Thursday, May 29, 2014

Reading Period 37: May 28 - June 3: W.B. Yeats and T.S. Eliot


Textbook pages 928-938. ("The Song of Wandering Aengus" "When You Are Old" "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death" "Easter 1916" "The Second Coming" and "Sailing to Byzantium")
Textbook pages 949-954. ("Preludes" and "The Hollow Men")
"Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock" by Eliot (available online)
"The Stolen Child" by Yeats (available online)


Art Connection:

Take a listen to these two versions of Yeats' poem "The Stolen Child," set to music by Loreena McKinnett and The Waterboys:

The Waterboys have done a whole album of Yeats poems, here's a list of them.

Now watch this short interview with Mike Scott of The Waterboys, about setting Yeats to music:

Now try your own hand at setting a Yeats poem to your own tune. You can choose any poem you like, but to keep it simple for a start, why don't you give "When You Are Old" a crack?


Create a comic version of "The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock."

History Connection:

Yeats' goal in writing poems was to bolster the Irish identity and create a heroic ideal that Irish people could identify as their own. He was a senator in the short-lived "Irish Free State," which was formed by treaty after the Irish War of Independence. Do some research on this treaty and on the civil war that preceded it, and answer the following question in a 250 word essay. What was the Easter Rising in 1916? Keep in mind that in April 1916, Britain was also fighting in World War I. Here's a very pro-Irish site to read, here's an analysis of the Easter Rising from the BBC, with witness accounts and visuals. There's also the poem, "Easter 1916," in your textbook.

Writing Connection:

Read "The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock" and then read as much of the Shmoop analysis of this poem as you need to help you get a sense of what it's about. Prufrock is paralyzed by his modern world, afraid to act, afraid to be judged, afraid of all of the "women that come and go." Write your own poem back to Prufrock, kicking him in the rear and challenging him to act, speak, be a part of life, and get over his modernist fears of the 20th century. You could choose to write to Prufrock in the voice of one of the women he mentions, who talk of Michelangelo, or you can write to him as a voice from the future. Your poem should be in the style of T.S. Eliot -- that is, it doesn't have to rhyme or follow any particular form.


1. What was the name of Yeats' first book of poetry?
2. What was the purpose behind Yeats' writing?
3. How might an Irish airman, as portrayed in the poem on page 930, have felt differently about going to his death than an English airman, fighting against Germany in the same war?
4. What happened to the leaders of the rebellion portrayed in "Easter 1916"?
5. What is meant by the phrase "The falcon cannot hear the falconer" in the poem "The Second Coming"? How does that line relate to the next: "Things fall apart; the center cannot hold."
6. What does the speaker want from the sages in stanza III of "Sailing to Byzantium," and how does it relate to the phrase in stanza II "An aged man is but a paltry thing,/A tattered coat upon a stick, unless/Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing"?
7. Where was T.S. Eliot born and why is he in our textbook of British Literature?
8. What famous poem of T.S. Eliot's expressed the fragmentation of society that England experienced in the early 20th century?
9. Reading the works of what Italian poet lead Eliot closer to the Catholic faith?
10. The literary device "synecdoche" means using a part of something to stand for a whole thing. How does Eliot use this device in Prelude II?
11. What literary allusion comes in the epigraph to "The Hollow Men"?
12. Eliot compares the despairing modern "hollow men" to real men like Kurtz and Guy Fawkes. But those men had awful deaths. Why would modern readers want to be more like them and less like those under the sway of the "Shadow"?

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