Language defines people and the world people live in; therefore, when a new language is taught to someone, one’s cultural identity may slowly begin to change or grow as different languages convey different histories. This is often the case in post colonial countries where educational and religious systems are typically one of the first things colonizers develop while occupying and controlling a country because these things begin to change the culture as a whole. They use language, education, and religion to change people into the ‘new’ people they want them to be. This is also the case with the Native Americans as they were quickly taught English and how to read the Bible. While the agenda of the colonizers may not be clear, this change in language and religion was presumably done so to transmit religious ideology and to, quite simply, make them “civilized.”
One obvious reason for teaching Native American’s English was so that they could read the Bible and convert to Christianity. Child explains that Apostle Elliot, a Christian missionary among the towns in Boston, was successful in gathering congregations of Native Americans around town, even though it took him twenty-six years to start spreading this knowledge of God. Jennings believes that the missionaries weren’t all about God, but an attempt to get money from the Parliament. Elliot and Winslow, according to Jennings, presented an untruthful case that the colony was too poor and needed money to convert the Native Americans (207). Once they were awarded the money “the Company became a permanent center of activity for well-wishers of Massachusetts, enlisting the aid of wealthy and important people who thus became committed to active advocacy of the colony’s interest… the colonists even built ‘the grandest edifice’ of Harvard College with the money they were awarded by the Company for missionary use” (209). While we may never know today the true motives behind the colonists’ actions, Child states, “few [colonists] were engaged in this good work, multitudes were continually abusing and cheating the natives” (222). She gives the example of the camp of ‘the praying Indians’ called Wamesits located near the town called Clemsford. When a barn was burned down, the Wamesits were questioned and they thought because of their Christian values they would be safe, but they were instead fired at and their wigwams were set on fire (222). This is very different from what the “Appeal for the Indians” advocates for as it states, “By educating their children in the English language, these differences would have disappeared, and civilization would have followed. Nothing would then have been left but the antipathy of race; and that, too, is always softened in the beams of higher civilization” (219). Even once the Native Americans used the English language and had the same religion as the colonists, they were still engaged in continual violence with one another.
This idea of language and culture is still prevalent today. Lyons explains how Luther Standing Bear remembers the first time they were introduced to the idea European implements of writing, but how this technology was then quickly used to change them. He quotes Bear as he explains the situation of the teachers saying, “‘do you see all these marks on the blackboard? Well, each word is a white man’s name. They are going to give each one of you one of these names by which you will hereafter be known’” (448). Lyons explains that this shows “the development of education designed to promote the eradication of all traces of tribal identity and culture, replacing them with the commonplace knowledge and values of white civilization” (336, 335). According to Lyons, what these Native Americans want is rhetorical sovereignty, “the inherent right and ability of peoples to determine their own communicative needs and desires in this pursuit,” (449) not be changed culturally. By learning English, they can communicate and participate in the English community, but this does not mean that they want or have a need to change who they are as a culture or society.
While some people believe America to be a place where one can come to practice any religion and to speak any language, many others would argue that with our educational and religious systems, the underling goal is to make everyone the same as they are meant to force ideological views onto people. In all colonized countries, the first thing the colonizers do is change the people’s religious and educational structures to resemble theirs; to ‘civilize’ them. They use the word ‘civilized’ to mean ‘like us’ or ‘better,’ when in reality, these people’s cultures and lives functioned perfectly the way they were. The Native Americans didn’t need to learn English or Christianity to be ‘civilized,’ though it may have been necessary for better communication to know and understand English. I would argue that the hidden motives of the colonizers were to change the Native Americans and to make them more like the colonizers.
Child, Lydia Maria. Homomok & Other Writing on Indians. Ed. Carolyn L. Karcher. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press: 1986. Print.
Jennings, Francis. “Goals and Functions of Puritan Missions to the Indians.” Ethnohistory 18.3 (1971): 197-212. JSTOR. Web. 1 Aug. 2013.
Lyons, Scott Richard. “Rhetorical Sovereignty: What do American Indians Want from Writing?” College Composition and Communication 51.3 (2000): 447-68. JSTOR. Web. 1 Aug 2013.
This bibliography is a collection of resources that can be used by high school English teachers to support their understanding, and the teaching of Edgar Allan Poe’s life and literature. Along with several sources specifically geared towards teachers with lesson plans and teaching resources, there are also teaching applications described with each source. I purposely chose five very different sources to provide an educator with a large scope of websites, literature, and biographies of Poe.
Hayes, Kevin J, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Print.
Suggested in the Bedford American Literature Instructor’s Guide as an important piece of work on Poe, this companion is a collection of fourteen scholarly essays that gives a sufficient introduction to Poe studies and to the life of Poe. As it was published in 2002, this is a newer collection of essays on Poe and offers some new research and perspective on his work and life. The collection begins by giving a detailed and factual timeline of important events in Poe’s life, something that can be used in the classroom. While each chapter/essay is aimed at giving new insight on the life and work of Poe, like his poetry and invention of science fiction, I found two to be particularly helpful in the high school English classroom: “Poe and the Gothic Tradition,” and “Poe and Popular Culture.” These two essays would be of some interest to the high school English teacher as they deal with issues commonly taught with Poe’s literature: gothic elements and Poe’s correlation with popular culture. At the end of the companion, there is a comprehensive list containing a bibliography and references that may be helpful to English teachers and curious students seeking more information on Poe.
Logan, Lisa. “Edgar Allan Poe.” Bedford American Literature Instructor’s Guide. Boston: Beford/St.Martins, 2008. 103-104. Web. 30 July 2013.
This guide was written largely to college professors in teaching the works of Edgar Allan Poe, but I would argue that it is just as helpful in aiding instruction at the high school level as well. This guide gives information on approaches to teach his literature, such as focusing on the craft and skill of Poe, and to make sure students don’t confuse Poe’s life with his work. While students do need to know biographical information, this guides states that the focus should be on his work and the impact of his work on genres like symbolic fantasy and the detective story. The classroom issues stated by Bedford explain that while Poe was an early American author, he didn’t write about the historical events of his time period; therefore, we read Poe recursively and this puts us in danger of overlooking his larger contributions. It states that one way to overcome this is to, “to consider the selections as fictional meditations on art, the imagination, or the subconscious” (104). Next is a selection of connections to other authors and other texts, such as Hawthorne and Emerson. This can be help teachers make the connections between early American texts clear. Perhaps the most helpful section of this guide includes a section of discussion questions that can be used with any Poe text used in the high school setting. Lastly, there is a brief biography of this that educators can read to better understand the life and work of Poe.
“Teachers.” The Museum of Edgar Allan Poe. n.p., 2010. Web. 30 July 2013.
This page on The Museum of Edgar Allan Poe’s website is directed for the use of secondary teachers. It contains true information about Poe’s life, scholarly information on the literary impact Poe has made, and detailed information about the style of Poe’s writing in works like “The Cask of Amontillado.” The section that contains the selection of readings can be especially helpful to high school teachers and students interested in more detailed work on Poe’s life including important biographies, collection of works (essays, reviews, literature) and works of illustration. There is an opportunity for educators to send in their information to receive a free Poe activity packet with lesson plans and activities to supplement reading. The website also gives information on how a teacher or administrator could schedule an educational tour of the actual museum. For example, they can take the “Tell Tall Heart” Mock Trial which, “After a performance of ‘The Tell Tale Heart,’ students are given evidence in a ‘trial’ against the protagonist and are asked to determine if s/he is innocent by reason of insanity or guilty as charged.” For classroom applications, teachers can use this resource page to further their own reading and understanding of Poe and his work, or they may choose to use this page to suggest further reading for advanced students interested in knowing more about Poe. I find the interactive tours to be a good idea in sparking the interest of students and allowing them to further understand the impact of Poe’s work.
The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore. n.p., 23 May 2013. Web. 30 July 2013.
This digital database has a vast amount of resources for educators and they do not need to seek special permission for the use of these materials in the school setting. Under the “Writings of Edgar Allan Poe” heading there are three links to massive collections of work by Poe that can be used to supplement some of the more mainstream literature taught in the classroom. Next, the largest section contained on this site includes information on the life of Poe, such as The Poe Log, and Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography, all of which are free e-texts and easily accessible to an educator for use in the classroom. Also included on the website is information about Poe in Baltimore and information regarding the publications from the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore. For the high school English teacher, this database was chosen because it has a large amount of information about Poe contained on one webpage. The information will help aid with classroom instruction, like the important biographies and collections of work, while all of the information is very easily accessed through this website. Also, this site explains that it takes time to make sure everything they publish and post is factual and error free, important in teaching Poe because there is a lot of information about his life and work that is indeed incorrect. This is a reliable place to get factual information.
Quinn, Arthur Hobson. Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography. New York: D. Appleton-Century Company, 1941. Web. 30 July 2013.
This critical biography was suggested reading in the Bedford American Literature Instructor’s Guide and according to The Museum of Edgar Allan Poe, this biography is the least biased account of Poe’s life published to date. The author of the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore website states that while it is now dated, it is an impressive articulation of what we know about Poe’s life today. As an e-text, this biography is free to the public and easily accessible to high school English teachers and students. It explains in the preface that Quinn tries to tell the story of Poe the American, not the exotic as others have painted him. The text is very similar to The Poe Log as it tells a narrative version of Poe’s life, along with primary source information like newspaper articles and letters to and from Poe to reveal the truth about his life, challenges, and achievements. At the end of the text there is an appendix that contains small essays on information discussed in the critical biography, like Poe’s birthplace location and his last journey before his death. Important to the educator is that Quinn strives to use primary sources as his evidence, not the subjective opinions of others. In the classroom, accounts of his life can be compared to Quinn’s work as students work through the subjective and objective information about Poe’s life.
This bibliography is a small list of primary source documents that will be useful in the secondary English classroom. While these five items do not all fit one category, they can all be used to supplement the teaching of Edgar Allan Poe’s life and how his life impacted his literature. Descriptions of each primary source document are provided along with possible educational applications.
Emory, Hopper. Print (etching) 1881, Art Collection. The Edgar Allan Poe Digital Collection. Harry Ransom Collection. 28 July 2013.
This primary source document is of an undated etching of Edgar Allan Poe’s tomb in Westminster Churchyard, Baltimore, by Hopper Emory originally from the William H. Koester Collection. This piece of artwork could be useful in the English classroom to accompany Poe’s literature because of the symbolism of color and could provide a good lesson on inferences. This etching is very dark and portrays a man slumping over Poe’s tomb in distress. The trees and background are all black, portraying this final stage of death for Poe. In the classroom, Poe’s literature is often discussed as having heavy symbolism of dark and lightness, as does this piece of artwork. A comparison of the colors in this artwork with the colors portrayed in, for example, “The Pit and the Pendulum,” would be beneficial to students. Also, this picture would allow students to make many inferences based on what we know about Poe’s life. For example, the teacher can ask students to make guesses as to what the tomb of Poe would say, who the man looking at the tomb is, and why he was buried in Baltimore at the Westminster Churchyard. Their answers could be turned into a compare and contrast writing assignment comparing this piece of artwork to a piece of Poe’s work or his own life, like his fears of being buried alive.
Ludwig. “Death of Edgar A. Poe.” New-York Daily Tribune 8 Oct. 1849. The Poe Log, 13 Oct. 2011.
This source is the obituary of Edgar Allan Poe that Rufus Wilmot Griswold wrote in the pseudonym “Ludwig.” This obituary was published in The Daily Tribune on the 9th of October, 1849. It was also published on October 13th in the Richmond Enquirer, and the Philadelphia Saturday Evening Post on October 20th. This obituary has significant literary importance as it created a subjective view of Poe’s life that has negatively influenced his reputation even today. The obituary explains that few people will be grieving Poe’s death as he had few friends and even assesses Poe’s character stating that it was unbalanced and dealt in ideal realms of heaven or hell. In the secondary English classroom, this obituary could be used in a number of ways. First, students can use this artifact to determine fact from fiction, or subjective from objective. Next, students can compare the accounts of Poe’s life as they actually happened and compare that to the accounts by Griswold. To see the broader impact, students can search for articles that use some of Griswold’s misleading ideas about Poe in their depiction of his life and literary work. It is important for students to know the important work Poe did in the field of literary criticism, mystery, and other areas, and to not be swayed by Griswold’s opinion of Poe. In this sense, students could compare and contrast Griswold’s obituary with other obituaries or articles about Poe, such as “The True History of Edgar Allan Poe: Child of Destiny” by Elizabeth Ellicott Poe in the Washington Times on July 5, 1903.
Moran, John J. Letter to Maria Clemm. 15 Nov 1849, manuscript. Edgar Allan Poe Collection, 2002. Enoch Pratt Free Library. 28 July 2013.
This primary source document is a letter from Dr. John J. Moran to Maria Clemm in 1849 on the condition of Poe during his last few days alive. Dr. Moran states in the letter that he was unsure of who brought Poe to the hospital and that even Poe himself was unsure as to why he was there. It explains that in his last few days Poe was talking about nonsense and even saw images on the walls. Dr. Moran explains in the letter that Poe could not answer any questions and that his last words, according to Moran, were, “Lord, help my poor Soul.” This would be a great primary source in helping students understand the life and death of Edgar Allan Poe as most believe his death is a mystery, but this letter gives a clearer picture as to what was really going on right before his death. This letter could be paired with any of Poe’s literature that focuses on the mental insight of a crazed protagonist. Students can see the ironic similarities between Poe’s last days on this earth and the issues he sought to explore in his literature. Also, it is important for students to understand the purpose of letters during this time period. Maria Clemm inquired about Poe’s last moments because Dr. John J. Moran was the only person able to explain these moments, giving this letter great significance.
Poe, Edgar Allan. The Raven and Other Poems [and] Tales. 1845, manuscript. Edgar Allan Poe Collection. Harry Ransom Collection. 28 July 2013.
This primary source document is a printed book of Poe’s poetry with revisions made by Poe himself in ink. It was the Bookplate of James Lorimer Graham with a notation in the book stating that it was Poe’s own copy from Graham. This primary source is free to the public and easy to look at online, making it accessible to all students. This will have a great significance in the high school English classroom as students can look at the poems and revisions of Poe’s poems made by Poe himself. For example, in “The Raven,” he crossed out all the lowercase ‘r’s in ‘raven’ and changed them to uppercase. In the classroom, one can discuss why Poe made this decision and how it made an impact on the work as a whole. He also made grammatical changes such as the elimination of certain commas. This would lend itself to a discussion on using punctuation for effect, especially in poetry, and challenges students to think about why Poe would remove these marks in his poems. Other revisions include Poe changing phrases like ‘sad soul’ to ‘fancy.’ Connotation is especially important to poetry and this revision would lend itself to a discussion on the impact of the connotations of words to the overall meaning of a text.
Poe, Elizabeth Ellicott. “The True History of Edgar Allan Poe: Child of Destiny.” The Washington Times 05 July 1903. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
Elizabeth Ellicott Poe writes the article, “The True History of Edgar Allan Poe: Child of Destiny,” in The Washington Times newspaper published on July 5, 1903 to set the record straight about the life of Edgar Allan Poe. This article gives a detailed account of Poe’s lineage explaining that ‘Poe’ is the American version of the ‘Italian De La Poer.’ It explains that despite contradictory claims, nobody actually knows for certain where Poe was born. It discusses things like Poe’s mental state while writing poems like “The Raven” and the false accusation of Poe being a drunkard during his lifetime. This article also gives information about the time and place Poe wrote the poem, “The Bells,” something not discussed in most other places. This source contains information of the night of Poe’s death that started on the street in Baltimore and ended University Hospital, which Ellicott insinuates could have possibly been from drug poisoning. An interesting feature of this source is the use of pictures including the speculated place of birth, the room in which Poe died, and the house in which Poe wrote “The Bells.” In the secondary classroom, this article would be best used in conjunction with teaching the historical background of Poe’s life. This article gives interesting facts and pictures that are unlike most newspaper articles during this time period. Also, this could be used in connection with Griswold’s more subjective version of Poe’s life to distinguish subjective and objective material from the two.
One genre of literature that some students and teachers find appealing is that of Gothic Literature, which has unique qualities that set it apart from other types of literature, including, but not limited to, an atmosphere of mystery and suspense, supernatural events and intense emotions. All of these elements can be found in Charles Brockden Brown’s novel, Edgar Huntly or, Memories of a Sleep-Walker. Brown’s novel is a perfect way to teach students the key elements of Gothic literature, while also having them delve into an intricate work of early American literature. The introduction of the novel insists that each age needs its own literary form as he rejects the idea of “Gothic castles and chimeras” (4), but readers will quickly see the use of these typical Gothic elements in the novel. According to Shapiro in the novel’s introduction, this is done to show the “uncertainty of tumbling forward into a modern, post feudal society that both requires and produces new modes of social consciousness and new forms of human interaction” (xxv). In this sense, Brown’s use of Gothic elements acts as symbols to show the unclear transition to the new. Regardless of the underlying purpose or deeper symbolism of the Gothic elements, students from all age groups should be able to find and analyze these Gothic elements in some capacity.
Brown’s novel has an atmosphere of mystery and suspense during the telling of Clithero’s story, and probably more so in Huntly’s own story about his adventures in the cave, killing of the Indians, panther, and his attempted journey home. He tells about his encounter with the panther in intense emotion as he states, “There was no time for deliberation and delay. In a moment he might spring from his station and tear me to pieces… I did not reflect how far my strength was adequate to save me” (112). This shows that he is not thinking and acting on emotion alone, a common element in Gothic literature. The elements of sleepwalking in the novel are almost supernatural as Huntly begins to doubt his own senses. For example, in the opening of his letter to his fiancée, Mary, he states, “… in proportion as my tale is deliberate and slow, the incidents and motives which it is designed to exhibit will be imperfectly revived and obscurely pourtrayed” (5). He later in the novel explains, “These… gradually produced a species of delirium. I existed as it were in a wakeful dream” (108). This inability to distinguish between dream and reality is the supernatural element of the novel that makes it uniquely Gothic. In the article, “The Hidden Landscape of Edgar Huntly,” Tole states, “The kind of sensory stimuli that Edgar Huntly most often received is infused with a quality of negation and imminent loss. He can truly encounter the world only at the point of being cut off from it, in the interval between possession and loss” (135).
Lastly, while there are many other elements of Gothic literature found in Brown’s novel, there is none as evident as the description of the cave with eerie similarities to that of Dark Romantic Literature and, more particularly, “Kubla Khan” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. He describes the cave as being “somewhat circular, about six miles in diameter… the streams that burst forth from every crevice, are thrown, by irregularities of the surface, into numberless cascades, often disappear in mists or in chasms” (67). This part of the novel can be analyzed by students in a variety of ways and used in the classroom to teach different things, such as imagery and symbolism. Tawii states in the article, “New Forms of Sublimity: Edgar Huntly and the European Origins of American Exceptionalism,” that Brown used fiction “not only to provide instances of ‘American romance’ but also to guide readers’ reception to this new mode along the way… thereby to fashion a new species of romance” (106-107). In Tawii’s view, Brown uses the typical elements of Gothic literature in a new way to create a uniquely American type of Gothic fiction. While this idea may be too difficult for high school students to understand, it is especially important for college literature students in understanding the origins and evolution of early American literature.
In the English classroom, Edgar Huntly should be used in accordance to the level of students one is teaching. While students at the high school level may be able to read only parts of the novel and find the Gothic elements, they may not understand the deeper symbolism of the landscape and its historical connotations. This novel can be used in connection with other pieces of Gothic work such as Edgar Allan Poe, or Shelley’s Frankenstein. An easy connection to make with students would be to use Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan” and to have students compare and contrast these two pieces of work. Brown’s novel gives teacher a new and unique way to teach Gothic literature as this novel is not often in conventional curriculum’s or textbooks, but has many examples of Gothic literature that will help students understand this genre in a more complex manner.
Brown, Charles Brockden. Edgar Huntly or, Memoirs of a Sleep-Walker. ). Ed. Philip Barnard and Stephen Shapiro. Hackett. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2006. Print.
Tawil, Ezra. “”New Forms of Sublimity”: “Edgar Huntly” and the European Origins of American Exceptionalism.” NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction 40.1/2, The Early American Novel (2007): 104-24. Print.
Toles, George. “Charting the Hidden Landscape: “Edgar Huntly”.” Early American Literature 16.2 (1981): 133-53. Print.
In teaching secondary students in the English classroom, Puritan literature may be a challenge. One way to approach this literature in a practical manner is to use the literature to teach students the different rhetorical strategies used by Puritans in their sermons. Puritan literature also allows for lessons on purpose and audience as there was always a strong focus in their doctrines. While Puritan literature is not typically looked at to teach the classic rhetorical techniques of logos, pathos, and ethos, I will argue that all of the Puritan literature published in secondary textbooks would lend itself to many examples of these rhetorical strategies.
One piece of Puritan literature that can be used to teach purpose and the logical persuasive techniques is Robert Cushman’s “Reasons and Considerations Touching the Lawfulness of Removing out of England into the Parts of America.” In this piece, Cushman is trying to convince those still in England who were considering coming to the New World. This would be a great piece to have students first read on their own to figure out the general purpose and intended audience of the text. Students can then go back and re-read the piece a second time looking for the logical appeals. Cushman, like many Puritan writers of this time period, uses a logical argument from information in the Bible as justification for things, like coming to the New World . He states, “Whereas God of old did call and summon our fathers by predictions, dreams, visions, and certain illuminations to go from their countries, places, and habitations, to reside and dwell there…” (42). By stating that it is God’s will for them to come to new places, he is hoping that this will turn into a religious pilgrimage, as well as a departure from England. This would be considered a logical appeal and something that high school students can decipher through close analysis of the text.
This also is very similar to what John Winthrop does in “Reasons to Be Considered for… the Intended Plantation in New England” when Winthrop attempts to use a biblical and logical appeal to convince those in England to come to the New World. When responding to objections that the English have no warrant to enter the land occupied by others, he also states, “The whole earth is the Lord’s garden and he hath given it to the sons of men, with a general condition…” (72). Winthrop also uses pathos, or emotional appeals, in his “Reasons to Be Considered.” In trying to convince those in England to come to the New World, he uses loaded words to create a strong emotional response to his argument. For example, he states, “What can be a better work and more honorable and worthy a Christian then to help raise and support a particular church while it is in the infancy” (72). The words “honorable” and “worthy” make the idea of coming to the New World seem overly positive. For use in the secondary classroom, teachers can discuss the connotation and denotations of words and how connotations have a large impact on the overall meaning and persuasive appeal. Teachers can make a list of these words on the board and discuss how Winthrop uses them to strengthen his argument.
Another emotional appeal that students can analyze in Puritan Sermons is the idea of story-telling. Puritan sermons often took the stories of the Bible and used them in their performance to rationalize but also dramatize their ideas. According to the article, “Puritan’s Progress: The Story of the Soul’s Salvation in the Early New England Sermons,” by Phyllis M. Jones, New England preachers did more than develop doctrines and use plain style. Jones states, “The ultimate imaginative resonance of the sermons lies less in texture-their style and imagery-than in a structural feature-their underlying narrative about the soul’s search for salvation” (14). Jones explains that the story of the soul’s salvation is told in such an imaginative and narrative way, that the doctrine becomes persuasive (15). As an example, Jones uses Thomas Hooker’s, “The Souls Vocation,” where Hooker narrates an encounter of the soul with Christ, to show that Puritan sermons often mixed narrative folk-tale with fact. Jones states, “Practically without transition the storyteller has shifted from fiction to fact, from figurative account to realistic diagnosis…” (23). In the secondary classroom teachers can discuss the idea of folk-tales, their purpose, and how Puritan’s often used these to make their doctrines more persuasive. Secondary students could find modern day pieces of rhetoric or advertising that uses narratives or folk-tales to provide a more persuasive argument.
While teaching Puritan Literature to secondary students may pose some challenges, including sensitivity to religion, text complexity past their reading level, and unawareness for the Puritan culture, it is my belief that these pieces can be used with great success in teaching rhetorical strategies. Also, they can teach students how people create an argument and support their main ideas with facts or ideas that make it more persuasive.
Heimert, Alan, and Andrew Delbanco, eds. The Puritans in America: A Narrative Anthology. 1 Vol. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1985. Print.
Jones, Phyllis M. “Puritan’s Progress: The Story of the Soul’s Salvation in the Early New England Sermons.” Early American Literature 15.1 (1980): 14-28. Print.
The new Common Core State Standards have brought about major changes in the high school English classroom. They are required to now spend more time on non-fiction literature and primary source documents than ever before. One way to accomplish this task it to include primary source documents that correlate with the required fiction literature. This can especially be done in teaching the literature of Edgar Allan Poe, who has an interesting and well documented personal life that made a large impact on his writing. Because these primary source documents are not typically included with the literature, teachers can utilize digital databases that display and showcase important artifacts from an author’s life. To aid in this process, I reviewed and detailed the uses of three large digital databases for use in the English classroom: “The Edgar Allan Poe Digital Collection,” “The Poe Log,” and “Edgar Allan Poe Digital Database.”
The first digital database that may help high school English teachers is from the Harry Ransom Center called “The Edgar Allan Poe Digital Collection.” This collection was to accompany their 2009 Bicentennial Exhibit called, From Out of That Shadow: The Life and Legacy of Edgar Allan Poe. The purpose of the exhibit was to display documents, books, artwork, and manuscripts that showed Poe’s life as a writer and as a person including his romantic relationships and mysterious death. This digital database can be helpful to teachers as they can use these primary source documents to aid instruction. The features of this database include a variety of categories on the right-hand side of the homepage that allow one to search through the digital database such as manuscripts, letters, artwork, books, music pairings, and newspapers. Once you click on the small initial title for the source you are interested in and then you are taken to another page where the text is enlarged and easy to read. One limitation is that you cannot read a summary of each piece until you click on a title first, slowing down the research process.
In terms of using this database as an educational tool, teachers and students can look through this exhibit at primary source documents and analyze how these items may have impacted the work of Poe. There are twenty-seven manuscript works from Poe all from the 1840s. For example, one available manuscript is a book with Poe’s poems, in which he revised and corrected them with his own handwriting called “The Raven and other Poems and Tales.” This specific manuscript would aid in helping students see the process that even famous authors go through in creating a text as Poe has many words crossed out and revisions to his work. Other notable features include seventy-six letters written by Poe through the 1840s, which give insight as to what Poe was occupied with and information about his life that wouldn’t typically be in a textbook.
One unique aspect of this collect is the sheet music for songs based on Poe’s poetry. With this artifact is a cover page and actual sheet music that corresponds to the words of Poe’s poem. In the classroom today, students can find a modern day piece of music that correlates in some way to a Poe poem and explain the connections they have found. The artwork included in this collection includes portraits of Poe and Virginia in various capacities and by different creators. There are also ninety-seven records in the newspaper section of the database, but many of the newspaper articles only mention Poe’s name once or have very little significance to Poe’s work or life at all. For the high school classroom, examination of these documents could be useful in terms of understanding the importance of newspaper during this time period, but the teacher would have to selectively choose which artifacts to use ahead of time.
Another online tool for teachers to possibly use is “The Poe Log: A Documentary Life of Edgar Allan Poe,” an electronic book complete with different chapters on the life of Poe. Each chapter has a narration on a specific time period in Poe’s life with illustrations. Also, under each narrative is a dated log of all activity written down about Poe’s life. Activity in the log includes newspapers, letters, and manuscripts. At the top of the digital book there is also a navigation system that includes articles on Poe, Poe topics, and Poe works. These options would best be suited for teachers to use in their own research or to selectively use in the classroom, as most of them are scholarly in nature.
For teachers, I think that this database would be of interest to utilize technology in the classroom. Students will enjoy the interactive quality of the different chapters, years, and pictures. I also think that this digital collection would be a great place to conduct a scavenger hunt for students to find information and items on Poe’s life. In that sense, this may be a better tool to use with students because of the organization and ease with use, compared to the Harry Ransom Center Collection, which is a more vast and diverse collection of primary sources that can be used in the classroom, but would be better suited for teachers to pick and choose from.
The last database reviewed is the small database from the Enoch Pratt Free Library called the “Edgar Allan Poe Digital Database.” This digital database was created to make a living memorial to Edgar Allan Poe. On the front page, there is large banner stating “Browse the Collection” which takes one to all of the artifacts. On this page, there is a large amount of artifacts with small pictures of each and a small summary next to them including date, source type, and creator. At first glance, this information can be overwhelming as it is not put in any specific order or in any categories. To the left of the page, though, you can narrow your search and find something more specific if necessary. Once one is to click on the item it enlarges the picture and gives a detailed description of all information necessary like type, format, source, etc. Also helpful is that with every item there is a “text” button that allows one to see the typed information from an image such as a letter.
This database is very similar to the Harry Ransom Collection in that it is a digital base of primary source documents on the life of Poe. This will aid teachers in helping them in finding primary source documents on the life of Poe to supplement Poe’s literature found in most high school textbooks. This digital collection may be best utilized by the teacher in finding the best primary source documents to aid with instruction, as opposed to having students use the website themselves. Advanced students may be able to successfully navigate and utilize the database, but with the large amount of artifacts there would need to be a strong focus in their task. This database has the least amount of sources from the three databases.
“Edgar Allan Poe Collection.” Enoch Pratt Free Library. Web. 22 July 2013.
“The Edgar Allan Poe Digital Database.” Harry Ransom Center. Web. 22 July 2013.
The Poe Log: A Documentary Life of Edgar Allan Poe, 1809-1849 . Boston: G. K. Hall & Co., 1987. Web. 22 July 2013. Thomas, Dwight Rembert, and David K. Jackson.