Literature and Visual Art of the Urban Experience

Author: Zachary F. Wright

School/Organization:

University City High School

Year: 2010

Seminar: American Literature and American Painting, 1840 to 1940

Grade Level: 11-12

Keywords: 19th century, 20th century writers, Emerson, Thomas COle, Thoreau

School Subject(s): English, Poetry

This unit will expose students to the developing views on the American urban experience through examples of writing and art in the late 19th and 20th centuries.  Using writings by Emerson and Thoreau, and paintings by Thomas Cole, students will analyze the 19th century rejection of the urban, only to find in Whitman’s poetry a growing sense of the urban as the symbol of America’s modernity.  Students will then shift their attention to 20th century writers Colson Whitehead and Thomas Agee, as well as street art epitomized by the Mural Arts Program, to analyze the 20th century understanding of America’s urban centers.  Students will choose either two pieces of literature or two pieces of artwork, one modern, one 19th century, and write a multi-page comparative analytical essay with complementing research done on the appropriate artists.  Students will write a two paragraph proposal that sets out the artists they have chosen, what points they will try to make, and what sources they will use to find support for that thesis.  Students will need to research the life and works of the artists they choose, select a specific piece of work to analyze, and create a unique thesis that can be supported.  Papers will be at least five pages in length and must abide by all MLA standards

Download Unit: Wright-Unit.pdf

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