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Examining Transcendentalism through Popular Culture
|Grades||9 – 12|
|Lesson Plan Type||Unit|
|Estimated Time||Eight 50-minute sessions|
Narragansett, Rhode Island
After a brief introduction to the transcendentalist movement of the 1800s, students develop a working definition of transcendentalism by answering and discussing a series a questions about their own individualism and relationship to nature. Over the next few sessions, students read and discuss excerpts from Emerson’s “Nature” and “Self-Reliance” and Thoreau’s Walden. They use a graphic organizer to summarize the characteristics of transcendental thought as they read. Students then examine modern comic strips and songs to find evidence of transcendental thought. They gather additional examples on their own to share with the class. Finally, students complete the chart showing specific examples of transcendental thought from a variety of multimodal genres.
Examining Transcendentalism through Popular Culture Final Project: Give this handout to students to guide them in their final project for this lesson.
Examples of Transcendental Thought: Students can use this chart or the interactive version to record specific examples of transcendental thought in the texts they examine.
In the article that inspired this lesson plan, Colleen A. Ruggieri explains, "As we English educators spend our days in the classroom, we want all of our students to come to love language as much as we do, even if they don't have a natural aptitude for the subject. We also want all of our students to be able to understand the material covered in class, as well as to see its relevance in the real world" (68). Ruggieri's technique of using comics and music to catch the interest of students work well to urge students to think more openly about the language and creative choices that an artist makes-whether a writer, a musician, or a comic strip author. Students are more willing to embrace the world of comic strips and the speaker of lyrics, especially when the songs and comics are left to students' own choice. Once they've identified concepts like transcendentalism in popular culture resources such as these, the relevance of texts by writers such as Emerson and Thoreau becomes simpler to establish.
Note: Because of the importance of this article to the lesson plan, the entire article has been made available. The article is protected by copyright and all rights are reserved.
Ruggieri, Colleen A. "Multigenre, Multiple Intelligences, and Transcendentalism." English Journal 92.9 (November 2002): 60-68.