Style: Translating Stylistic Choices from Hawthorne to Hemingway and Back Again
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Exploring the use of style in literature helps students understand how language conveys mood, images, and meaning. After exploring the styles of two authors, students translate passages from one author into the style of another. They then translate fables into the style of one of the authors.
The examples for this lesson plan include passages by Ernest Hemingway and Nathaniel Hawthorne; however, passages by any author can be used for the activities.
Collaborative Style Activity, Part 1: This handout provides a brief overview of the styles of Hemingway and Hawthorne, along with an assignment to translate passages from one author into the style of the other.
From Theory to Practice
Students are experts at adapting their language to their situation, shifting from one style to another easily-and often unconsciously. The words, phrases, and clauses that they use when talking to the teacher in class are different from those that are used in the hallway with friends between classes. This lesson plan asks them to be more conscious and analytical about the language shifts that others make by exploring the use of words, phrases, and clauses in a literary passage. Understanding how authors make stylistic choices is only part of the goal here however. By considering the reasons that authors make the choices that they do, students explore the connections between audience (including the influence of society and culture), purpose, and voice. The issue of varying stylistic choices, such as those demonstrated in this lesson, is critical to students' understanding of the communicative functions of specific sets of conventions crucial to their determination of how to speak under different sets of circumstances. Such an understanding is important to their ability to participate fruitfully in a variety of literacy communities, and to use language to accomplish their own purposes.
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
- 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
- 9. Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.
- 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
Materials and Technology
- Additional texts by Hawthorne and Hemingway, or the authors you've chosen for this activity, for students to refer to if needed.
- If your students have not worked on stylistic analysis before, you might complete the Style: Defining and Exploring an Author's Stylistic Choices lesson plan before beginning this activity.
- Students should have a working knowledge of the authors who are discussed in this activity. The activity is ideal for students who have read at least one Hemingway short story or novel and a substantial piece by Nathaniel Hawthorne, such as The Scarlet Letter. The activities in this lesson are from Hemingway and Hawthorne; however, the activity could be modified to work with other authors as well.
- If desired, select additional fables from Aesop's Fables, from the Gutenberg Project.
- Make copies of the handouts.
- explore the ways the literary element of style is used by an author.
- explore examples of different literary styles in given excerpts.
- adapt sample passage to a different literary style.
- write an original piece applying what they've learned about literary style.
- Pass out copies of the Collaborative Style Activity, Part 1 handout.
- Present and explore the information about Hawthorne's and Hemingway's style, using the notes on the handout. As you discuss the types of language that make Hawthorne's and Hemingway's styles distinctive, encourage students to find short examples in their textbooks and to read them aloud to the class. Students may also apply the Checklist: Elements of Literary Style to the passages they analyze.
- Explain the assignment that students will complete. Using the information about Hawthorne's and Hemingway's styles, collaborative groups will "translate" the content of one writer into the style of the other. The second page of the handout includes both the quotations to translate and a place for students to write their translations.
- Answer any questions pertaining to the example or the assignment.
- Divide students into small groups and give them the remainder of the class to work on their translations. Circulate among students as they work, offering support and feedback.
- Review the activity with students and answer any questions. Give students another 15 to 20 minutes to complete their exploration of the passage.
- Circulate among students as they work, offering support and feedback.
- After you're satisfied that students have had a chance to translate all of the passages on the handout, assemble as a class and share translations and related observations about Hawthorne's and Hemingway's styles. The following questions can generate discussion:
- What did you notice about Hemingway's or Hawthorne's writing that you didn't see before?
- What differences did you notice about the kinds of words that the author used?
- What differences did you notice about the kind of sentence patterns that the author used?
- Overall, how would you describe each author's style?
- What did you notice about Hemingway's or Hawthorne's writing that you didn't see before?
- In the process of the discussion, refer to the lists of features of the authors' styles from the handout, and encourage students to make any additions or changes to the lists based on their translations. Work toward creating a list of features that has been customized by your students.
- Pass out the Collaborative Style Activity, Part 2 handout, and explain the activity. Connect the translation project to the customized list of features by suggesting that students refer to the list as they work on translating the fables to Hawthorne's or Hemingway's style. If you've completed the Style: Defining and Exploring an Author's Stylistic Choices lesson plan, you might give students the option to translate a fable into Zora Neale Hurston's style.
- Answer any questions pertaining to the assignment before having students return to their groups.
- Give them the remainder of the class to work on their translations. Circulate among students as they work, offering support and feedback.
- When students have finished writing, have them share their revised fables and revisit their list of features to customize it further based on their experience.
- Many students become fairly adept with Hawthorne's style and enjoy re-creating it. Once you finish reading The Scarlet Letter, you might give students the option of applying what they've learned about Hawthorne's style in this lesson plan to their reading of the novel by assigning the Adopting Hawthorne's Style activity, which asks students to write from the perspective of someone interacting with Hawthorne's novel in 1660.
- You might begin the project with the lesson plan Become a Character: Adjectives, Character Traits, and Perspective, which asks students to adopt the traits of a character in the novel. With the background on character traits and their effect on perspective and their examination of Hawthorne's style, students should be well prepared to respond to the challenge of sustaining a style similar to Hawthorne in this writing activity.
- Extend your study of these authors by having students investigate their lives. Information about Hemingway is available from the Nobel Prize site's page on Hemingway and PBS's Michael Palin's Hemingway Adventure.
Student Assessment / Reflections
As students translate the passages and fables, circulate among groups, observing students' identification of the various techniques employed in the passage. Provide support and feedback as you move from group to group.
After the class discussion about author's style, ask them to consider their translation activities for their own language use. Ask students to write in their journals or in a freewrite on the following reflective prompt:
Think of a time when you had to translate something that you said or wrote from one style to another. It might have been a time when you said something to a friend that an adult overheard and didn't understand, or it could be a time when you used technical jargon to talk about something you were doing in a class or at work and then you had to translate the description for someone who didn't have the same technical knowledge that you do.
How did the translation of your own words in that situation compare to translating Hemingway's and Hawthorne's styles? What did you notice about the way that people use language? What surprised you the most about the translating from one style to another, and why?
Read the pieces and comment on the self-reflections, noting important observations that students make and asking provoking questions where they need to think more deeply.
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