1. Ask the students if they can name
any diseases which were once fatal but can now, sometimes
quite easily, be cured. Tuberculosis, syphilis, and tetanus
are just a few. Contracting any of those diseases in
the past not only meant death but terrible suffering
and misery throughout the duration of the illness. Penicillin
and antibiotics have given modern people a feeling of
invincibility in the face of disease. That was not always
so and many a poet and artist explored the theme of untimely
death from contagion. At this point mention that while
we may now feel invincible against tuberculosis, the
development of antibiotic resistant strains has resulted
in tuberculosis being on the rise again. In some areas
of both this country and others Tuberculosis is a serious
When the famous poet John Keats lost his brother to Tuberculosis
he was filled with despair.
In his distraught state he tried to come to terms with
the briefness of human life. Read “Ode to a Nightingale” with
your students and discuss, stanza by stanza, what Keats
is communicating to his reader. A good web site to aid
you in this is: http://ftp.ccccd.edu/andrade/britlit/romanticism/nightingale.html
3. After the students understand what Keats is saying
about the briefness of life, go on to a literary analysis
of the text. One way to do this would be to break the
class up into small groups and have each identify examples
of simile, metaphor, personification, hyperbole, symbolism,
allusion, and imagery in a literary selection. Time
may be saved by putting the definitions of the above-mentioned
literary devices on the board. Two great resources
following definitions are from the first web site.
is the comparison of two unlike things using like or
is the comparison of two unlike things using the verb "to be" and not using ‘like’ or ‘as’ as
in a simile.
is giving human qualities to animals or objects.
is exaggeration or overstatement.
is using an object or action that means something more
than its literal meaning.
Allusion is a brief reference
to a person, event, or place, real or fictitious,
a work of art. It is a casual reference to a famous
historical or literary figure or event.
allusion may be drawn from history, geography, literature,
is language that evokes one or all of the five senses:
the groups have combed through “Ode
to a Nightingale” for
strong examples of the various literary devices,
hold an entire class discussion to compare
what the different groups
found. Then ask the students which reading
(Brooks or Keats) spoke to them most and why.
in both pieces will
stay with them?
students have analyzed Keats’s
poem to appreciate both his message and his
expertise as a writer. His message becomes
all the more
we realize that he will be dead within two
years of composing “Ode
to a Nightingale.” Conclude class by
discussing with the students how poetry, and
art as a whole,
just a frivolous pursuit when the real work
of the day is finished; often it is how we
sense of a world that defies