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ELA 11: American Literature—Semester A

My country, 'tis of Shmoop.

Shmoop loves Moby-Dick. (Don't judge.) But we don't love torturing you with it. So in this course on American Literature, we're going to do things a little differently.

After all, doing things differently is as American as you can get.

Don't worry: you're still going to get your Big Deal Authors. We wouldn't take that away from you. But it's not just about reading the words on the page. We're also going to show you why these Big Deal Authors matter.

In Semester A of our Common Core-aligned American Literature course, we'll walk you through readings, essays, and activities that

  • kick off with the Puritans.
  • transcend with the Transcendentalists.
  • nail down some of the biggest hitters in literature: Poe, Dickinson, Whitman, Douglass, Longfellow, and Twain (yep, Huck Finn's on board).

The cherry on top will be three of the most American American novels: The Great Gatsby, The Sun Also Rises, and The Grapes of Wrath.

We dare you to follow the U.S. for two-and-a-half centuries and not leave with a bounce in your step.

P.S. American Literature (ELA 11) is a two-semester course. You're looking at Semester A, but you can check out Semester B here.

Course Breakdown

Purchase units individually *

*Purchasing by unit includes course material only.

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Unit 1. Party Like It's 1676

We're going to begin our journey through American literature by reading some selections from the Puritans: Cotton Mather, John Edwards, Michael Wigglesworth, and Anne Bradstreet. Once we've gotten our Puritan on, we'll focus on the American Revolution, more specifically, Mr. Benjamin Franklin himself by reading The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. And of course, we'll finish up with a little thing called the Declaration of Independence.

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Unit 2. Transcendental Meditation

Transcendentalism is the name of the game in this unit. We'll be reading Ralph Waldo Emerson ("Nature," "Self-Reliance," "The American Scholar"); Nathaniel Hawthorne ("Young Goodman Brown," "The Minister's Black Veil"); Herman Melville ("Bartleby the Scrivener"); Henry David Thoreau (excerpts from Walden); Amos Bronson Alcott (excerpts from Conversations on the Gospels); and his daughter, Louisa May Alcott (Volume 1 of Little Women, of course).

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Unit 3. Containing Multitudes

Moving forward on the chronological road we like to call time, this unit will tackle Edgar Allan Poe ("The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Purloined Letter," and a handful of poems); Frederick Douglass (excerpts from his Narrative); and Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (poetry, poetry, and more poetry).

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Unit 4. Frontier Dreams

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is so central to American Lit that it gets its own unit.

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Unit 5. The American Nightmare

We had a tough time narrowing things down to three Great American Novels, but here's what we cam up with for Unit 5: The Great Gastby, The Sun Also Rises, and The Grapes of Wrath.


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  • Course Length: 18 weeks
  • Course Number: 310
  • Grade Levels: 11, 12
  • Course Type: Basic
  • Category:
    • College Prep
    • English
    • Literature

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