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Poetry - Catriona Cunningham


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Preliminary activity for workshop, 'Lacunae of enchantments: unfolding spaces ‘in which it is once more possible to think’…and act', presented at 'Re-enchanting the Academy' conference, Canterbury, 25-27 September 2015.

Poésie, who spoke in many tongues and was the most charming fairy of all, offered a linguistic charm, ‘Whosoever reads these words shall feel be at ease with the whole world, and will never feel doubt or shame even though their tongue may stumble over unfamiliar sounds and concepts. I give you the gift of confidence.’

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Poetry - Catriona Cunningham

  1. 1. Background The rapid internationalisation of higher education that has taken place in the UK has often focussed on student recruitment rather than the implications for learning and teaching (Carroll, 2015; Ryan, 2013). As a result, many higher education providers are grappling with the changing landscapes of their lecture theatres and seminar and approaching international students within a deficit model (Killick, 2015). The Higher Education Academy (HEA) has – with the sector – co-created a framework that seeks to redress this deficit model, arguing that internationalisation is a process in which we are all international, regardless of our linguistic, cultural or national identities. This is an opportunity to create resources that benefit all students and use their diverse, pluricultural backgrounds to give them the confidence to learn. An example Déjeuner Du Matin Jacques Prévert (Paroles, 1946) Il a mis le café Dans la tasse Il a mis le lait Dans la tasse de café Il a mis le sucre Dans le café au lait Avec la petite cuiller Il a tourné Il a bu le café au lait Et il a reposé la tasse Sans me parler Il a allumé Une cigarette Il a fait des ronds Avec la fumée Il a mis les cendres Dans le cendrier Sans me parler Sans me regarder Il s'est levé Il a mis Son chapeau sur sa tête Il a mis
  2. 2. Son manteau de pluie Parce qu'il pleuvait Et il est parti Sous la pluie Sans une parole Sans me regarder Et moi j'ai pris Ma tête dans ma main Et j'ai pleuré. Listen: With French subtitles: Musical adaptation by Marlene Dietrich: Short, silent film: Use of poem Aims  To open up the space of the workshop as a mine of rich linguistic and cultural diversity  To think about the sound and meaning of language, and its impact on you and others  To confront feelings of linguistic and cultural alienation in a safe environment  To overcome linguistic and cultural barriers through the interdisciplinary medium of poetry  To become more confident in an internationalised setting An activity with students  Find a partner in the room, someone you don’t know  Read the poem – what does it look like on the page – is there anything unexpected?  Listen to the clip – describe the sounds – do they create a particular mood or feel? What is the effect and why?  Look at the words and see if there is anything familiar in your native language?  Perhaps there are some words or expressions that you recognise from learning French?  What can you work out from the poem in your groups?
  3. 3. By getting students to listen to the poem first with an unfamiliar partner, they are encouraged to approach a (fairly alienating) task together, looking for common ground, very possibly across different linguistic and cultural borders. United by the unknow-able, the dominant language of the UK HE class – English – does not necessarily help them. It levels the linguistic playing field from that perspective. Even if a student speaks French, they will help their partner with translation, working across at least two and possibly three languages. Also, the questions focus on the poem itself, not the language, so the skills they rely on are intercultural, communicative and creative – key competencies for graduates of today. This activity aims to provide a learning tool above and beyond the content/language of the poem as the task concentrates on students working together, gaining confidence in approaching the unfamiliar across languages, disciplines etc. Those staff and students from a non-Humanities background can identify with the shared problems of how to teach/approach difficult language/jargon/concepts with students from a diverse background. The actual translation of the language is much less interesting – pedagogically speaking – than the process of encouraging students to work together, learn from their different background and languages and learn to face the unfamiliar with confidence and not fear. In a longer time, comparing and contrasting the effect of the silent film, and the Marlene Dietrich would lead to some fascinating discussion about different learning styles, about the importance and effects of language etc. By sending out the clips in advance of the class, it could also be flipped. The actual poem can be used as a resource in a number of Humanities  French – this poem is used to introduce and practice perfect tense  Literary studies – shape of poem; lack of punctuation; part of Parisian post-war art movement  History/Cultural studies – Prévert’s political motivations and use of poetry as a historical tool to explore France at that time  Film – exploring musical and film adaptations