Planes, (subway) trains, automobiles and World War I—A dramatic shift in sensibilities ocurred as a result of these factors of modern life.
Credit: Images courtesy of American Memory
The English novelist Virginia Woolf declared that human nature underwent a fundamental change "on or about December 1910." The statement testifies to the modern writer's fervent desire to break with the past, rejecting literary traditions that seemed outmoded and diction that seemed too genteel to suit an era of technological breakthroughs and global violence.”
—from the EDSITEment-reviewed Academy of American Poets “The Modernist Revolution: Make It New”
Modernist poetry often is difficult for students to analyze and understand. A primary reason students feel a bit disoriented when reading a modernist poem is that the speaker himself is uncertain about his or her own ontological bearings. Indeed, the speaker of modernist poems characteristically wrestles with the fundamental question of “self,” often feeling fragmented and alienated from the world around him. In other words, a coherent speaker with a clear sense of himself/herself is hard to find in modernist poetry, often leaving students confused and “lost.”
Such ontological feelings of fragmentation and alienation, which often led to a more pessimistic and bleak outlook on life as manifested in representative modernist poems such as T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (1917), were prompted by fundamental and far-reaching historical, social, cultural, and economic changes in the early 1900s. These changes transformed the world from one that seemed ordered and stable to one that felt futile and chaotic.
In this lesson, students will explore the role of the individual in the modern world by closely reading and analyzing T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”
If you wish students to complete the worksheet at home, hand out the Prufrock Analysis Worksheet for students to complete as they are reading T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” in preparation for Lesson Three. Otherwise, make copies for students to complete during in-class individual or group work.
Note that these questions are also available as an Online Interactive.
|Pre-Modern World (e.g., Romantic, Victorian Periods)||Modern World (early 20th century)|
|Faith||Loss of Faith|
|Morality/Values||Collapse of Morality/Values|
|Clear Sense of Identity||Confused Sense of Identity and Place in World|
And indeed there will be time
To wonder, "Do I dare?" and, "Do I dare?"
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair--
[They will say: "How his hair is growing thin!"]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin--
[They will say: "But how his arms and legs are thin!"]
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
Assessment options include the following exercises:
Continue analyze T.S. Eliot’s poetry by reading “The Waste-Land.” Resources include the following:
1-2 class periods