Teaching Students About Age Of Anxiety Poem
The Age of Anxiety is a modernist long poem written by W.H. Auden in 1947, widely recognized as an remarkable exploration of the human psyche and the quest for individual identity during a time of uncertainty and existential crisis. Teaching students about the Age of Anxiety allows them to delve into the complexity of Auden’s work, develop an appreciation for poetry, and better understand the contextual backdrop that inspired this thought-provoking masterpiece.
Introducing the Poem
Begin by familiarizing students with the author, Wystan Hugh Auden, an Anglo-American poet whose works often tackled socio-political issues as well as themes revolving around love, religion, and morality. Encourage students to research more about his life and writings to gain a deeper understanding of his literary contributions.
Outline the historical context behind the poem: The Age of Anxiety was composed in the aftermath of World War II and reflected upon a society plagued with a sense of disillusionment and fear in a volatile world. Explain how this period is referred to as “the age of anxiety” due to its pervasive atmosphere of unease.
Exploring Themes and Techniques
Divide the poem into manageable sections for students to analyze. The Age of Anxiety is structured as a symphony with four movements called Eclogue, Descensus ad Infernos, Passacaglia, and Masque. Each movement focuses on different aspects of the overarching theme – primarily exploring human isolation and alienation.
Encourage discussions about varied themes present throughout the poem: fear, uncertainty, self-determination, faith, love, hopelessness, and resignation. Ask students to identify specific lines or passages that can serve as prime examples for these themes.
An essential component of teaching this poem is delving into Auden’s innovative writing techniques. Discuss his manipulation of various literary devices such as alliteration, enjambment, assonance, and symbolism. Students should learn how Auden not only incorporated traditional forms like sonnets and elegies within his poem but also experimented with modernist elements such as stream of consciousness.
Connecting the Historical Context to the Present Day
Invite students to consider the relevance of the Age of Anxiety in today’s world. Pose questions that provoke thought on how current global events, such as conflicts or pandemics, might evoke similar anxieties among the general population. Engage in discussions about coping strategies and ways people seek solace during times of unrest. This will enable students to appreciate the power of literature and poetry as a means for reflecting on societal issues.
Teaching students about Auden’s Age of Anxiety poem offers them an insightful perspective on a significant period in history while providing a comprehensive understanding of the complex artistry employed by its author. By exploring the themes, techniques, and relevance of this masterpiece in a classroom setting, educators can foster an enhanced appreciation for poetry and inspire creative thinking that transcends generational boundaries.