Do you think the Love Song of J ALfred Prufrock would have been so popular if .... - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 17 Old 02-18-2012, 08:22 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Before I begin I feel obligated again to acknowledge that I have been interested i SO MANY posts here of late but not been able to jump in at the right time and wishing I could write all the stuff swirling around in my head.

 

But thanks to all of you who are keeping this board SO interesting.

 

Now I have a question  -

 

I was thinking about something - (okay I will admit it, I was thinking about the blurry line btw hs and us and the point where us departs completely onto its own philosophy of learning and knowledge, as opposed to being a "more flexible" or "more relaxed" form of hs - which in practical terms is how I have often thought about it).  At some point in my internal discussion, I thought to myself,

 

"That is not it, at all."

 

And the voice in my head that said this was quoting the Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock.

 

Now the funny thing about this poem is that I think about it SO OFTEN.  And quote from it with some expectation of being understood as quoting from it - I guess it works this way for famous movies too.  

 

But how did this poem enter the popular culture other than being assigned in school?  (Note that I have no idea if this is assigned all across the country or it was just my English teacher)

 

Does the fact that we all read this poem in school add something to our lives - maybe not what the canon-makers thought it would or should, but key phrases like

 

          And in short, I was afraid.

 

         Do I dare
         Disturb the universe?

 

Just to make it clear - I am not asking whether we should "strew" from the canon or do anything in particular to see that it is read or learned.  

 

(And though  it is another fascinating discussion I am also not asking (here) whether the canon is well-founded, imperialist, misogynist, or otherwise defective.)

 

I am just wondering ... hmm, let me see, what am I wondering?  :lol

 

ok, just took a shower and figured out what i was wondering ...

 

Movies/TV have million dollar budgets to push them into popular culture.

Literary work has school  (also getting tied into the corporate culture, in form & content).

 

What do we have?


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#2 of 17 Old 02-18-2012, 08:57 PM
 
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I guess another way to ask your question is: Are kids likely to get interested in poetry if they aren't made to read it in school?  I'm guessing the answer is yes.  Not most kids, probably, but the same kids who would have gotten interested if they had been in school.  The kids who are made to read poetry in school and actually end up liking it and memorizing bits of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock are probably the kind of kids who would at some point get interested in reading poetry anyway if they didn't go to school.  I bet there aren't too many kids who would never have picked up a book of poetry on their own but who ended up as poetry lovers just because they had to read poems in school.

 

However, I have to say that the poetry text we were assigned in AP English, Sound and Sense, made me suddenly feel as if I could understand poetry after all, and being required to read poems from that book made me fall in love with poetry in a way that otherwise probably wouldn't have happened right at that point in my life.  Maybe it never would have happened at all, though I suspect it would have eventually.

 

I think all it takes to get kids interested in poetry (the kind of kids who have the potential to get interested) is access to a book of poetry and some reason for picking it up and reading bits of it. I can think of lots of ways that could happen outside of school.  And anyone who starts to get interested in poetry is going to run into the famous poems like Prufrock before too long.  I was never assigned it in school (though I was assigned a book that included it), but I found it and loved it anyway.  I think it entered popular culture mainly by being included in every anthology of great poems more than by being assigned in school.

 

Disclaimer: I'm not actually an unschooler.  Hopefully it's okay for me to respond anyway.

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#3 of 17 Old 02-18-2012, 09:23 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi Daffodil!

Excited by your prompt and thoughtful reply, I am also replying right away even though I usually prefer to wait for a day or two ....

Quote:
Are kids likely to get interested in poetry if they aren't made to read it in school?

 

Ah, Daffodil ... "That is not what I meant at all.
  That is not it, at all." 

 

:-)

 

Just want to add that it is of course okay for you to respond.  Just nice to talk about poetry - wow, didn't realize how much I ached for it.

 

I didn't realize it was in Sound and Sense.  That makes sense, because in college I heard all the other kids mention that anthology, and I had not had that one in high school.  I actually don't remember what anthology we had.  And come to think of it I find it funny that I wasn't motivated (as far as I can remember) to go and look up that anthology either. 

 

 I am sure the schools and colleges are a large part of the market for these anthologies.  (And the anthologies are convenient for teachers to use).   So popularity due to anthologizing is not really unrelated to being required reading. 

 

More later, gotta run!

 

 


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#4 of 17 Old 02-18-2012, 09:34 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rumi View Post

Hi Daffodil!

Excited by your prompt and thoughtful reply, I am also replying right away even though I usually prefer to wait for a day or two ....

Quote:
Are kids likely to get interested in poetry if they aren't made to read it in school?

 

Ah, Daffodil ... "That is not what I meant at all.
  That is not it, at all." 


Hmm, so what did you mean, by "What do we have?"  Did you mean, How can unschooling become part of popular culture?

 

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#5 of 17 Old 02-19-2012, 07:09 AM
 
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Or maybe how do we impart the ideas and cultural elements that we found so formative? That left an indelible mark upon us? So that it does not fade into something we reference and they ignore like an inside joke they are simply not a part of?  Is that what you're asking?

 

Because I have a hard time seeing that as a possibility.  What I have witnessed through my own experience and that of some other homeschoolers is that the family sort of naturally becomes its own culture, that ideas and styles, literature and film and knowledge, all flow from the parents in a very inclusive way.  I know that for our family, it flows in the opposite direction as well. DS discovers things through avenues I may not explore and introduces me to concepts, music,  etc. that I have never encountered and might not ever have experienced were it not for him.  So, strewing or not, when there's not much separation between child and parent on a daily basis, when there is an inclusive vibe and an open invitation to ask questions, they will ask about whatever the parents discuss, read or write about, and watch, and often that will translate into a willingness to ask basically everyone they encounter about what they are interested or engaged in. Thus horizons are broadened far beyond what they might be exposed to in school.

 

As for me, I do not recall reading that poem or much poetry at all in school. But I moved around a lot and so got inconsistent instruction.  I might have missed out on that anthology because one school would have introduced it my junior year, and then I would move to a school as a junior where it was typically introduced to sophomores.  I know that happened with several subjects, and I took American Lit 3 times in high school for that reason.  I was stuck doing the work of that class over and over.  It numbed me to the joys of first discovering it and left little time for exploring other genres beyond the textbook.  So most of what I learned in that class has dissolved in my memory.  What I draw from most is the things that I read prior to high school, things steeped in adventure, lots of Verne, Twain, Wells, Asimov, etc.  I did have a little book of Emily Dickinson that I read over and over.

 

All this, and I'm not even sure that it's a direct or meaningful response to what you are trying to say.

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#6 of 17 Old 02-19-2012, 07:15 AM
 
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Wow, Rumi. Great thoughts. And I never (in my years of college and public school) was made to read that poem, nor have I ever read it. But I'm sure going to go see if I can find it now!! 

 

Thanks for that.

 

Your thought process feels familiar to me. I wonder about things like this too. (Youth poetry slams and poetry reading events seem like real-life ways that poetry can be spread & interest in it sparked.)

 

Daffodil, to answer your last question, I think that what Rumi was asking was without these big forces pushing poetry and literature into our kids' lives, are our (unschooled) kids going to be exposed to some very wonderful, thought-provoking works that can make a profound difference in their lives.

 

I think the possible answer to the question "what do WE have?" very well could be....just handing it down generation to generation. The kids see us reading & loving it, they get curious, and if they like it, they share it and create their own art, and pass the interest onto their own kids, etc. That is how culture was passed down before these "mass" methods existed.

 

I hope this makes sense. I am writing this with the television on in the background and it tends to scatter my thoughts. 

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#7 of 17 Old 02-19-2012, 08:00 AM
 
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Rereading "Love Song" at 7:30 in the morning, with "....it's Shaun the Sheep/  It's Shaun the Sheep/  He even mucks about with those that cannot bleat!" blaring over the top of all the other morning noises is a bit surreal.

 

I have it in a T. S. Eliot collection that was given to me as a high school graduation present.  My high school English teacher loved the realists, Eliot and Yeats (? please make any corrections, I'm not sure I have that right?).  She was unabashedly biased.  She also hated the romantics.  On the day she started teaching Shelley, she had a quote from his poem written on the chalkboard to illustrate why she hated them:  "I fall upon the thorns of life!  I die!  I faint!  I fail!"  Even to this day I remember that.

 

From this collection, I often read from "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats" to my girls.  It is wonderful fun.  They are not as willing to read poetry as they once were.  We loved Milne's collections, so wonderful, and Stevenson and we have a wonderful collection of poems, "Oxford Collection of Poems for Children" from which we can read the original words to the wonderful "Aikendrum" that Raffi sang so wonderfully.

 

I know, this is necessarily about poetry, I am just thinking outloud.  

 

I see this also as my girls possibly not having the same collective experience as other kids in their generation.  Time passes.  Some experiences, like poetry, plays, literature and art, can survive the ages for all to discover.  Others rarely live much past their own time.  I own a Hopalong Cassidy record/book that was my dad's.  I missed that one, but enjoyed Abbott&Costello, Laurel&Hardy, Little Rascals, that belonged to other generations.

 

In *my* unabashedly biased opinion, unschooling can nurture the spark of interest and curiosity.  And that doesn't have a specific "thing" attached to it like the soundbites of knowledge given at school.  Yes, I am forever thankful to my English teacher for introducing me to "Wuthering Heights".  But it was I who discovered Jane Austen.  I discovered "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" on my cousin's bookshelf.  My first boyfriend introduced the Cocteau Twins and Peter Murphy to me, and the Impressionists.  Friends introduced me to the Grateful Dead.  From my father's basement came "The Electric Koolaid Acid Test" and "Crime and Punishment".  I picked up "Brothers Karamozov" myself.  ("Fear and Loathing" came right on the heels of "crime and Punishment"-- and not by accident!).  Friends introduced Hermann Hesse and Ayn Rand (sorry, zzzzzzzzzz.  Tried to read "Atlas Shrugged" but kept falling asleep.)  And my daughters got me picking up the classic Pooh stories, Pippi Longstocking, Kipling, Collodi.  It is ongoing.  Most of what I remember is what I discovered after school, not in it.

 

So, no I don't think necessarily that unschooling "has" anything beyond John Holt and other authors specific to unschooling.

 

 


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#8 of 17 Old 02-19-2012, 09:34 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks everyone helping me figure out what indeed I meant.   I am not saying I have done it, but I am going to jump in and think aloud here and there.

 

Daffodil asked, "Did you mean, How can unschooling become part of popular culture?"

 

Maybe that is close to what I meant.  That and the concept of the "inside joke" that Qalliope brought up.

 

Though unschoolers may miss out on canonical literature, most are still exposed to corporate media and in that sense don't "miss out" on the popular culture pushed by that industry.  In some sense school serves to introduce quality works that aren't necessarily popular - just like the library bases some of its collection on popularity (circulation) and some based on quality, so that these works stay on the shelf available for someone to discover 2 years from now even if no one touches it in the meanwhile.

 

The funny thing about the Love Song is that I wonder, if I read it today in the New Yorker, would I care?   Was there something about reading it at that age, like a collective experience?  Nellie Katz, did it do anything for you?

 

Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

 

 

I remember our teacher saying something like contrast what is evoked by "Love Song" and the name "J Alfred Prufrock."  It was very obvious that the name sounded like a briefcase toting stock broker.   (And stock brokers did not even have such a bad reputation then, I don't think.  Just thought of as un-poetic.)  That made us all laugh and start enjoying it.  But somehow that poem just spoke to us, and was readily spoken by us.  Into the room the women come and go. 

 

Do you think schools promote bonding due to shared misery?  If so, what do we have?

 

Quote from Nellie Katz:
without these big forces ... are our (unschooled) kids going to be exposed to some very wonderful, thought-provoking works that can make a profound difference in their lives.

 

Sure they will, I have no doubt that wonders will be wondered, thoughts will be provoked.

 

I am sure that there are many works outside the canon that are even more wonderful and thought-provoking that what is in it and especially those that have not had the benefit of "big forces" would be stronger for having had to work twice as hard  ... or it could even be that some random thing  that appears on a twitter feed seems wonderful and thought provoking.

 

But will it be part of the collective culture?

 

 

Quote from Nellie Katz:
think the possible answer to the question "what do WE have?" very well could be....just handing it down generation to generation. ...<snip>. That is how culture was passed down before these "mass" methods existed.

 

Well ... before mass media there was probably more shared experience - fewer books, fewer channels, one radio or TV int he house so everyone listened / watched together, or if you go back before TV / radio then we would have storytelling, theater which again would be collectively enjoyed.  Even planes used to have one screen and everyone saw the same movie.   I saw a movie on a Greyhound bus once, it was suspenseful and definitely enhanced by the collective experience.

 

But I digress.

 

Quote:
Rereading "Love Song" at 7:30 in the morning, with "....it's Shaun the Sheep/  It's Shaun the Sheep/  He even mucks about with those that cannot bleat!" blaring over the top of all the other morning noises is a bit surreal.

Sweet Silver, this is too good.  I am going to have to try it.

Maybe *this* is what unschoolers have :love.gif


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#9 of 17 Old 02-19-2012, 10:29 AM
 
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I think collective experiences for a whole society are harder to come by these days.  Scanning through all the options on iTunes for something to listen to is mindboggling!  (But then, back in the day, the "collective experience" was often a bit of a sham.)  Today, we need something really, really big to be a collective experience.  800,000,000 users on Facebook (though that's a bit of a stretch--my sister has an extra one she forgot the password to and started over, my 15yo niece keeps making another one every few months to shake off the grownups who she can't NOT friend, and even my late father has an account that I still sometimes tag pictures to for the benefit of his friends.  Still, that's a tidy number, isn't it?)

 

And, I think it was brought up beforehand, we have the collective experience of the family.  My own I cherish more than any old poem.  And my kids will have theirs.  And if my enthusiasm rubs off on them, I think they might end up reading "Love Song" for themselves.  


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#10 of 17 Old 02-19-2012, 10:43 AM
 
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Well I don't know if I have an answer to the real deep part of the question but my mother used to quote from "Love Song...." ever since I was a baby/young kid (usually, "let us go then you and I as the evening is spread out upon the sky like a patient etherized upon a table."  So I knew it of it and what not way before any formal schooling. We read it in high school,  I was the only one who knew if before then, and probably one of only one or two who actually liked it.  What I would have to say, is that my mother liking it, knowing it, reciting it, was a powerful influence, my school not so much.

 

 

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#11 of 17 Old 02-19-2012, 05:22 PM
 
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Rumi, to answer your question, I loved it. And here's what I did. (I am so grateful to you for bringing this up!) I found it on the internet and emailed it to myself so I could read it on my iPhone as we went on a family trip today. So there I was, reading it aloud to my husband and son (my first time through the poem; I didn't know what to expect) as we drove down the road!

 

I loved it, and I need to read it again. One line caught in my throat as I read it aloud--you know, that feeling like you want to cry a little--" I have measured out my life with coffee spoons" -- that one really got to me. Such a lovely and succinct and sad line.

 

And when we reached our destination (a bookstore), I bought a book on the practice of writing poetry. So, your one little comment had a sort of domino effect.  :-)  Thanks for that.

 

I wish my son weren't so dead set against hearing something that I want him to hear, as in something I want to SHARE with him because I love it, and I think it might spark him. He's got a wall up, and I'm sure it's because I used to be even more wobbly than I am now about unschooling so I forced "lessons" on him. It sort of breaks my heart. I had him as a captive audience today in the car, and it wasn't directed "AT him" per se, so there was no problem, but I wish he were more open to stuff. 

 

Anyway, nice thread; thanks for starting this conversation.

 

 

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#12 of 17 Old 02-19-2012, 06:28 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Nellie Katz, that is neat!  What book did you buy?


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#13 of 17 Old 02-19-2012, 07:54 PM
 
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It is called "The Practice of Poetry," by Robin Behn and Chase Twichell, subtitled "writing exercises from poets who teach"

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#14 of 17 Old 02-19-2012, 09:09 PM
 
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All right, I think I'm beginning to get a clearer idea what you're asking.  I think you're asking whether there's some benefit to the shared experience of reading from the canon in school, a benefit beyond being exposed to the works themselves, that comes from our all having some common cultural knowledge.  And whether unschoolers are missing out on that, or whether maybe there's something else equally valuable they have instead.  And if that's what you're asking, the question, "Are kids likely to get interested in poetry if they aren't made to read it in school?" is not exactly the same question, but I think the answer to it is one answer to your question.  As I said upthread, I think the kind of kids who would actually get something valuable out of reading the canon in school are probably going to end up reading from it at home on their own if they don't go to school.  So they'll still be part of that common literary culture (as far as it continues to exist in the world of Twitter and Facebook.) 

 

I suppose some kids get a lot out of the collective experience of talking about books and poems with other kids in school.  I remember talking to a coworker years ago (long before I had kids) about homeschooling, and she thought it would be a shame for a kid to miss out on the kinds of literary discussions she had in high school English classes, where other kids would have insightful comments or different ways of looking at things.  But I never had any of that in my classes, not even in AP English.  I don't remember ever having a valuable or interesting class discussion about anything we read.  An unschooled kid reading from the canon could have essentially the same experience I had reading what was assigned in English class, because it was largely a solitary experience for me.  (Of course, a kid who didn't have anything specific assigned might not end up reading quite so many different things from the canon as I did.  And maybe I'm completely wrong in thinking that kids who would enjoy works from the canon are bound to discover them even if they're not assigned.)

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This discussion reminds me of a young person I know who is unschooled; her mom took her & her siblings out of school when she realized that because of school, they didn't have enough time to read. Yes, you read that one right. The kids love to read and school was getting in the way!!

 

So this girl loves reading (as do her siblings) and she especially loves Shakespeare, I think....well now she is a young teen and she is taking a literary criticism class at a local place that we have that offers classes, both for homeschoolers and for school kids to take after they get out of school. So my point is she sought out the kind of analysis & discussion that ideally would go on in a classroom but probably doesn't always happen. Unschoolers can do that; I imagine that local community colleges also offer some kind of class that a teen could sign up for too? We're not there yet. My soon-to-be nine year old son doesn't like to read, but I think that's just because he senses that I want him to do it. He'll get there eventually, if I don't manage to wreck it for him.  :-)

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#16 of 17 Old 02-20-2012, 08:45 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daffodil View Post

, the question, "Are kids likely to get interested in poetry if they aren't made to read it in school?" is not exactly the same question, but I think the answer to it is one answer to your question.
 

Touché.  

 

 

And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;         30
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

 


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#17 of 17 Old 02-20-2012, 10:54 AM
 
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This poem, conversely, kind of ruined modern poetry for me.  "Love Song" is so evocative.  It so easily works a picture in your head of J. Alfred, the streets of London, the smoke, the women, the whole scene, the pull and tug of self-reflection, the bounds of propriety ("Do I dare eat a peach?").  It is brilliant.  

 

For me, this poem ruined poetry in the same way that the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit ruined High Fantasy.  Ruined brilliantly, I should say.


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