In this discussion, you will explore the poetry of two famous African-American writers. One of them, James Weldon Johnson, wrote during the period known as the Harlem Renaissance (1920’s). The other, Maya Angelou, is a contemporary writer who died only recently and who was commissioned to write and recite a poem at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton.
Upon successful completion of this assignment you will be able to:
- Identify various examples of literary devices.
- Explain how various literary devices are used to communicate truths about humankind in a work of poetry.
- Analyze the message of a piece of poetry using biblical principles.
- Textbook: The Pearson Custom Introduction to Literature
- File: Literary Glossary (5.3)
- Bible: https://www.biblegateway.com
- Website: Maya Angelou on her Childhood
- Website: Maya Angelou Recites “Still I Rise”
- Read the headnote on James Weldon Johnson (pp. 292-294). Read James Weldon Johnson’s “The Creation” (pp. 298-300). What reason for creating the world does Johnson attribute to God in the first stanza?
- What do you think Johnson’s reason was for portraying God as having this human emotion?
- Aside from giving God a reason for creating the world, identify another difference between the portrayal of the Creation Story in Johnson’s poem and the biblical account in Genesis chapters 1-2. Provide a possible reason that Johnson may have changed the story in this way.
- What effect does Johnson’s portrayal have on your perception of God? Explain your reactions to the poem, positive or negative, and support your answer with specific references to the poem.
- Read the headnote on Maya Angelou (p. 301). Watch these two videos: Maya Angelou on her Childhood and Maya Angelou Reciting “Still I Rise.” To whom does the poem seem to be addressed? Explain your reasoning.
- Give an example from the poem of a concrete image Angelou uses to invoke a feeling or to make a statement. Explain the function of the image in the poem. In your explanation, consider the color of the image, and discuss whether its color is significant.
- Give an example of a specific literary device Angelou uses in this poem and label it correctly. (Review Glossary 3.4 to refresh your memory about options.)
- The tone of a poem can be expressed in a single adjective. How would you identify the tone of this poem? Give three examples of diction (word choice) that help to establish this tone.
- Compose a thesis statement for one of these two poems using this structure: “(Author name)’s poem (title) uses (specific literary device #1) and (specific literary device #2) to show that (universal theme).
- Select two quotations from the poem you have chosen and explain how they can be used to support your thesis statement.
- Explain how the tone and/or message of the poem you have selected compares with the biblical worldview. Would the bible support or condemn the poet’s message and/or tone? Include at least one biblical quote to support your answer.