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LONGFELLOW & THE FORGING OF AMERICAN IDENTITY

Portrait of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

The curricular resources you will find on this page were developed by thirty teachers from Maine and Massachusetts who participated in an intensive two-year (2003-2004) study of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's life and poetry that was organized by the Maine Humanities Council. The program was designed to explore ways of bringing Longfellow's work back into the curriculum in a dynamic and meaningful way—in English, Social Studies, American Studies, Art, Music, and other subjects.

Participants read and discussed Longfellow's work extensively, met regularly with scholars, and visited important Longfellow-related sites and archives. The program culminated with the teachers own research projects. Each participating teacher did extensive archival research on a literary or historical aspect of Longfellow's work and created the teaching resources you will find below.

The Longfellow Institute, as the program is known, was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and led by scholar Charles Calhoun, author of the recently published biography, Longfellow: A Rediscovered Life (Beacon Press, 2004). Program speakers included museum curators, archivists, and specialists in 19th-century American literature, history, art, architecture, and popular culture.

The focus of the Institute was not only on Longfellow's poetry but on his cultural impact and legacy in creating such enduring American icons as Paul Revere, Evangeline, Priscilla Alden, and (more controversially) Hiawatha. The teachers also examined the poet's life in the context of his family and his many friends, including Hawthorne, Emerson, Charles Sumner, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Fanny Kemble, and Oscar Wilde.

The Institute was presented in cooperation with the Maine Historical Society, the Longfellow National Historic Site in Cambridge, MA, Bowdoin College, and other cultural agencies. This was the first program of its kind in the country, and an original and enduring contribution to the "recovery" of Longfellow in American culture.


Longfellow Meets German Radical Poet Ferdinand Freiligrath

Author: Steve Gilpatrick, English teacher, St Dominic Regional High School, Auburn Maine
Suggested Grade Level: 11-12
Subject Areas:Literature

Suitable for upper level literature classes prepared to discuss the slavery controversy in ante-bellum America and the role of American literature as a vehicle of social criticism. A background in the rise of political radicalism in Germany and France leading up to the revolutions of 1848 is suggested but not required.

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The American Wilderness? How 19th Century American Artists Viewed The Separation Of Civilization And Nature

Author: David Hochheiser, American Studies Teacher, Gorham High School, Gorham, Maine
Suggested Grade Level: 10
Subject Areas: Literature and art

Students will learn to connect literature to the culture and historical context to which it belongs. They will also be able to recognize and explore the role that ethnocentrism played in relationships between American settlers and native peoples.

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Integration of Longfellow's Poetry into American Studies

Author: Dana Anderson, American Literature Teacher, grade 11 and
Mary Moore, Library Media Specialist, grades 9-12, Freeport High School, Freeport, Maine
Suggested Grade Level: 9-12
Subject Area: American literature and U.S. History

Students and teachers will examine Longfellow’s ability to express universality of human emotions/experiences as well as looking at the patterns he articulates in history that are applicable well beyond his era. With each poem, students will explore a common set of central guiding questions.

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Longfellow and Dickens: The Story of a Trans-Atlantic Friendship

Author: Donna Wilhelm, English Teacher, Freeport High School, Freeport, Maine
Suggested Grade Level: 10-12
Subject Areas: Humanities, English

Students will use a variety of documents to explore the relationship between Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Charles Dickens. Students will make connections between various texts, and put the friendship between the two men into a societal and historical context.

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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: An American Studies Approach for Middle School

Author: Judith Donahue, Language Arts Teacher, 7th and 8th grades, and Pamela Goucher, Librarian, Freeport Middle School, Freeport, Maine
Suggested Grade Level: 6-12
Subject Areas: Language Arts, Social Studies

The following unit plan introduces and demonstrates an American Studies approach to the life and work of Longfellow.

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Longfellow and the American Sonnet

Author: Mary Willink, English Teacher, grades 9-12, Greater Portland Christian School, South Portland, Maine
Suggested Grade Level: 9-12
Subject Areas: English

The student will be able to explain why Longfellow's sonnets are a variation of the Petrarchan Sonnet and to explain how Longfellow used an image/setting to describe an emotion.

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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow & Harriet Beecher Stowe

Author: Jeffrey M. Sullivan, teacher of Modern History and United States History, Lewiston High School, Lewiston, Maine
Suggested Grade Level: 10-11
Subject Areas: History

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Longfellow and the Jewish Cemetery at Newport

Author: Leigh Hallett, Humanities and ESL Depts., Maine Central Institute, Maine
Suggested Grade Level: 5-12
Subject Areas: History

Longfellow's poem "The Jewish Cemetery at Newport" opens up the issue of the earliest history of the Jews in America, and the significant roles they played as businessmen and later benefactors to the greater community. The history of the building itself is notable in terms of early American architecture, its having been designed, apparently gratis, by the most noted architect of the day. Furthermore, the poem traces the history of Newport as kind of a microcosm of New England commercial cities before the industrialization boom. For almost any age student the poem could be used to open up interest in local cemeteries, which are almost always a wealth of curiousities and history. Longfellow and his friends enjoyed exploring cemeteries, and today our little local cemeteries can be used to teach little local histories and parts of the big picture as well.

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Celebrity's Picture: Using Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Portraits to Observe Historic Changes

Author: Sandra J. Whitmore, Art Teacher, South Portland High School, South Portland, Maine
Suggested Grade Level: High school (includes variations for other grade levels)
Subject Area: Art

-Contrast original 2-D images (paintings, drawings, photos, cut silhouettes) with their commercially replicated print versions (engravings, lithographs, inked silhouettes), with special attention to artists' interpretations of the poet's personality

The online exhibit suggests three additional themes for contemplation or discussion as well:

-Examine the famous man's aging process and biography through his changing appearance

-Observe changes in the technology of producing nineteenth century portraits demonstrated in commercial printmaking and photography, and link them to changing cultural mores

-Identify some of the more or less obscure artists trying to earn a living through portraiture in New England during Longfellow's lifetime

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Longfellow's "The Village Blacksmith" and "Whitman's Song of Myself": Alternative Constructions of the American Worker

Author: Mark Gorey, English teacher, Boothbay Region High School, Maine
Suggested Grade Level: 11-12
Subject Areas: American Literature and American History

Longfellow and Whitman both wrote with sympathy about the American worker, although their respective portraits are strikingly different, and worth juxtaposing. These poems offer a starting place for comparison and contrast. Read more widely in the work of both poets and decide for yourselves which poet speaks to you more meaningfully and why.

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The Acadian Diaspora

Author: Rhea Côté Robbins, Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Maine, Orono, Maine
Suggested Grade Level: 6-12
Subject Area: Women's Studies, Franco-American Studies, Maine Studies, and University Studies

Reading Evangeline as a feminist and metaphoric text.

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Longfellow's Ripple Effect: Journaling With the Poet

Author: Kelly Clark McQuarrie, Social Studies
Teacher, Erskine Academy, South China, Maine
Suggested Grade Level: 7-12
Subject Areas: Social Studies, English, Fine Arts

This series of six lessons will give students the opportunity to become familiar with the works of Longfellow while reflecting upon how his works speak to their own experiences.

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The Elms - Stephen Longfellow's Gorham Farm

Author: Nancy A. Ponzetti, American History, Psychology, World Geography, Social Studies Dept. Chair, Catherine McAuley High School, Portland, Maine
Suggested Grade Level: 7-12
Subject Areas: Social Studies, English

This exhibit examines why the Longfellows arrived in Gorham, Judge Longfellow’s role in the history of the town, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s vacations in the country which may have influenced his greatest work, and the remains of the Longfellow estate still standing in Gorham today.

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The Village Blacksmith: The Reality of a Poem

Author: Dennis D. Edmondson, History teacher, Mt. Ararat High School, Topsham, Maine
Suggested Grade Level: 8 or 11
Subject Areas: U.S. History

Introduction The Village Blacksmith was a much celebrated poem. Written of course, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the poem appeared to celebrate the work ethic and mannerisms of a working man, the icon of every rural community, the Blacksmith. However, what was the poem really saying?

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The Writer's Hour: Footprints on the Sands of Time

Author: Marian R. Carlson, Literature/Arts teacher, Munroe Center for the Arts, Lexington, Massachusetts
Suggested Grade Level: 3-6
Subject Areas: Literature, writing, interdisciplinary connections

These lessons will introduce the world-famous American writer and a selection of his work with a compelling historical fiction theme. Students take up the quest: Who was HWL and did his poetry leave footprints on the sands of time? They will "tour" his Cambridge home through young eyes, listen, and discuss poems from a writer’s viewpoint, and create their own poems inspired by Longfellow's works.

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The Birth of An American Hero: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "Paul Revere's Ride"

Author: Patrick Allen, English Teacher, Whittier Regional High School, Haverhill, Massachusetts
Suggested Grade Level: 9-12
Subject Areas: English Language Arts, Humanities, American History

Students will understand the heroic archetype and apply it to the history of Paul Revere's Ride and to Longfellow's poem "Paul Revere's Ride."

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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: A Collection of Lesson Plans for Middle School Students

Author: Gail Roller, Gifted/Talented Coordinator and Teacher, Grades 6-12, Biddeford Public Schools, Maine
Suggested Grade Level: Middle School
Subject Areas: English, Language Arts, Social Studies, History

These lessons were developed for seventh graders. The lesson plans can stand on their own or they can be integrated into language arts, social studies or even a science curriculum. Teachers should feel free to adapt and use these plans to suit their needs. The objectives and activities are suggested as a starting point. It is my hope that after teachers and students are exposed to this sampling of Longfellow's poetry they will be motivated to read and study more of his works.

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Longfellow Amongst His Contemporaries: The Ship of State DBQ

Author: William J. Murphy, English and History Teacher, Belfast Area High School, Maine
Suggested Grade Level: 10-12
Subject Area: American literature, American history, composition

Students will be required to use the accompanying documents and their knowledge of the period 1783-1865 to assess the validity of this statement:
The ship of state metaphor represents an effective strategy for depicting the social values and political conflicts that characterize the state of the Union during the crucial decades between the Revolution and the Civil War.

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My Lost Youth: Longfellow's Portland, Then and Now

Author: Rebecca Clifford Pride, English Teacher, Yarmouth High School, Yarmouth, Maine
Suggested Grade Level: Easily adaptable for Grades 3–12
Subject Area: English

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow loved his boyhood home of Portland, Maine. Years after his childhood, in 1855, he wrote "My Lost Youth" about his undiminished love for and memories of growing up in Portland. This exhibit, using the poem as its focus, will present the Portland of Longfellow's boyhood. In many cases the old photos will be followed by contemporary images of what that site looked like in 2004.

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