Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Poe in our Homeschool Co-op Literature class

I teach 2 high school literature classes at a homeschool co-op on Thursdays. One American and one Brit.

This week in our American Literature studies, we're covering Edgar Allan Poe. Appropriate for the season, I think. I enjoy read my literature by seasons. Some books are better during a particular time of year, wouldn't you agree?  Do you do this too?

Yesterday's class was the best class we've ever had. I cannot get my American Literature class to open up and enjoy it.  Yesterday, however, they went crazy for Poe.  No pun intended.  I was so pleased. I've decided we should discuss insanity, guilt, grief, murder, mystery, blood and gore every week, if it will get my students excited about American Literature. LOL

We're covering The Tell-Tale Heart right now, my favorite short story of his. I'm having my students write a newspaper article on the murder as a creative writing assignment. There are some great vocabulary words in this story. Don’t miss those. We will also have a mock trial. I'm dividing my small class up into prosecution and defense. They will use source material found in the story.

Notice in The Tell-Tale Heart how the prose beats like an adrenaline filled heart in places.   The more you read of it, the more you will hear it. I noticed a ton of 3 syllable words in close proximity, which personally made me imagine a heart beat. Read it again and again, and you'll start hearing the heart beat yourself. Also notice how the Narrator never tries to defend his innocence; he keeps defending his sanity. Who is the narrator speaking with and trying to convince? An officer? The judge? His attorney? Us? Apparently, during the 1840's when this was written, the insanity defense became a great debate (always remember your context).

Yesterday, we had a big discussion over the victim's blindness. The story almost seems to move in slow motion. The narrator opens the lantern and shines the light on the “vulture eye” and the man did not defend himself. Could he not? One of my students suggested he was blind. DUH!!! It didn't occur to me. He only "heard" something in the room, but when the light was shinning on his eye, he did nothing. Was he frozen in fear or did he not see it? So we had a big long discussion over how fast the event could have occurred, his possible blindness in both eyes, was the Narrator really insane, or just a little insane and had he done this before?

We found irony in the fact that the man with the "evil vulture eye" was not "the evil" one. Also, there is irony in the senses. The poor old man couldn't see evil, but the narrator could. Both of them could "hear" evil and "death". Very interesting. I'm going to be thinking about this and the universal themes throughout the week. I tend to obsess over literature like that. LOL

Poe's writing style and literary techniques really pull me in, which is what a great author wants, right? I think we'll have a mysterious dinner, candlelit with ominous Bach playing in the background, and sit around the dinner table reading his poems and short stories. Especially right now with the wind blowing so hard in Florida as our natural special effect, a Poe night would be perfect. A chill blew in last night too so maybe we’ll open the windows and all literally and figuratively shiver.

Are you a Poe fan?  Do you have anything to add?  Thoughts? Ideas?

Here are some helpful links:

Study Guide for the Tell Tale Heart

Web English Teacher Poe site

Poe Museum

The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore

10 Weird Things You Don't Know About Poe

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