T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

Also for Introduction to Literary Studies at Bryant University, this class time was mostly devoted to a “close reading” of Eliot’s modern love epic. I begin by making connections between the text and our first day of class, in which we discussed some essential conventions of literature as described by Jonathon Culler. I point out Culler’s notion of literary self-reflexivity in relation to Eliot’s study of Dante and his beginning “Prufrock” with an epigraph from¬†The Divine Comedy.¬†Together, we apply one method of the interpretation to the first stanza of the poem, for which I write guiding questions on the board. We used this method twice before in class. I ask students to consider key words from the passage and any pattern or relationship that might be established among them; they should think about the tone or mood suggested by these words; they should pick out any significant imagery, etc.; finally, students should determine how they believe the passage fits in with the whole text, how it distinguishes itself and relates to the rest. After we examine the first stanza together, I put the students into groups and assign various stanzas to each. In the following class, each group chooses a partner to write their collective notes on the board while another member explains their process. My goal was for students to critically interpret and vocalize those interpretations several times as a way of trying out their perspectives while having them challenged.

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