Connecting Poetry & Art Lesson Plan



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Connecting Poetry & Art Lesson Plan



William Blake: Imagery, Allusions, and Opposites

Grades: High School (9–12)

Subjects: Visual Arts, English–Language Arts

Time Required: Three to four 50-minute periods

Author: J. Paul Getty Museum Education Staff


Lesson Overview

Students examine William Blake’s poem “A Poison Tree” and drawing Satan Exulting over Eve, analyzing the symbolism, metaphors, and imagery used. They identify themes explored in the poem and drawing and then write original poems about the same theme in a modern-day setting. Poems should incorporate symbolism, metaphor, and vivid imagery.



Learning Objectives

Students will:



  • analyze and describe the symbols, metaphors, and imagery used in a poem and drawing by William Blake.

  • analyze the use of opposites and the theme of good vs. evil in poetry and visual art.

  • identify and write examples of allusion and antithesis in poetry.

  • write poems in the first-person perspective.



Materials


  • Reproduction of Satan Exulting over Eve by William Blake

  • Student journals

  • Videos of excerpts or trailers of movies with characters distinguished as good and evil, such as the following:

    • Star Wars movies

http://starwars.com/watch/the-movies/

http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/wb/harrypotterandthedeathlyhallowspart2/

    • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0rj2uyWdpU

  • Copies of William Blake’s poem “A Poison Tree” (available on the Poetry Foundation’s Web site at http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/175222)

Featured Getty Artwork

Satan Exulting over Eve by William Blake

http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=75

Lesson Steps

Warm-up

  1. Ask students to identify stories or movies in which there are good and evil forces (e.g., comic books, “Star Wars” movies). You may wish to show videos of excerpts or trailers of movie examples.



  1. Tell students that it’s common for artists and writers to explore themes of opposite forces such as good vs. evil. Have students write in their journals about a time in their life when they experienced or witnessed good vs. evil.



  1. Ask students if they can think of other examples of opposites in literature they’ve read or movies they’ve seen (e.g., war/peace, fear/courage, rational/emotional, mind/heart).

Opposites in Blake’s Poetry

  1. Distribute copies of the poem “A Poison Tree” by William Blake. Allow students time to read it once quietly, and then ask for volunteers to take turns reading each stanza aloud.



  1. Point out that the poem begins with opposites—friend/foe. Blake uses a literary device called antithesis—a device in which two contrasting or opposite ideas balance one another, often due to similar grammatical structures. An example of antithesis can be found in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, in which he says that he dreams of a nation where his children “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Discuss Blake’s poem using the following prompts:

  • Where else can you find opposites in the poem (e.g., end/grow, day/night, night/morning, tears/smiles, shine/veild)?

  • In the first stanza, what do you think the speaker means by “I told my wrath”? How might that prevent anger from growing?

  • In the second stanza, what does “it” refer to?

  • What do you associate with the word “apple”? What do you think it symbolizes in the third stanza?

  • Was the last line surprising? Why or why not?

  • Do you think the speaker would have preferred that his anger with his foe had ended? What evidence can you find to back up your claim?

  • Consider the title. What is the “poison” of the tree referring to?



  1. Point out that artists and writers often reference literary, visual, and historical works in their own art and writings. This device is called allusion. Identify allusions to Adam and Eve in “A Poison Tree.” Ask students if they can think of other literary allusions to a poison tree or fruit (e.g., “Snow White,” “Strange Fruit”). Continue the discussion using the following questions:

  • What opposing forces are reflected in the story of Adam and Eve?

  • Why do you think Blake references this biblical story in his poem?



  1. Inform students that “A Poison Tree” is part of an illustrated collection of poems called Songs of Experience, which follows a series called Songs of Innocence. The poems in Songs of Innocence explore the innocent state of childhood, whereas those in Songs of Experience explore how oppressive forces and the fears and flaws of human nature impact one’s lived experience. If “A Poison Tree” was revised and told from the perspective of an innocent child, what is a possible alternate ending for the poem? What are positive alternatives for coping with anger?

Opposites in Blake’s Art

  1. Inform students that Blake also explored opposites in his works of visual art. Display a reproduction of his drawing Satan Exulting over Eve. Give students the opportunity to look closely at the work without seeing the title. Ask them for their initial observations. Discuss the drawing using the following questions, and share background information about the work as appropriate throughout the discussion:

  • What do you notice about the figures’ poses and facial expressions?

  • Based on these details, what can you deduce about what is happening?

  • What are the figures holding? What do the objects symbolize?

  • What do you see that are opposites?

  • How would you describe the mood of this watercolor?

  • What did the artist do to evoke this mood?

  • Based on what you see, what do you think happened before the scene depicted in the drawing?

  • What do you think will happen next?

  • Why do you think the story of Adam and Eve resonates with modern-day viewers?

  • What can visual art communicate about the theme of good vs. evil that cannot be communicated in poetry, and vice versa?

  • How does William Blake use the medium of watercolor (as opposed to sculpture or drawing) to help communicate the story?

  • Why does the theme of good vs. evil continue to be explored in various art forms?

Have students write in their journals why they think the theme of good vs. evil endures over time in literature and art.

  1. Ask students where they see examples of good vs. evil in current events or daily life. Tell students that they will work in pairs to write original poems that explore the theme of good vs. evil in a modern-day setting. Have students brainstorm ideas of topics in their journals and then share their ideas with the class.



  1. Give the student pairs time to select one topic to write about. Have them brainstorm a list of characters that would be affected by the topic. Inform students that Blake believed that imagination is essential to life and that both poetry and visual art stem from poetic imagination. Tell students pairs they will use their imagination and write from the perspective of two different characters—one they consider “good,” and the other they consider “evil.” For inspiration, you may wish to review poems about Adam and Eve, such as the following:

  • “adam thinking” and “eve thinking” by Lucille Clifton (available on the PBS Fooling with Words Web site at http://www.pbs.org/wnet/foolingwithwords/t_txtclifton.html)

  • “Satan Exulting over Eve” by Jeffrey McDaniel (available in the YouTube video “Dark Blushing: American Poems Inspired by British Watercolors” at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cbihFqom3Q)

Instruct students to use vivid imagery and include at least one example of allusion and antithesis in their poems.

  1. After students complete their poems, lead a discussion about the idea of good vs. evil. Ask students the following questions:

  • What did you learn from exploring two different perspectives of a topic?

  • How realistic is it to categorize situations and people as good vs. evil?

  • Revisit the journal you wrote about experiencing or witnessing good vs. evil. Would you still describe it as good vs. evil?

Extensions

  • Show students the illustrated version of “A Poison Tree” (available on the William Blake Archive Web site at http://www.blakearchive.org/blake/images/songsie.z.p49.300.jpg). Tell students that Blake illustrated the poems in Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. Have students illustrate the borders of their own poems, as Blake did.

  • Connect to other literary texts that explore themes of good vs. evil, such as Milton’s Paradise Lost.

Assessment

Students will be assessed on their ability to achieve the following



  • analyze and describe symbols, metaphors, and imagery used in a poem and drawing.

  • analyze the use of opposites and the theme of good vs. evil in poetry and visual art.

  • identify and write examples of allusion and antithesis in poetry.

  • write poems in the first-person perspective.

Standards Addressed

Common Core Standards for English Language Arts
Grades 9–10

Reading: Literature



RL.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

RL.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).
Grades 11–12

Reading: Literature



RL.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

RL.11-12.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful. (Include Shakespeare as well as other authors.)

Grades 9–12

Writing


4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Grades 9–12

Speaking and Listening



1. Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards

Grades 912

R.CCR.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

R.CCR.4 Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

R.CCR.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

R.CCR.10. Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

W.CCR.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

SL.CCR.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

Visual Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools

Grades 9 through 12—Proficient

1.0 Artistic Perception

1.5 Analyze the material used by a given artist and describe how its use influences the meaning of the work.

Grades 9 through 12—Advanced

1.0 Artistic Perception



1.8 Analyze the works of a well-known artist as to the art media selected and the effect of that selection on the artist’s style.


© 2014 J. Paul Getty Trust


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