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John Donne and W;t

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Domenica Polimeni

on 29 September 2014

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Transcript of John Donne and W;t

John Donne and W;t
Module A – Comparative Study of Texts and Context

Course Requirements:
-Yr 12 HSC Advanced English
- Section 2
Elective: Intertextual Connections
- English Stage 6 Syllabus (Advanced) - Page 45
Module Content Description
English Stage 6 Syllabus (Advanced) - Page 47
Elective: Intertextual Connections

- HSC Prescriptions 2015–20 English Stage 6 - Page 16
HSC English (Advanced) Course Objectives, Outcomes and Content
Students will develop knowledge and understanding of the purposes and effects of a range of textual forms in their personal, social, historical, cultural and workplace contexts

1. A student explains and evaluates the effects of different contexts of responders and composers on texts.
2. A student explains relationships among texts.
2A. A student recognises different ways in which particular texts are valued

1. Students learn to evaluate the effects of different contexts of responders and composers on texts by:
1.1 comparing and contrasting texts and their contexts
1.2 responding to and composing texts to achieve meaning in a range of contexts
1.3 explaining how values and attitudes are reflected in texts
1.4 explaining and evaluating changes in meaning arising from changes of context
1.5 generalising about the relationships between context and meaning.

2. Students learn to explain the relationships among texts by:
2.1 comparing and contrasting the forms and features of texts
2.2 describing and explaining the connections between texts
2.3 describing and explaining the ways in which texts are influenced by other texts and contexts.

2A. Students learn to recognise ways in which particular texts are valued by:
2A.1 responding to a range of texts that are valued differently in particular personal, social, cultural, historical and workplace contexts
2A.2 explaining how and why they are valued.

- English Stage 6 Syllabus (Advanced) - Page 49
-English Stage 6 Syllabus (Advanced) - Page 49
Prescribed Texts - Poetry and Drama

- The Sunne Rising
- The Apparition
- A valediction: forbidden mourning
- The Relique
- This is my playes last scene
- At the round earths imagin’d corners
- If poysonous mineralls
- Death be not proud
- Hymne to God my God, in my sicknesse

Synopsis 'The Soldier and Death'
Key Concept and themes

A honest soldier receives a ruby whistle, a comparable dance, an unbeatable deck of cards and a magic sack for being kind to three beggars. He defeats a bunch of devils by playing cards and catches them in his sack when they refuse to pay up. Years later, the last devil pays his debt by showing the Soldier a way to tell if sick people have a chance of recovering or not. After a successful career as a miracle doctor, the soldier manages to trick Death itself and trap it in his sack. From then on nobody died. But people were not meant to live forever and soon tired old men and women beg the soldier to set Death free and put things right. However, Death refused to take the soldier, dooming him to roam the Earth forever.
- Courage
- Death
- Religion
- Dreams/Hopes
The short story 'The soldier and Death' is a Russian folklore, the author however is unknown. The context in which the story seems to fall in is Medieval Russia, approximately between the 14th and 16th century.

The medieval backdrop in which the story unfolds provides a rich and warm tone that evokes not only a fable-orientated vibe, but a mystical and fantastical one as well.
ICT Activity
Activity 1

By using blogs students must create an alternate ending of the ‘The Soldier and Death’ in a modern context keeping in mind the themes of Death, Religion, Courage and Dreams/hopes. Or students can pretend to be the main character in W;t, after reciting John Donne’s poem “Death be not proud”. Explain what you’d be feeling, and how you'd be coping with death.
Synopsis of Sonnet 130:
Sonnet 130 is a love poem written by William Shakespeare, which goes against all the love poem conventions of the time. Usually, in a love poem, from the 16th century, one would talk about their beloved in a means of going out of their way to praise them, point out their best attributes and a general sense of perfectness. However, in Shakespeare's case, he spends the poem comparing his mistresses appearance to other things, and telling us how she doesn't measure up to them. In the Sonnet, we are given a list of the flaws of her body, her smell, even down to the sound of her voice. By the end of the Sonnet, Shakespeare's demeanor and tone changes from harsh and upfront to one of complete love towards this woman.

However, the entire time that Shakespeare is describing this woman's beauty and lack thereof, we are given an in depth illustration by his choice of words into what he sees as true beauty. Even though he begins by stating she does not have any of these attributes, by hearing what these attributes are, we can visually imagine what Shakespeare is describing and thus deem for ourselves what the true meaning of beauty and love is.
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.
Sonnet 130
Key Themes and Concepts within Sonnet 130
The three major key themes and concepts within Shakespeare's Sonnet 130 are:
- Materialistic Love
- Appearance
- Eternal Love

Yet how does this Sonnet work as a related text with John Donne's poem, Valediction: Forbidding Mourning and Margaret Edson's play W;t?
- The major key theme and concept within both here is:
- Rejection and lack of personal contact

From this, one could argue the polar opposites that both John Donne in his poetry and Margaret Edson in her play convey of rejection and lack of contact against the conventions of love in what Shakespeare is trying to address.
Context of Shakespeare's Sonnet 130 and how it relates to both Donne's poetry and Edson's play.
The sonnet plays an elaborate joke on the conventions of love poetry common to the times.
In Shakespeare's day, these metaphors had already become cliche, but they were still a widely accepted technique for writing love poetry. The result was that poems tended to make highly idealizing comparisons between nature and the poet's lover were, if taken literally, completely ridiculous.
W;t - Margaret Edson
John Donne Poetry
Connections between the texts
Studying the broader context of John Donne allows us to see that the era he lived in, an age fascinated by Wit, which is a major aspect that helps us understand his true meaning behind his poem.
As he lived in a time of highly intellectual people and intellectual men, he would write these poems to impress. Thus, as much as Donne's work has been groomed and molded by these intellects, such as Shakespeare, his poem, Valediction: Forbidding Mourning, there is still a sense of intimate love to the poem, hidden behind a clever sense of wit, just like Shakespeare's Sonnet 130.

Classroom Specific Content
While listening to the YouTube clip of the reading of Sonnet 130, students are to take notes on language, and literary devices used by Shakespeare. From this they are to individually or with the person next to you, compose a response to the following question:
"If you were the women addressed by the speaker in John Donne's 'A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning,' how persuasive would you find his reassurances?" Use evidence apparent in both his poem and the play W;t, with further reference to the related text, Sonnet 130.
Your response needs to be formulated through
a form of ICT stimuli. It can either be in the form
of a:
- Blog/ Vlog
- Weebly website exploring this concept
- Twitter, Facebook, or other social media.
However, if you feel the need for a less creative approach, write an analytical essay addressing the same question, focusing on the textual forms of Donne's poetry, Edson's play and Shakespeare's Sonnet, still after listening to the YouTube clip of the sonnet.
1.1 comparing and contrasting texts and their contexts
1.4 explaining and evaluating changes in meaning arising from changes of context
2A. A student recognises different ways in which particular texts are valued

Why a Shakespearean Sonnet as a related text?
When one thinks of Shakespeare, you immediately think of many of his great works such as Romeo + Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, Twelfth Night, just to name a few. Yet, not many people know of or have heard any of his sonnets. So why did I choose Sonnet 130 as a related text?

The answer is simple, it's something different. As soon as you hear Shakespeare, many students get turned off and become disinterested. Yet with a sonnet, they are quick and don't drag on to the same effect as one of his plays. They are more intimate, straight to the point and convey his meaning in a depth relevant to a Year 12 Advanced standard. By trying to do one of Shakespeare's Sonnets as a related text, it broadens the students knowledge of many analytical and language devices needed to compare texts in order to explore them in relation to their contexts.
The main theme evident in both W;t and Valediction: Forbidding Mourning, is that they both revolve around the notion of death and rejection of personal contact. However, by using the sonnet we can see a stark difference in this style. As Vivian has no friends or family around her when she dies we get this deep and dark view of death and rejection in being viewed only as a medical object, against the bright concept of what love is and this feeling of being accepted according to Shakespeare.
These key concepts and themes are synonymous between the three texts. These themes is what underpins the core meaning of the following texts and is what connects them in a literary fashion.
Why 'The Soldier and Death' for a related text?
'The Soldier and Death' is an allegorical tale that takes place in medieval Russia. The morale of the story is not the only facet that is utterly engaging, but it's themes and concepts that knit tightly with that of John Donne's poem 'Death be not proud' and 'W;t' By Margaret Edson.

'The Soldier and Death' is also a fable that seems to exude a fantastical atmosphere that Students will be able to connect with.
What makes it a comparison story?

The short story ‘The Soldier and Death’ is an eerie, heartfelt and mildly fantastical anecdote that captures the imagination whilst simultaneously exuding various profound themes and concepts, ones which amplify the notion of mortality, death and the unbridled greed and aspirations of humans.

Learning opportunities

The activity is an effective one as it allows the students to not only empathize with the Vivian (The protagonist of W;t) and her experience as she battles ovarian cancer, but of how one would approach such an experience based, and or drawing from their own disposition and emotional fortitude.

This type of analytical activity would take place towards the end of the unit, as a means of being able to wrap up and tie together all their notes and related texts in the form of essay writing to help them when it comes to exams.
What the students are trying to achieve by studying Intertextual Connections are:
Ability to shape meaning and representation
Ability to question textual integrity
Shape ways in which texts are visualised.
Synopsis: The Diary of Anne Frank
Anne Frank is a Jewish girl who has to go into hiding duing WWII to avoid the Nazis. Together with seven others she hides in a secret annex. After almost two years they are discovered and deported to concentration camps. Anne's father, Otto Frank, is the only one who survives of the eight people.
Anne became famous because of her diary that she wrote while in hiding.
How they all connect:
Common themes:
Questioning religion

Example of connection:
W;t = Vivian feels as though through her illness she is becoming more of an experiment rather than a human
This play's my last scene = Death is spoken about as to separate the body from the soul - taking away human properties
Anne Frank = The collection and brutal slaughter of the Jewish community - people being treated like animals i.e. dehumanising them
Class Activity - Outcome (2.A):
Students will create a TV show
Based around their interpretation of the underlying themes connecting each of the texts
Will have to show both an understanding of the key concepts of the texts but also apply this knowledge
How this stands in a Preliminary Advanced Classroom
Provides HIGHER ORDER thinking skills
Interpretation of key concepts
Application of these
Where could the lesson be implemented?
Introductory activity
Connects to skills needed for HSC

Related Texts
Written during WWII - Jewish perspective
Felt alone - Despite loving family
Had no friends
Couldn't confide in family
Key Themes:
Inwards vs Outwards Expression
John Donne - This play's my last scene
In this poem Donne presents the problem of impending death, he explains how one can have victory over death.

The narrator of the poem is facing imminent death. The poem is about the utter certainty of death and the quiet confidence of in the life thereafter.

How 'The Soldier and Death' Relates to the prescribed texts
- The poem takes an assertive stand against mortality. It makes the paradoxical statement that mortality is itself mortal.

-Being a metaphysical writer, John Donne was also a witty one, meaning that when he discussed religion he’d do so with humorous puns or clever one-liners.

-In ‘The Soldier and Death’ there are frequent allusion to god and the devil -“It’s the very devil I say, the very devil!” The soldier says referring to his sons ill condition. “By the grace of god, get in the sack.”
-The main theme in all three texts that ultimately links and binds them is Death. Death acts as a for the three texts, ‘Death be not proud’, ‘The Soldier and Death’ and W;t, it is at the epicenter of all texts and is the theme in which the texts refer to.
1.1 comparing and contrasting texts and their contexts
1.2 responding to and composing texts to achieve meaning in a range of contexts
1.3 explaining how values and attitudes are reflected in texts
1.4 explaining and evaluating changes in meaning arising from changes of context
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