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

11. Modernist Portraits

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Activities: Author Activities

Hart Crane - Teaching Tips

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  • The Bridge could be fruitfully paired with Whitman's Song of Myself or "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," as both poets aim to encompass and represent all aspects of America and American life. Ask students to find parallels in imagery, structure, and ideology between Crane's and Whitman's poems. Ask them to consider the difference between the symbol of the bridge as that which links times and places together as opposed to Whitman's use of himself as the connector of people from different times and places.

  • Because Crane uses visual references as touchstones for his poems, you might want to make your class's study of his work multi-media. The archive provides an image of the Brooklyn Bridge, which was constructed in the 1880s, when it was an engineering feat that surpassed all previous bridge construction and joined two of the most populous cities in the world. Consider presenting this information to extend your students' thinking about Crane's choice of the bridge as a symbol. Also ask them to consider the form of the Brooklyn Bridge, which, despite its modern construction, employs an almost medieval architectural vocabulary. You might also show a clip from a Charlie Chaplin film in conjunction with Crane's "Chaplinesque" and ask some of the same questions--what is it about this icon of silent film that appeals to Crane? How might Chaplin's body movements and the plots he involves himself in be attractive as a subject for poetry?

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