“She had been looking all along for a friend, and it took her a while to discover that a lover was not a comrade and could never be - for a woman. And that no one would ever be that version of herself which she sought to reach out to and touch with an ungloved hand. There was only her own mood and whim, and if that was all there was, she decided to turn the naked hand toward it, discover it and let others become as intimate with their own selves as she was.” -Toni Morrison in Sula
In Unit 3, students examine what it means to have true self-respect and what it means to be feminist in a society that associates a woman’s role with wife, mother, and a dependence on men through their reading of Toni Morrison’s Sula and supplemental texts. Throughout this unit, students will analyze the development of arguments and explain how stylistic choices contribute to the purpose of an argument in nonfiction; explore how an author’s literary style develops characters, character relationships, and central ideas in fiction; and explain how the arrangement of text and other structural choices contribute to a text’s meaning in poetry.
This unit starts with a Close Reading of Joan Didion’s “On Self-Respect” so that students can establish a common definition of self-respect including ways women struggle to develop self-respect and the obstacles that get in the way of them developing true self-respect. In the remainder of the first arc of the unit, students read various articles, essays, letters, and book excerpts evaluating the extent to which the female characters and speakers have self-respect. Texts include “Lust” by Susan Minot, “Barbie Doll” by Marge Piercy, “There Is No Unmarked Woman” by Deborah Tannen, and excerpts from Feminism Is for Everybody, The Women of Brewster Place, and Their Eyes Were Watching God.
The second arc of the unit is a novel study of Toni Morrison’s Sula, an influential novel written in 1973 that many would call the first Black feminist novel in the United States. In Sula, Morrison develops multidimensional female characters, and through them, explores issues of friendship, love, gender, and race. Morrison’s writing style is both distinctive and complex, and as a result, students will analyze the writer’s complex language as well as the stylistic techniques she employs to develop the novel’s characters and themes.
In the third and final arc of the unit, students will engage in a Summative Unit Seminar on Morrison’s Sula and prepare for the unit performance task that asks students to create a fictional dinner conversation between Sula, the persona in Beyonce’s Lemonade, and two other literary black female characters.