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Fitzgerald & Hopper: Windows on the 1920s

Author: Kate Reber


School of the Future

Year: 2010

Seminar: American Literature and American Painting, 1840 to 1940

Grade Level: 11

Keywords: African American History, American History, great gatsby

School Subject(s): English

This unit is designed to be taught in the second semester of English 3 at the School of the Future, a public comprehensive high school in West Philadelphia. English 3 is the district’s standard 11th Grade English course. I am dual-certified in English and Social Studies and I plan units and coordinate projects with the 11th Grade History teacher at my school.  She teaches African American and American History and we share the same group of students.   This unit will fall in the spring Semester and it will tie into our interdisciplinary unit on “Class in America,” which will cover the Populist movement through the World Wars.    At its essence this unit is about social class and perspective in The Great Gatsby and the art of the 1920s, especially the paintings of Edward Hopper.  Through close reading, image analysis and comparative study of paintings and prose we will look at how matters of class are dealt with in the works.  Our discussions of history and social history will be complemented by a study of authorial intent and artistic choice.  This is therefore also a unit highly concerned with the craft of writing and painting.

With regard to skill development, this unit will focus on reading comprehension and analysis. The emphasis will be on the literary elements of mood, tone, and style. We will look for evidence of authorial intent in the use of these literary elements.  Students will also learn how to make inferences and draw conclusions about artistic choices based on clues in the work. Students will carefully build their analytical skills through step-by-step close reading activities and guided practice.  By the end of the unit, students should be able to make their own commentary on social class and artistic choices in the texts and images.    It is my hope that this unit will work on multiple levels – sociological and critical – to guide students to better understanding of class and perspective in literature and art.

Download Unit: Reber-unit.pdf

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