1. Using Dylan Thomas, discuss the sound and sense of literature. Ask students to read three other poems by Thomas. Are there similarities? Do any patterns repeat? Does this say anything about content and subject matter in Thomas’s poetry? Analyze another poem by Thomas.
2. Using the three translations of Psalm 23, ask students to identify the influences of society, language, and events on each translation of the Psalm.
3. Using Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, ask students to create a list of metaphors that they live by (the book, likely available in the library, has excellent examples).
4. Discuss symbols using Barbara G. Walker’s The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects. It offers the history of most accepted symbols. For example, the Caduceus seems to have had its origin in Mesopotamia, where intertwined snakes represented the healing god Ningishzida, one of the lovers of the goddess Ishtar. Ask students to discuss why they think our society continues to use such symbols given such mythological origins.
Study Guide (based on text) 1. What is the basic medium of literature?
2. What does the text refer to as sound and sense in literature?
3. What does your analysis of Dylan Thomas’s poem reveal about its content?
4. Describe the lyric in detail. In the first person, the narrator relates experiences by whom?
5. What is a narrative? Give its characteristics.
6. What narration does Sylvia Plath use in “Paralytic”? To what effect?
7. What is an episodic narrative and how does it treat events?
8. What does Pound’s haiku poem “In a Station of the Metro” reveal?
9. How does simile differ from metaphor?
10. What are the elements of a quest narrative, an organic narrative, an episodic narrative?
Exercises 1. After class discussion of symbols, students could be asked to trace the history of some of their favorite symbols, e.g., the cross, the arrow, yang and yin, the ring. Even the swastika, which was popular in the medieval Christian church, will be interesting. Barbara G. Walker’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects could be held on reserve in the library.
2. An exercise that works well to show metaphor is to ask students to list 10 verbs connected with the kitchen (e.g., sauté, chop, cut, chew, drink). Then ask them to make a list of 10 nouns connected with their favorite vacation spot (e.g., sand, umbrella, chair, wave). Then they should pick a noun and a verb with which to create a sentence (e.g., the wind chewed the umbrella to pieces). They need to be reminded to use the same form (verbs as verbs, nouns as nouns) in their sentences. This exercise allows them to see that they use metaphors constantly without realizing it. Note: the same exercise works by substituting verbs for war or sports or farming or sewing (there are others!) These metaphors slip into almost all of our language and play a large role in shaping our attitudes.
3. Ask students to write a short story that incorporates all of the following words:
“You Know What I Like” (a song)
When they are finished, ask them to decide if this qualifies as literature using the definitions provided in the text. (Make the second part of the assignment AFTER they complete the story or they may be intimidated by the idea that they are supposed to create literature!).