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Custom Introduction to Literature



In this discussion, you will explore the poetry of two famous African-American writers. One of them, James Weldon Johnson, wrote during the period known as the Harlem Renaissance (1920’s).

The other, Maya Angelou, is a contemporary writer who died only recently and who was commissioned to write and recite a poem at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton.
Upon successful completion of this assignment you will be able to:

  • Identify various examples of literary devices.
  • Explain how various literary devices are used to communicate truths about humankind in a work of poetry.
  • Analyze the message of a piece of poetry using biblical principles.



  1. Read the headnote on James Weldon Johnson (pp. 292-294). Read James Weldon Johnson’s “The Creation” (pp. 298-300). What reason for creating the world does Johnson attribute to God in the first stanza?
  2. What do you think Johnson’s reason was for portraying God as having this human emotion?
  3. Aside from giving God a reason for creating the world, identify another difference between the portrayal of the Creation Story in Johnson’s poem and the biblical account in Genesis chapters 1-2. Provide a possible reason that Johnson may have changed the story in this way.
  4. What effect does Johnson’s portrayal have on your perception of God? Explain your reactions to the poem, positive or negative, and support your answer with specific references to the poem.
  5. Read the headnote on Maya Angelou (p. 301). Watch these two videos: Maya Angelou on her Childhoodand Maya Angelou Reciting “Still I Rise.” To whom does the poem seem to be addressed? Explain your reasoning.
  6. Give an example from the poem of a concrete image Angelou uses to invoke a feeling or to make a statement. Explain the function of the image in the poem. In your explanation, consider the color of the image, and discuss whether its color is significant.
  7. Give an example of a specific literary device Angelou uses in this poem and label it correctly. (Review Glossary 3.4 to refresh your memory about options.)
  8. The tone of a poem can be expressed in a single adjective. How would you identify the tone of this poem? Give three examples of diction (word choice) that help to establish this tone.
  9. Compose a thesis statement for one of these two poems using this structure: “(Author name)’s poem (title) uses (specific literary device #1) and (specific literary device #2) to show that (universal theme).
  10. Select two quotations from the poem you have chosen and explain how they can be used to support your thesis statement.
  11. Explain how the tone and/or message of the poem you have selected compares with the biblical worldview. Would the bible support or condemn the poet’s message and/or tone? Include at least one biblical quote to support your answer.


Last Updated on March 22, 2019

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