Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

13. Southern Renaissance

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Activities: Author Activities

Robert Penn Warren - Teaching Tips

Back Back to Robert Penn Warren Activities
  • "Bearded Oaks," one of Warren's early poems, provides a good starting point for students. You might begin by trying to get students to think about the somewhat incongruous imagery within the poem: Where is the poem set? Who is the poem about? What doesn't seem to fit with this description of people "waiting" in the grass? Break your students into groups. Ask one group to describe the characters in the poem--who are they and what are they doing? Have the other group describe the poem's settings in their own words--what are the different settings, and how do they affect the meaning of the poem? Finally, have the groups work together to match the characters with the settings to arrive at a better idea of the meaning of the poem. Try to guide your students toward the poem's metaphysical concerns, its meditation on the inevitability of decay, and its fear that true human communication may not be possible. What does the allusion to an underwater setting suggest? What happens to organic matter under water? What is the significance of the "debate" that is "voiceless" here?

  • In poems such as "Audubon," Warren turned his lifelong interest in history into an exploration of the human condition. After they've read "Audubon," ask your students to recreate the poem in prose, paying attention to the dual nature of the poem. What history does the poem recount? What is the story of human nature it seems to be telling? Have your students write a short (one-page) prose story that attempts to capture these histories.

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