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Studying Culture Through Texts: The Poisonwood Bible (Book Club Style)

In this 6-week class, we read and discuss a contemporary realistic fiction work, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, book club-style in order to better understand Congolese culture through the points of view of 5 narrators.
Victoria Atkinson, M.A.
93 total reviews for this teacher
Completed by 1 learner
  There are no upcoming classes.
50 minutes
per class
Once per week
over 6 weeks
year olds
learners per class
per learner - per class

How does aMulti-Daycourse work?

Meets multiple times at scheduled times
Live video chats, recorded and monitored for safety and quality
Discussions via classroom forum and private messages with the teacher
Great for engaging projects and interacting with diverse classmates from other states and countries

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Class Experience

Students will learn about Congolese and African culture through the narration of the 5 female characters: Orleanna, Rachel, Leah, Adah, and Ruth May. Each discussion will examine how Congolese and African culture attributes to the protagonists’ character development and overall themes. Students will also examine how Congolese culture and society changed post-colonialism. This will give students a chance to practice their literary analysis skills while also learning more about a culture either unlike or the same as their own. 
I have taught this book as part of my AP Literature curriculum for the last 5 years, and have been approved by the College Board to teach it. My bachelor's degree is in Social Studies Education, which was essentially a double-major in social sciences and secondary education. In order to be awarded that degree, I had to take world religions, cultural anthropology, and sociology courses, and I also took Africa and the Slave Trade for one of my non-western civilization courses. It was in those classes that I learned how to discuss and show the nuances of one's culture with delicacy, respect, and care. Lastly, my master's degree in English and Creative Writing program also helped me learn how to handle teaching sensitive topics in literature.
Students will need to read assigned sections before each meeting. The novel itself is broken up into 7 "books." I know most students get intimidated by the length of the sections, but rest assured, this is a quick read. In my experience, most students have a hard time stopping at the end of the assigned sections because they want to read on to see what happens next. 
 1 file available upon enrollment
Students will need to purchase a copy of The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.
Learners will not need to use any apps or websites beyond the standard Outschool tools.
There will be a post-meeting discussion post at the end of each class where students are highly encouraged to reflect on what they learned, as well as discuss thoughts that came up along the way. This is a great way to continue the discussion outside of class.
50 minutes per week in class, and an estimated 2 - 4 hours per week outside of class.
War, death, mild violence, divorce, and cultural nudity are all mentioned in this book. It is all written in a way to help depict the turmoil and cultural practices present in the Congo at the time.
In order to better understand Congolese culture, I will supplement our discussions with scholarly, peer-reviewed journal articles such as "Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible and the Essentializing of Africa: A Critical Double Standard?" and "The Continuing Process of Decolonization in the Congo: Fifty Years Later." These will help students understand the history of the Congo (DRC), the effects of decolonization on the culture itself, as well as the way the culture has been portrayed by writers such as Barbara Kingsolver. Through these articles, students will better understand the nuances of Congolese culture in the time period depicted in this book (1959-1998).


Victoria Atkinson, M.A.
Lives in the United States
Passionate, Relationship-Focused English & Social Studies Teacher
93 total reviews
173 completed classes

About Me

Here on Outschool, I currently teach a variety of English and history classes. These include my weekly, ongoing Creative Writing Club, various essay writing courses, AP Literature, and US History courses. Over time, I plan on offering more... 
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