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The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Fifth Edition
Paul Lauter, General Editor
Sample Assignments

Approaching T.S. Eliot's "Prufrock"
Miriam K. Harris, PhD, May 09, 2002

Description of assignment:
When I introduce sophomore and freshman students to the imagist movement, and Eliot and Pound, I usually assign some simpler poems first and then either "Prufrock" or The Wasteland.

However, before I give them any direct information on either poem, I have them break into groups and look at each stanza, individually to identify:
central theme, controlling metaphor, persona/e, setting, and other dominating imagery.

I ask them not to try to make sense of the poem but to free associate with the information as they identify it.

Then of course as each group reports their findings, we begin to make some analytical observations.

It's worked very well--at least most of the time.

Description of the course in which the assignment was used:
I use this approach in Composition 2, which is a freshman literary analysis course and in American Lit 2, which is a sophomore survey course. Our classes run about 25 students and their range extends from those who have very little reading and critical thinking backgrounds, to more adult students, especially returning ones, eager to delve deep into the material.

Course coverage:
From Mid-19th to Modern Literature

What pedagogical goals do you think this assignment achieves:
This assignment allows students to move from a confused rational approach to a creative, energetic approach. Meaning comes from free-association of images.

Assignment type:
Group Work, In-Class Reports, Short Papers

Relevant URLs:
None listed.

Poetic Form

Related authors and groups:
T.S. Eliot