Huckleberry Finn opens with a warning from its author that misinterpreting readers will be shot. Despite the danger, readers have been approaching the novel from such diverse critical perspectives for 120 years that it is both commonly taught and frequently banned, for a variety of reasons. Studying both the novel and its critics with an emphasis on cultural context will help you develop analytical tools essential for navigating this work and other American controversies. This lesson requires you to combine internet historical research with critical reading. You will produce several writing assignments exploring what readers see in Huckleberry Finn and why they see it that way.
- Read and write literary criticism
- Write historical/biographical analysis of non-fiction works
- Define cultural context and describe aspects of others’ contexts as well as their own
- Make inferences and develop the ability to provide convincing evidence to support their inferences
Guiding Questions to think about during reading:
- How does a critic’s cultural context help explain his or her opinions about a book?
- What influences in my cultural context help explain my opinions about a book?
- How does acknowledging my opinions’ origins in the culture around me, and recognizing that changes in culture cause changes in opinions, affect the way I state my opinion?
VISIT THE FOLLOWING LINK TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR.
Mark Twain in His Times
Complete each of the Activities below. Read the directions carefully. Use your own thoughts and words to respond to each question. Do not copy/paste information from the internet.
ACTIVITY #1: STUDENT CRITIQUE(REVIEW)
After reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, write a short (200 to 400-word) critique (review), either of the novel in general or of a specific aspect of the novel. Click on this link for information on writing a literary analysis and a literary critique. Literary Analysis
ACTIVITY #2: COMPARE AND CONTRAST TWO CRITIQUES (REVIEWS) OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Reading the reviews of published critics may help you understand and evaluate aspects of a text or book differently.
Click on this link for published critiques of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. You are encouraged to locate additional resources on your own.
Huckleberry Finn Contemporary Reviews
a. Conduct research to identify two published critiques (criticism or analysis) of the novel. The critiques and analyses should come from two different authors. List those critiques here, along with the web site where you retrieved the information.
b. Compare and contrast the ideas in these two published critiques or analyses of the novel. Remember, to compare and contrast ideas you must provide at least three similarities and three differences.
ACTIVITY #3: THE CULTURAL CONTEXT OF EACH HUCKLEBERRY FINN CRITICS
a. Identify contemporary historical events and social practices during the life of each critic that you chose, considering race, gender, age and class-based roles in society during that time.
To do this activity, you must explore the cultural context of each critic whose work you chose for your critiques or analysis.
- Resources: The following websites will help you discover some of the historical influences and social practices that may influence critics when they are critiquing or analyzing a book. You are encouraged to locate your own resources as well.
The Time Line of African-American History, 1852-1925, from the American Memory Collection.
Duke University’s Ad*Access site, a terrific look at popular culture through advertising, a link through History Matters.
Activity #4: How do social and historical context influence each critic?
Reread the two published critical essays that you chose earlier in this lesson. Make inferences that answer the central question of the unit:
a. “How do the historical and social norms or the time period that you identified in your research seem to influence critics’ views of Huckleberry Finn?”
- Rationale: This activity will help you identify the relationship between a wider culture and an individual’s ideas.
ACTIVITY #5: THE STUDENT’S CULTURAL CONTEXT
a. Identify key elements of your own culture and compare your unique cultural contexts with those of the critics. In other words, how are your cultural norms alike or different than the critics that you chose in your research?
b. In what ways do you believe that the critics’ cultural norms influenced their critiques or analysis?
c. In what ways do your cultural norms influence your own critique and cultural analysis of the book?
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