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[Detail] Illustration of the shield of Virginia, from the eighteenth century

Historical Comprehension: Using Poems as Historical Documents

Because literature reflects the values and interests of an era and because it can influence events, learning to interpret literary works as historical documents is an element of historical comprehension. The Capital and the Bay contains a collection of poetry by residents of Cecil County, Maryland, published in 1887. Choose an individual poet or poem from "The Poets and Poetry of Cecil County, Maryland." Discuss the following questions:

  • What topics does this poem or poet examine?
  • What values are reflected in the poem(s)?
  • Does this poetry collection tell us anything about the concerns of the period? The values of the poets?
  • Might the interests and values reflected be different if the poets were from diverse geographic regions? Why or why not?

If feasible, conduct a similar study of a recently published poetry collection. What interests and values are reflected in the contemporary poems?