Tuesday’s discussion on how to teach T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” made me think of how hard it is to teach a poem of that magnitude and the planning that needs to be done. In other words, it made me think of how context is so crucial with this poem and how that comes into play. When I first read the poem in Professor Hanley’s English 528 class about a year and a half ago, I didn’t realize how complexed this poem is with students until we really came up with ideas yesterday on how to make sure the students understood it. For example, I remember coming up with some visual annotations for the poem and going further into the symbolism with each section. However, this was such a good idea to come up with fresh new lessons to look towards authentic learning with the students.
One thing that I really thought was extremely resourceful was Veronica’s idea of looking at the pre-war/post-war connections to “The Wasteland.” I would have never thought of that. It made me think in the class of the literature that could be compared/contrasted to the poem. For example, even though this is not an American novel, but what if the students read excerpts of All Quiet on The Western Front and contrasted it with the poem? To me, I think of “The Wasteland” as this pre-war struggle in the world and All Quiet on The Western Front as this post-war struggle. However, both of them discuss this sort of fear occurring in the world. That is the connecting theme that could be looked at when teaching “The WasteLand.”
I really thought it was interesting when Professor Hanley simply explained that poems are transactions. Poems exchange ideas throughout the whole piece and present fragmented ideas. When we use dialogue in our daily lives, we blurt out fragmented phrases and rarely do we have precise sentences in our verbal language. In other words, poems reflect the language in which we have learned ever since we were born.
I think this discussion taught me ways to formally come up with a lesson plan for “The Wasteland” because it teaches us grad students to look beyond just coming up with our own assignments and look deeply how we can benefit the undergraduate students in literature. In fact, this will help me when I take the teaching creative writing course this spring because one of the main projects in that class is to formulate a syllabus. It stood out to me when someone brought up the syllabus being your thesis for the class. To me, that is so significant because of the texts being discussed in class reflect your teaching philosophy. I loved going back to the “Conversations with Text” article because it helped me with how much it is crucial for students to think about the poem and how it makes them feel. This is something I would want to implement when I get a chance to teach this poem. I truly wish our graduate seminars included more of this because it gets us thinking about how to really authentically teach these texts and make them learn/unlearn the poem. We need more student input on how to teach challenging texts like “The Wasteland.”