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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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3. Utopian Promise   

10. Rhythms
in Poetry

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•  Using the Video
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•  Activities
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Activities: Author Activities

T. S. Eliot - Teaching Tips

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  • Although written in free verse, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" continues the long-standing poetic tradition of the dramatic monologue. Students will probably be most familiar with the dramatic monologues of English poet Robert Browning, such as Last Duchess." Reading one of these famous poems can help students understand that the speaker is Prufrock, a fallible and possibly unreliable character and not the voice of Eliot himself. Try having your students stage the different parts of the monologue, using voices appropriate to the words. A similar strategy can be used for "Gerontion," which is also in the form of a dramatic monologue. Students often find the fragmented form, esoteric allusions, and disembodied speaker difficult and frustrating. Before discussing Eliot in class, have students write a line-by-line paraphrase of the poem and then a quick (three-to-four-sentence) plot synopsis. Begin class discussion by breaking into groups to compare the plot summaries and paraphrases. Each group should come up with a "master" versions; then have the class discuss the poem as a whole.

  • Consider beginning your discussion of Eliot with "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Encourage students to read the poem aloud and to listen to the sounds and rhythms. Instead of focusing on the footnotes, help them appreciate the lyric quality of Eliot's verse.

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