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Longfellow Studies: Longfellow Meets German Radical Poet Ferdinand Freiligrath

Steve Gilpatrick, St. Dominic Regional High School, Androscoggin County



  • English Language Arts -- Reading
  • Social Studies -- Civics & Government
  • Social Studies -- History

1 day

  • 1851-1920
  • Civics & Citizenship
  • The People/Peopling of Maine

During Longfellow's 1842 travels in Germany he made the acquaintance of the politically radical Ferdinand Freiligrath, one of the influential voices calling for social revolution in his country. It is suggested that this association with Freiligrath along with his return visit with Charles Dickens influenced Longfellow's slavery poems. This essay traces Longfellow's interest in the German poet, Freiligrath's development as a radical poetic voice, and Longfellow's subsequent visit with Charles Dickens. Samples of verse and prose are provided to illustrate each writer's social conscience.

  • 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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A resource developed through the "Longfellow & the Forging of American Identity" program funded by NEH