15 February 2011

Today we worked on a manuscript study of Elizabeth Bishop’s “Sestina” together–just phase one, the observations and questions. Tonight, I’m asking you to pick 5-6 of the most interesting questions we came up with in class and to build a case for the answer in your journal.  This case should be built a la Perrine: use the DETAILS of the poem, offer analysis INSIDE the flashlight that is not contradicted by any details and is the most economical explanation of the details we have.

While I cannot believe that in a blip of unrecognizable insanity, you convinced me to enable your lack of notetaking in class, I did agree to post the questions here.  So without further ado:

  • What is the mood of the poem?
  • Why does the grandmother hide her tears?
  • In line 10, why is it “a grandmother” rather than “the grandmother” that it is in the rest of the poem?
  • What does the child think about the temperature in the house, and is the temperature in the house connected to emotions?
  • Re the drawing: Why is the child’s house “rigid” and “inscrutable,” the pathway “winding,” and the man’s buttons “tear” shaped?  And what is the significance of the flower bed?  And why does the child draw another house?
  • Why is there so much secrecy in the poem (see line 31 for example)?
  • How is the grandmother’s move from crying to singing significant?
  • Why is the child with the grandmother and not the parents?
  • How is Bishop using enjambment?
  • Why does the grandmother sing to the stove?
  • Why such a huge variety of tears?

One thought on “15 February 2011

  1. We touched on the question of “why does the child draw the houses?” One other thing that I would like to say is that I thought that the first house that the child drew was some part of his/her life that’s been past and we get a description of the house. Then in the last stanza we only get “the child draws another inscrutable house,” which I believe means that there’s another part of his/her life coming that we don’t get a description of because it’s in the future/almanac.

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