Remaking Poems: Combining Translation and Digital Media to Interest High School Students in Poetry Analysis
Simpson, Amy Beth
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In American high schools, the practice of poetry analysis as a study of language art has declined. Outworn methods have contributed to the trend away from close interactions with the text, to the unfortunate end that millennial high school students neither understand nor enjoy poetry. Digital technology coupled with principles of translation offers a dynamic interpretive model that has the potential to engage high school students in constructive experiences with the high art. Until now, most applications of new technology to literature have served archival or big data purposes. This project proposes that the scientific as well as creative use of the computer also can enhance the reading of a single poem by an individual or small group. Exposing the deficiencies of current pedagogy and considering the promise of emerging non-traditional approaches, it argues for change. The impact of new media on culture and language justifies the digitization of a poem as a linguistic artifact and redefines close reading in digital terms. However, to simply generate data leaves readers unsatisfied. Translation bridges the gap between the scientific and humanistic environments as it allows not only for the microscopic observation of a poem’s technical components but also for the means of associative, collaborative, and inventive thinking about the poem. In digital experiments with Arthur Rimbaud’s “Vowels,” the project traces associations among the poem’s aural, visual, verbal, spatial, and chronological agents. To synthesize and visualize the data, it utilizes electronic mechanisms to create new associations in the reconstruction of the poem in verbal and multimedia translations. This remaking of the poem powerfully and respectfully connects the reader to the original text. The systematic introduction of this method into the study of poetry in high school could, in pleasant and personally meaningful ways, restore to students their literary heritage. The proposal is not without its challenges as resources to experiment with curriculum upgrades are limited and resistance to change is strong. Nevertheless, Remaking Poems contends that developing digital methodologies is not merely intriguing. It is essential to this generation’s obligation to share the soul of its culture with the next.