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Artifacts and Fiction - Workshop in American Literature
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Home > Session Guides > 7: Ritual Artifacts

7. Ritual Artifacts Session Guide Related Materials
Item #4427
serial: #4427
John Stevens, THE MARY CARR STONE (1721), courtesy of Wesleyan University Press.

This workshop session introduces the analysis of ritual artifacts as a tool in the literature classroom. David Watters, literature professor at the University of New Hampshire, uses the example of Puritan gravestones to help teachers enhance their reading of American literature texts.

By looking at two intellectual products from the same culture—the Puritan gravestones and a captivity narrative* titled The Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson—you will better understand how the religious beliefs of the Puritans shaped their understanding of death.

During the course of the session, you will learn how to search for ritual artifacts to help teach American literature. In the onscreen classroom, David discusses how he uses ritual artifacts to illuminate the discipline of religion in his own classroom. He provides high school teachers with ideas about how to read two ritual objects; he also suggests specific lesson plans.

We then follow the onscreen teachers into the computer lab where they work with David, Laura Arnold Leibman (Reed College English professor), and each other to find artifacts that supplement the themes and context of the literature they are currently teaching.

Next, we follow Paul Warner—a teacher at Evergreen High School in Vancouver, Washington—into his own high school classroom. We watch as he models a similar lesson with his students. Finally we hear Paul's reflections on his own teaching practices.

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