Cross-Cultural Exchange on Poetry: An Online Collaboration
Among Swedish and American Students, Spring 2006

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Dear Students,

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

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

Sincerely,
Magnus Gustafsson, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden
Donna Reiss, Clemson University, South Carolina, USA
Art Young, Clemson University, South Carolina, USA

Project Overview

We are reading “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot. You’ll be corresponding with small groups of students and will be able to read each other’s letters.

T. S. Eliot (1888-1965) was a leading poet in the modernist movement in the first half of the twentieth century.  “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” was written about 1911, published in 1915, and is often viewed as one of the first and best poems of the modern period in literature. Many critics today believe the poem contains many of the themes of “modernism” (alienation, futility) and represents the modern poetic style (fragmentary, stream of consciousness). If you wish, you may find further information on Prufrock, Eliot, and Modernism at the Voices & Visions Website or A Brief Guide to Modernism at Academy of American Poets.

We are using a Weblog (blog) Cross-Cultural Collaboration-Spring 2006: “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” to communicate across our classes. When asked to identify yourself for posting your letters as comments at the blog, select “Other” and provide either your full name or your first name with last initial plus your class and university (for example, “Pat Smart, American Lit, Clemson” or “Maria L., Chalmers, Fiction” or "Chris W., Victorian Poetry, Clemson"). You do not need to provide a Webpage.

Please address your messages to each other as informal letters with an appropriate greeting and closing – whatever feels comfortable to you. Specific directions and deadlines for writing each letter appear below and are posted as a Guide at the blog. Compose your letters in your word processor and save them before you copy-paste them to the blog.


Letter 1

Letter 1, approximately 250 words, addressed to everybody in your group ("Dear Folks," Hello Group," etc.) and submitted by January 23, 11:30 p.m. (U.S. EST) and 23:30 (Sweden CET). To preserve the conversational structure of the discussion, please provide a greeting and signature with each message, naming the group or person to whom you are writing and signing each letter.

  • In this first letter, respond with personal and critical insight, focusing on the general meaning of the poem. Write about what interests you in such a way that it opens up the poem to further response and discussion by your groupmates. It is okay—even helpful—to ask questions about things you are unsure of or that you would like to hear what others have to say about.
  • Some possibilities: You might begin by discussing the title in the context of the poem.  You might mention two or three words or short phrases that seem to be central or at quite important to the poem. For each word or phrase you select, write a few sentences of your own referring back to the poem in order to explain why you think they are important. You might even want to look them up in a good dictionary to further your understanding of how poetic language works.

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


Letter 2

Letter 2, approximately 250 words, addressed to everybody in the group and submitted by January 26, 11:30 p.m. (U.S. EST) and 23:30 (Sweden CET). To preserve the conversational structure of the discussion, please provide a greeting and signature with each message, naming the group or person to whom you are writing and signing each letter. Use either your full name or your first name with last initial and identify your class and university (for example, “Pat Smart, American Lit, Clemson” or “Maria L., Chalmers, Fiction”).

  • Before you compose your Letter 2, read all the Letter 1 submissions and any second letters already posted by members of your group. In your Letter 2, addressed to your entire group, refer specifically to at least two members of the group by name, attempting to cite at least two groupmates whose Letter 1 submissions have not already been cited by others if possible. Please respond to at least one person not in your class.
  • In your Letter 2, identify and explain how one or more keywords and reflective comments by groupmates contributed to your understanding of the poem. Comment on ways in which their interpretations are similar to and/or different from your own. This response can also be personal, connecting your own understanding and experience with what you learned from reading the poem and from your group. Don’t hesitate to quote briefly from your groupmates’ letters and from the poem.

Letter 3

Letter 3, approximately 250 words, addressed to everybody in the group and submitted by January 30, 11:30 p.m. (U.S. EST) and 23:30 (Sweden CET). To preserve the conversational structure of the discussion, please provide a greeting and signature with each message, naming the group or person to whom you are writing and signing each letter. Use either your full name or your first name with last initial and identify your class and university (for example, “Pat Smart, American Lit, Clemson” or “Maria L., Chalmers, Fiction”).

  1. First, read the second letters and any additional letters already posted by members of your group. Compose a personal response about some of the ideas and opinions presented there, citing by name at least two groupmates whose Letter 2 submissions have not already been cited by others if possible. Please respond to at least one person not in your same class.
  2. Second, either create or find another representation of the theme or mood of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” for example, an illustration or music or another poem. You will need to locate or post this additional representation online so your partners can access it on the Web.
  3. Third, explain fully the relationship between the representation you have selected or composed and your understanding of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

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Website developed 2003 by D. Reiss and modified 16 January 2006 by D. Reiss