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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: Video Activities

Using the Video
Deepening materials for using the video with this Unit.
What is American literature? What are its distinctive voices and styles? How do social and political issues influence the American canon?
Video Comprehension Questions: What are some of the characteristics of Beat poetry? How are the lifestyles of the Beat poets, like Allen Ginsberg, reflected in their art?
Context Questions: What is new about the poetry of this period? What kinds of values are the writers challenging?
Exploratory Questions: Poetry was often read at protest movements during this period. Why do you think poetry was given such high status? Is it awarded a similar place in political activism today?

What characteristics of a literary work have made it influential over time?
Video Comprehension Questions: What does Adrienne Rich mean when she says that the personal is political? How does "Passage" enact this idea?
Context Questions: Allen Ginsberg cited James Wright as the single greatest influence on his own work. What do these poets share in terms of craft and personal style? Why would Ginsberg align himself with Whitman? How does Ginsberg represent Whitman in "A Supermarket in California"? What is this poem ultimately about?
Exploratory Questions: How did these poets and activists change or influence what it means to be an American? What values did they help to create or promote? What would you say has been the cultural legacy of the 1960s?

How are American myths created, challenged, and reimagined through these works of literature?
Video Comprehension Questions: In Dutchman Lula calls Clay "Uncle Tom." What does she mean?
Context Questions: Amiri Baraka was originally connected to the Beat movement, but he split from it to concentrate on racial issues. Compare the sections of Howl read in the video to "Will They Cry When You're Gone, You Bet." What similarities do you see between Baraka's poetry and Ginsberg's?
Exploratory Questions: While the 1950s are often associated with peace, prosperity, and homogeneity, the authors in this unit expose how the often racist, sexist, and inequitable society sustained by such rhetoric was subject to revolutionary criticism during the 1960s and 1970s. Why does the former image of the 1950s endure? How do the ideas of radical change and strict historical periodization circumscribe or expand the messages and impact of these writers?

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