January 4 through 28


Days One, Two, Three, Four, and Five
(twenty days total)

Literary Nationalism, 1840 - 1860

"America's 'declaration of independence' in all areas - culture, literature, and ethics" (Weinstein, Classics of American Literature, 18).

Unit Themes:

Individualism, intuition, nature self-reliance

Unit Essential Questions:

Is everything in the world a reflection of the divine soul?

Can people use intuition to get a better understanding of God’s spirit which is revealed in nature and in their own souls?

Should self-reliance and individualism outweigh the needs to conform to society’s customs and traditions?

Essential Skills and Concepts:

Knowledge - Students will know that Transcendentalists

  • viewed the world as a reflection of the divine soul
  • used intuition to behold God’s spirit in nature or in their own souls
  • considered self-reliance and individualism is superior to external authority and conformity

Skills - Students will be able to

  • Identify major literary figures of this age
  • Define Transcendentalism
  • Identify the evidence of a society’s literary rebirth
  • Analyze imagery, figure of speech, point of view, and paradox
  • Identify elements of Transcendentalism such as the connection between people and nature, an individual's ability to think freely, and the importance of spiritual self-reliance to the individual found in the works of Emerson and Thoreau
  • Investigate the representation of Transcendentalist thought in social commentaries
  • Develop their own views on the subjects of individualism, nature, and passive resistance
  • To describe the cultural liberation advocated by Emerson in essays such as "Nature"
  • To summarize Emerson's notion of the universal man
  • To explain Emerson's opinion of scholarship
  • To contrast Emerson's and Franklin's notions of self-reliance
  • To summarize Emerson's attitude toward education
  • To describe the Emersonian idea of the self and "becoming"
  • To compare and contrast the Thoreauvian and Emersonian conceptions of the individual
  • To explain Thoreau's notion of the relationship between nature and culture
  • To summarize Thoreau's use of reading as a metaphor in Walden.

ROMANTICISM (1800-1855)

Historical Context

In 1838 begins the removal of 15,000-17,000 Cherokee Indians from Georgia on the "Trail of Tears" resulting in an estimated 4,000-8,000 deaths.

In 1838, the Underground Railroad is organized.

In 1845, Thoreau begins living at Walden Pond.

On August 10, 1846, the act establishing the Smithsonian Institution is passed by Congress and immediately signed into law by President James K. Polk.

In 1849, Amelia Bloomer begins publishing The Lily, a journal supporting temperance and women's rights.

In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin sells one million copies within the year.

In 1855, Frederick Douglass publishes My Bondage and My Freedom.


  • Short stories, novels, poetry
  • Imagination over reason; intuition over fact
  • The law of the universe was not static but dynamic with change, growth, and development
  • Focused on the fantastic of human experience
  • Writing that can be interpreted two ways: surface and in depth
  • Focus on inner feelings
  • Transcendentalism (1840 - 1855):

    individualism, intuition, nature, self-reliance


    Essays, journals, speeches, poetry

    Major Writers


    Mini-Lesson Outline:

    Day 1: The teacher will share a multi-media presentation on the historical, cultural, social events of the period from 1840 to 1860 in America. Students will individually read pages 174 through 179 and 184 through 185 in the text.

    Day 2: The teacher will share a multi-media presentation on Ralph Waldo Emerson and Transcendentalism. Students will individually read from the text - page 186 (excerpt from "Nature"); page 192 ("The Rhodora: On Being asked, Whence Is the Flower?"); page 198 ("Concord Hymn") - and answer the assigned questions. ("Emerson sought to explain the experience of spirit or soul that human beings feel in themselves and see also in nature.)

    Day 3: The class will discuss the readings and questions for Day 2. The teacher will discuss the handout on "Examples of Transcendental Thought" and share how the student can determine these examples from their reading - nonconformity, self-reliance, free-thought, confidence, importance of nature. The class will discuss the handout in relation to their assigned reading on Day 2 and together determine quotations, examples, and explanation. For homework, students will individually read from the text - page 187 through 190 (excerpt from "The American Scholar"); page 190 (from "Self-Reliance"); page 191 through 192 (excerpt from "Fate")

    Day 4: The teacher will continue with a multimedia presentation on Ralph Waldo Emerson and Transcendentalism. Students will complete the "Examples of Transcendental Thought" handout for the previous homework reading ("The American Scholar," "Self-Reliance," "Fate").

    Day 5: The class will discuss the opening paragraphs of "Self-Reliance" as the celebrated quintessential expressions of an American outlook on things. Considering that the paragraphs pose a basic social antagonism (i.e., self-reliance versus conformity), students will discuss Emerson's diagnosis of conformity and why he believes conformity is so prevalent in society. For homework, students will read "Each and All," on pages 194 to 195 in the text. Students will answer questions #1, 2, and 3 on pages 198 through 199.

    Day 6: The class will consider the following

    "By the 1840's, Emerson was revered as 'the Sage of Concord' and was writers and admirers flocked to the town to converse with. He appealed to radicals and conservatives, abolitionists and slaveholders, men and women."

    The class will discuss how his writings serve different political interests and social outlooks.

    Day 7: The teacher will share a multimedia presentation on Henry David Thoreau. The teacher will read the biography aloud from the text on page 201. Students will copy the following questions to consider as they read excerpts from Walden, pages 203 through 209 in the text.

    • What is Thoreau saying in "Economy" about the necessities of life - those things that we need to have? What happens after we get them? What is the next step?
    • What do you think of Thoreau's economics? Is such thinking applicable in our time? [NOTES: He regrets the division of labor which makes specialists of people and narrows their abilities and sense of wholeness in life. He says "the cost of a thing is the amount of life which is required to be exchanged for." Acting on this principle, he decides that it is cheaper to walk thirty miles than to spend the time to earn the money to buy a ticket to travel the same distance. He also considers that buying a house is a waste.]
    Day 8: (from Mrs. Baker's site) Each student will

    • Create a list of twelve (12) items to take if setting out to live with nature for a long period of time
    • Answer the following questions: How are you affected by nature? Do you find comfort in it? Do you reflect the moods of nature? What is the role of nature in your life? What is meant by an individual’s spiritual side? How to you define it? Is there a connection between the individual’s spirit and nature? If so, what is that connection? What does it mean to know something intuitively? For example, has a parent or a sibling ever known something was wrong with you without having talked with or seen you? What do we mean when we say “I just know it”? How do you demonstrate that you are an individual? Do you think independently of others or do you follow the crowd?
    • Listen to the following: NPR's "Thoreau's Walden"

    The teacher will explain the project assignment that will be due in two (2) weeks.

    Day 9: (from Mrs. Baker's site): “Economy” By far the longest (and most difficult) section in the book, this chapter is essential to read, despite its difficulty, because it explains Thoreau's basic beliefs about how to live, and because he tells us the story of how he got started at Walden.­

    The teacher will present the quotation assignment and provide the handout sheet: "Look at the page from which your quote was taken. Read what comes before it and directly after it. Then determine what Thoreau is saying in your quote. If you are unfamiliar with some of the vocabulary, look it up. Write down your interpretation of the quote. Be as thorough as possible. Now that you have “unpacked” the quote and know what Thoreau is saying, consider how what he says relates to you personally or to society today. Write down your thoughts. Be prepared to share #1 and #2 with your classmates."]

    The teacher will continue to share a multimedia presentation on Henry David Thoreau and Walden. Listening to "Economy" from Walden (read by Michael O'Keefe from Shambhala Lion Editions' Spoken Word Audio), each student will follow along with the text. Each student will consider the two questions from Day 7 as they listen. Each student will complete the quotation assignment as described above. The teacher will provide the appropriate handout.

    Day 10: The class will continue with the Day 9 lesson. The class will isolate Thoreau's concept of "necessaries of life" and explore how they serve him as a guidepost for living. (Each student will consider the two questions from Day 7 as they listen. Each student will complete the quote assignment as described above.)

    Day 11: The class will continue with the lessons for Day 9 and Day 10. Students will consider that the story begins with charts showing expenditures and a schedule of labor during the year. Only then, after explaining is personal economics during the year, does Thoreau begin to philosophize, in "Where I Lived and What I Lived For." The class will discuss the implication of this order, specifically, that material needs must be satisfied before reflection can begin.

    Days 12 through 15 - Socratic Seminar Discussion: The teacher will set aside class periods for preparation for class discussion and actual Socratic Seminar Discussion. The teacher will firmly establish and review basic manners which contribute to adult discussion techniques. The teacher will record the number of times that a student participates. Provided 3x5 cards on which to write their own evaluation of their discussion participation, students will complete these at the conclusion of the activity and turn in their 3x5 cards along with their notes. The topics follow as marked in the text.

    1. "Economy," Part One
    2. "Economy," Part Two
    3. "Economy," Part Three
    4. "Economy," Part Four

    Taking several passages from their assigned sections, students will prepare and then speak individually analyzing a passage according to the author's purpose. Students will deliver oral responses to literature that (1) demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the significant ideas of works or passages (2) analyze the use of imagery, language, universal themes, and unique aspects of text through the use of rhetorical strategies (3) support key ideas and viewpoints through accurate and detailed references to the text,(4) demonstrate awareness of the author's use of stylistic devices (5) identify and assess the impact of perceived ambiguities within text.