October 29th, 2000
Tennessee Williams: Exploring the American Dream
Lesson Overview


The American Master’s Series lesson on Tennessee Williams will consist of three thematic components: (1) an examination of the lyric form and mythology, (2) exploration of the dramatic form, and (3) an examination of the American Dream. Each of these overlapping themes will be addressed and developed within a social critical perspective that resonate with many of the playwright’s major works. Within an examination of these themes, students will read one or more of Williams plays, and in small groups they will develop and perform interpretations of selected scenes. Students will conduct internet and/or library research to answer their own questions about the author and the American theater he so profoundly influenced. Students will discuss and write about the deeply personal and fundamentally human questions raised by Williams who, much like the mythic character Orpheus, descended into the underworld of the human soul using his lyrical talent to raise up unspoken human longings to the dramatic light of day.

Grade Level

9 – 12

Subject Area

Language Arts


Students will:

  • respond in writing journals to the work of Tennessee Williams.

  • conduct internet research.

  • collect examples of written, visual, and/or performance art that characterizes "lyrical" form.

  • participate effectively in small group discussions.

  • read selections of Tennessee Williams’ work.
  • perform selected scenes from one or more of Tennessee Williams’ dramas.

  • create a presentation that illustrates their developing understanding of the lyric form in performing arts and literature.


Language Arts

Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of literary texts

  • Understands relationships between literature and its historical period, culture, and society (e.g., influence of historical context on form, style, and point of view; influence of literature on political events; social influences on author’s description of characters, plot, and setting; how writer’s represent and reveal their cultures and traditions)
  • Knows the defining characteristics of a variety of literary forms and genres (e.g.,fiction, nonfiction, myths, poems, biographies, autobiographies, science fiction, supernatural tales, satires, parodies, plays, drama, American literature, British literature, world and ancient literature, the Bible)

U.S. History

Understands the economic boom and social transformation of post-World War II United States

  • Understands the socioeconomic factors of the post-World War II period in America (e.g., the gap between poverty and the rising affluence of the middle class, the extent of poverty in post-World War II America)

The Arts: Theater

Understands how informal and formal theatre, film, television, and electronic media productions create and communicate meaning

  • Understands how the context in which a dramatic performance is set can enhance or hinder its effectiveness
  • Identifies and researches cultural, historical, and symbolic clues in dramatic texts


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