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

Singing Scansion
Lois Leveen, April 27, 2001

Description of approach to teaching with the Heath Anthology:
To introduce the study of scansion, I have my students 'sing' Dickinson poems (many of them work) to the tune of the 'Gilligan's Island' theme song ('The Yellow Rose of Texas' and 'I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing' also work, but Gilligan is the tune they know best).

Description of the course in which the approach to teaching with the Heath Anthology was used:
I've used this in several different courses in which non majors are studying poetry (one course was an Intro to Literary Studies originally designed for English majors-to-be but that now is also required as a writing course by many other majors; another course was a Women and Literature course on poetry that was cross listed in English and Women's Studies).

Course Coverage:

What pedagogical goals do you think this approach to teaching with the Heath Anthology achieves:
So many students struggle with scansion, because they aren't trained to identify meter in poetry, that trying to fit the poem into the regular rhythm of a song helps them. Basically, as the whole class (25-60 students, depending on which course) sings, the students suddenly discover that one line doesn't 'fit' the song. I then ask what thematic shift in the poem occurs at the point in which the regular meter is disrupted (e.g., stanza 4 of 'Because I could not stop for Death'). As the students debate, they come to understand how poetic form can reflect and advance a poem's theme. From here, we more easily move on to consider how other poets use rhythm in their work. Boy do students remember the lesson!

Relevant URLs:
None listed.

Poetic form

Related authors and groups:
Emily Dickinson