Common Core Standards: ELA
RL.9-10.6. Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature.
Cultures vary widely throughout the world, so it’s no surprise that literature does as well. Being able to understand different points of view or cultural experiences within a text gives readers the tools to understand them in real life. (It also guarantees they’ll never run out of reading material!)
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Using this Standard
- 1984 Teacher Pass
- A Rose For Emily Teacher Pass
- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Teacher Pass
- Animal Farm Teacher Pass
- Antigone Teacher Pass
- Beowulf Teacher Pass
- Brave New World Teacher Pass
- Fahrenheit 451 Teacher Pass
- Great Expectations Teacher Pass
- Hamlet Teacher Pass
- Heart of Darkness Teacher Pass
- Julius Caesar Teacher Pass
- King Lear Teacher Pass
- Macbeth Teacher Pass
- Oedipus the King Teacher Pass
- Othello Teacher Pass
- Romeo and Juliet Teacher Pass
- The Aeneid Teacher Pass
- The As I Lay Dying Teacher Pass
- The Bluest Eye Teacher Pass
- The Canterbury Tales General Prologue Teacher Pass
- The Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale Teacher Pass
- The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue Teacher Pass
- The Cask of Amontillado Teacher Pass
- The Catch-22 Teacher Pass
- The Catcher in the Rye Teacher Pass
- The Crucible Teacher Pass
- The House on Mango Street Teacher Pass
- The Iliad Teacher Pass
- The Metamorphosis Teacher Pass
- The Odyssey Teacher Pass
- The Scarlet Letter Teacher Pass
- Things Fall Apart Teacher Pass
- Wide Sargasso Sea Teacher Pass
- Wuthering Heights Teacher Pass
Sample Activities for Use in Class
1. Examining Texts
Read or have students read (aloud or silently) the following passage:
In a village of La Mancha, the name of which I have no desire to call to mind, there lived not long since one of those gentlemen that keep a lance in the lance-rack, an old buckler, a lean hack, and a greyhound for coursing. An olla of rather more beef than mutton, a salad on most nights, scraps on Saturdays, lentils on Fridays, and a pigeon or so extra on Sundays, made away with three-quarters of his income. The rest of it went in a doublet of fine cloth and velvet breeches and shoes to match for holidays, while on week-days he made a brave figure in his best homespun. He had in his house a housekeeper past forty, a niece under twenty, and a lad for the field and market-place, who used to saddle the hack as well as handle the bill-hook. The age of this gentleman of ours was bordering on fifty; he was of a hardy habit, spare, gaunt-featured, a very early riser and a great sportsman. They will have it his surname was Quixada or Quesada (for here there is some difference of opinion among the authors who write on the subject), although from reasonable conjectures it seems plain that he was called Quexana. This, however, is of but little importance to our tale; it will be enough not to stray a hair's breadth from the truth in the telling of it.
You must know, then, that the above-named gentleman whenever he was at leisure (which was mostly all the year round) gave himself up to reading books of chivalry with such ardour and avidity that he almost entirely neglected the pursuit of his field-sports, and even the management of his property; and to such a pitch did his eagerness and infatuation go that he sold many an acre of tillageland to buy books of chivalry to read, and brought home as many of them as he could get. But of all there were none he liked so well as those of the famous Feliciano de Silva's composition, for their lucidity of style and complicated conceits were as pearls in his sight, particularly when in his reading he came upon courtships and cartels, where he often found passages like "the reason of the unreason with which my reason is afflicted so weakens my reason that with reason I murmur at your beauty;" or again, "the high heavens, that of your divinity divinely fortify you with the stars, render you deserving of the desert your greatness deserves." Over conceits of this sort the poor gentleman lost his wits, and used to lie awake striving to understand them and worm the meaning out of them.
- Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote
Once students have read the passage, discuss it by focusing on temporal and geographical setting, point of view, and similar clues. Questions to discuss may include:
1. Where and when was the passage written? How can you tell? (Possible Answers: Don Quixote was written in Spain in the early seventeenth century and is presumably set in the same place and time. The names of the author and the characters provide the strongest clue as to place. Students may have difficulty setting it in time, but should realize, with help, that the story occurs somewhat after the time of chivalry.)
2. Which words, if you looked them up, might help you better understand this passage? (Possible Answers: “hack,” “buckler,” “chivalry,” “ardour.” Have students look up the words they select and discuss what information the definitions provide and what light they shed on the passage.)
3. Which parts of the passage indicate it belongs to a specific world culture? (Possible Answers: the food, the members of the main character’s household, the mention of keeping a servant, and the authors the main character likes to read all help place this passage in some part of Europe and in the household of someone with at least a little money.)
2. Creating Narratives
Once students have had a chance to discuss various pieces of world literature, have them try and construct it themselves. On a printed list or series of index cards, describe several characters who either come from works of world literature or deal with cultural pressures found in other countries. Describe characters in general terms. For instance, characters may be “a young woman who would like to go to college but knows that caring for her parents comes before any other responsibility” or “a boy who wants to be a farmer but is pressed into becoming a soldier to protect his home from marauders.”
Have each student or group of students choose one of the descriptions and write a short story, poem, or skit about the character. The students’ writing should focus on the character’s conflict within the culture or circumstances described, and not on what the student’s own cultural upbringing tells him or her to do in the character’s place. For instance, a story about “a young woman who would like to go to college but knows that caring for her parents comes before any other responsibility” should focus either on how the young woman learns to accept staying home or how she gets an education without abandoning her responsibility to her parents; but it should not be about how “she leaves home and doesn’t worry about her parents” merely because that’s what the student might do. You may wish to give students more information by providing names of nations, regions or ethnic groups, or leave students to work these out on their own.
Quiz 1 QuestionsHere's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.
I. Questions 1-10 are based on the following passage:
On the third day of rain they had killed so many crabs inside the house that Pelayo had to cross his drenched courtyard and throw them into the sea, because the newborn child had a temperature all night and they thought it was due to the stench. The world had been sad since Tuesday. Sea and sky were a single ash-gray thing and the sands of the beach, which on March nights glimmered like powdered light, had become a stew of mud and rotten shellfish. The light was so weak at noon that when Pelayo was coming back to the house after throwing away the crabs, it was hard for him to see what it was that was moving and groaning in the rear of the courtyard. He had to go very close to see that it was an old man, a very old man, lying face down in the mud, who, in spite of his tremendous efforts, couldn't get up, impeded by his enormous wings.
Frightened by that nightmare, Pelayo ran to get Elisenda, his wife, who was putting compresses on the sick child, and he took her to the rear of the courtyard. They both looked at the fallen body with a mute stupor. He was dressed like a ragpicker. There were only a few faded hairs left on his bald skull and very few teeth in his mouth, and his pitiful condition of a drenched great-grandfather took away any sense of grandeur he might have had. His huge buzzard wings, dirty and half-plucked were forever entangled in the mud. They looked at him so long and so closely that Pelayo and Elisenda very soon overcame their surprise and in the end found him familiar. Then they dared speak to him, and he answered in an incomprehensible dialect with a strong sailor's voice. That was how they skipped over the inconvenience of the wings and quite intelligently concluded that he was a lonely castaway from some foreign ship wrecked by the storm. And yet, they called in a neighbor woman who knew everything about life and death to see him, and all she needed was one look to show them their mistake.
"He's an angel," she told them. "He must have been coming for the child, but the poor fellow is so old that the rain knocked him down."
- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings”
Quiz 2 QuestionsHere's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.
II. Questions 1-10 are based on the following passage:
Krishna! as I behold, come here to shed
Their common blood, yon concourse of our kin,
My members fail, my tongue dries in my mouth,
A shudder thrills my body, and my hair
Bristles with horror; from my weak hand slips
Gandiv, the goodly bow; a fever burns
My skin to parching; hardly may I stand;
The life within me seems to swim and faint;
Nothing do I foresee save woe and wail!
It is not good, O Keshav! nought of good
Can spring from mutual slaughter! Lo, I hate
Triumph and domination, wealth and ease,
Thus sadly won! Aho! what victory
Can bring delight, Govinda! what rich spoils
Could profit; what rule recompense; what span
Of life itself seem sweet, bought with such blood?
Seeing that these stand here, ready to die,
For whose sake life was fair, and pleasure pleased,
And power grew precious:-grandsires, sires, and sons,
Brothers, and fathers-in-law, and sons-in-law,
Elders and friends! Shall I deal death on these
Even though they seek to slay us? Not one blow,
O Madhusudan! will I strike to gain....
- the Bhagavad Gita, Part I