Cross-Cultural Exchange on Poetry: An Online Collaboration
Among Swedish and American Students, Spring 2004

Cross-Cultural Collaborations

Magnus Gustafsson, Chalmers Lindholmen University College, Gothenburg, Sweden
Donna Reiss, Tidewater Community College, Virginia, USA
Art Young, Clemson University, South Carolina, USA

Project Overview and Discussion Topics


Dear Students,

Thank you for participating in this international online conversation among students from one Swedish university, one American university, and one American community college, representing several academic levels and subjects. Please read brief descriptions of the Participating Classes and Colleges.

We believe this cross-cultural letter exchange will increase your understanding of poetry, poetic language, and the various ways readers in differing contexts come to understand and appreciate poems.

Please address your messages to each other as informal letters to the members of your group. Use an appropriate greeting and closing – whatever feels comfortable to you. Specific directions and deadlines for each letter appear in boxes below.

We will be using the discussion board within the Claroline courseware at Chalmers Lindholmen University. Follow the Claroline Directions link for details about locating your group and about using the Claroline discussion board.

Sincerely,
Magnus Gustafsson, Chalmers Lindholmen University College, Gothenburg, Sweden
Donna Reiss, Tidewater Community College, Virginia, USA
Art Young, Clemson University, South Carolina, USA

Letter 1

Letter 1, approximately 250 words, addressed to everybody in the group ("Dear Folks," Hello Group," etc.) and submitted by March 23, 4:59 p.m. (U.S.), 11:59 p.m. (Sweden). To preserve the structure of the discussion board, please submit your letter at Claroline as an Answer to this initial Letter 1 message posted by the professors.

Read the three poems by the Swedish poet, Tomas Tranströmer: "Track," "Sun Burning,"and "Breathing Room: July." This latter poem is posted here in four different translations from Swedish into English, as well as in the original Swedish. You may respond to one, two, or all three poems. You may select "Breathing Room: July" and reflect on how changes of particular words or phrases among two or more versions change the meaning of the poem for you. If you understand Swedish, you may suggest to your group other possible translations, or suggest translating decisions these writers made to create these poems in English.

As a way of grasping meanings or understanding your reading experience, write down three words or short phrases that seem to be central or at least quite important to the poem(s) or versions you wish to discuss. Keywords can be positive, negative, puzzled, or maybe questioning. You might even want to look them up in a good dictionary to further your understanding of how poetic language works. For each word or phrase you selected, write a few sentences of your own referring back to the poem in order to explain why you think they are important.

Include within your letter one or two sentences that introduce you to the group, for example, your name, which class you are taking, and your academic interest or emphasis. You can say something about your experience with poetry as well, if you like.

Letter 2

Letter 2, approximately 250 words, addressed to everybody in the group and submitted by March 26 , 4:59 p.m. (U.S.), 11:59 p.m. (Sweden). To preserve the structure of the discussion board, please submit your letter at Claroline as an Answer to this initial Letter 2 message posted by the professors.

  1. Before you compose your Letter 2, read all the Letter 1 submissions and any second letters already posted by members of your group. Write a personal response about some of the reflections presented there. In your Letter 2, addressed to your entire group, refer specifically to at least two members of the group by name, citing at least two groupmates whose Letter 1 submissions have not already been cited by others if possible.
  2. In your Letter 2, identify and explain how a keyword and reflective sentence of theirs contributed to your understanding of a poem. Comment on ways in which their interpretations are similar to and/or different from your own.

Letter 3

Letter 3, approximately 250 words, addressed to everybody in the group and submitted by March 30, 4:59 p.m. (U.S.), 11:59 p.m. (Sweden). To preserve the structure of the discussion board, please submit your letter at Claroline as an Answer to this initial Letter 3 message posted by the professors.

  1. First, read the second letters and any third letters already posted by members of your group and write a personal response about some of the reflections presented there, citing at least one person from a college other than your own.
  2. Second, either find or create an illustration or music that captures the theme or mood of one of these poems or one version of "Breathing Room: July." You will need to locate the artwork online or post it online so your partners at all three colleges can access it. If you create your own art or music, you can attach it as a file or refer us to the Website (include http:// so the link will be active) where you have uploaded it.
  3. Third, explain briefly the relationship between the artwork you have selected or created and the poem.

Letter 4: Analysis and Reflection

Letter 4, approximately 250 words, addressed to everybody in the group and submitted by April 2, 4:59 p.m. (U.S.), 11:59 p.m. (Sweden). To preserve the structure of the discussion board, please submit your letter at Claroline as an Answer to this initial Letter 4 message posted by the professors.

  1. First, read the third letters and explore the art and/or music that has been posted from all the members of your group and write a personal response about some of the reflections presented there and cite at least one person from a college other than your own.
  2. Second, reflect on this cross-cultural discussion and some ways this conversation and composition have contributed to your understanding of Tranströmer's poems, your knowledge of how poetic language works, and your thinking about poetry as a literary, artistic, and cultural experience.

In particular, you may want to include some thinking about how different cultural backgrounds contributed (for example, Swedish poem interpreted by Swedish students for both Swedish and American students as well as by American students for both American and Swedish students). Please describe what interested you the most about this discussion, or surprised you, or troubled you.

for educational purposes only
Website developed 2003 by
D. Reiss and modified 16 May 2004 by D. Reiss