. The younger generation in particular, which included many of the poets in this unit, was desperately seeking what they termed transcendent experience. Native American culture and religion, as well as the rise of the New Age movement, provided one answer to this spiritual searching. Poets like Gary Snyder and James Wright were particularly drawn to... Go

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