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7.10 End-of-Chapter Assessment

Key Takeaways

  • Literature both reflects and influences its historical moment. You should consider literary texts in light of the cultural, economic, artistic, religious, political, and social forces surrounding their creation.
  • You can understand a literary text’s historical influences by reading alongside nonliterary texts: for example, newspapers, sermons, political pamphlets, and scientific treatises.
  • When writing about literature from a New Historical perspective, you should use a combination of primary and secondary sources as evidence to support your thesis and claims.
  • Historical research is a process: your thesis and claims should evolve as you investigate primary and secondary sources and as you begin writing your paper.

Writing Exercises

  1. Freewriting exercise. Choose an author that interests you. On a sheet of paper—or on your computer—start writing about what you know about your author, focusing on the historical connections you see related to your author and work. After writing for a short while, create a list of possible ideas that you might want to pursue. Now you are ready to start conducting research.
  2. Once you have an author that you are considering writing a new historical paper about, start doing some initial research to see the historical connections that may lead to fruitful investigations. Begin by examining archives and websites that are related to your author. An interesting example that may help you see these connections can be found on the Victorian Web: P. Landlow, The Victorian Web,

Instructor Supplement: Class Exercises

  1. Begin the class in which you plan to discuss Paige’s “Manifest Destiny” paper by projecting John Gast’s 1872 painting American Progress ( Gast, American Progress (1872), painting, Wikipedia, Alternatively, you could print copies out for your students. Tell your students that you’ll be compiling a “close reading” of the painting and then give them several minutes to look over the image. You might suggest that they jot down details that they find interesting or telling. After they’ve had some time, ask them to share what details they noticed. As they suggest details (“The Native Americans are all in the dark on the left side of the painting”; “Lady Liberty is stringing telegraph wire as she glides west”), press them to suggest theories about the significance of those details (“The artist wants to represent native people as unenlightened or even evil”; “The artist wants to show America as technologically advanced”). Compile these ideas on the board, or ask one of your students to record them. Finally, ask your students to relate these details to the ideas about Manifest Destiny that they read in Paige’s paper.
  2. Workshop Paige’s paper in class. Divide your class into groups of three to four students. Distribute photocopies of Paige’s paper so that they can write on it. Ask each group to read the paper with an eye toward how it could be further developed or improved. You might provide them with a list of questions to guide their discussion. We’ve provided a few such questions, but there are certainly more you could ask.

    1. Underline the main claim or the paper. Is the claim specific? Debatable? Reasonable? How might Paige revise the claim to make it more engaging?
    2. Mark the primary evidence that Paige uses with brackets. Mark the secondary evidence Paige uses with parentheses. Where does the paper include enough evidence to convince you? Are there any sections where more evidence is warranted? What kind of evidence (primary or secondary) is needed to make those sections more convincing?
    3. Read each paragraph with an eye toward clarity. Are there any sections where you lose track of the argument? How might Paige revise those sections to better guide readers toward her main points?

Instructor Supplement: Class Peer Review

  1. Have students conduct peer review on one of the sample papers using the organizational peer-review guide found in Chapter 10 "Appendix A: Peer Review Sheets", Section 10.6 "Chapter 7: New Historical":

    1. Place students in groups of three to four and have them reread the paper for peer review and fill out the guide sheet
    2. Have students discuss their feedback responses to the sample paper.
    3. Have students list the major feedback they discussed.
    4. Put the major issues on the blackboard or whiteboard.
    5. Discuss these responses. Make certain that you let students know that any paper can be improved.
  2. Plan to have your students conduct peer review on the drafts of their papers that they are writing in your class. Use the peer-review guide from Chapter 10 "Appendix A: Peer Review Sheets", Section 10.6 "Chapter 7: New Historical" and have them work in groups of three and do the following:

    1. Bring two hard copies of their paper so that each member can read the paper, OR work in a computer lab where students can share their papers on line. You may want to use the educational software that your campus supports—for example, Blackboard or Moodle—or you can have students use Google Drive to set up their peer-review groups.
    2. Have two students focus on the first paper in the group. While these students are reading, have the other student read the other two student papers.
    3. The two students should quickly fill out the peer-review sheet and then have a brief conversation about the strengths of the paper and ways the paper could be improved.
    4. Move to the next student and follow the same process. Depending on the length of your class, you may have to reduce the peer-review groups to two students.
    5. If time permits, ask the students to provide general comments—or ask questions—about the specific papers or the assignment overall.
    6. You may want to use peer review for each paper in your class.