William Butler Yeats:

The Great Coming-of-Age Poems

In groups of 4, students offer detailed web-page readings of 5 classic coming-of-age poems by Yeats.

"In Memory of Major Robert Gregory" "Easter 1916"
"Among School Children" "Under Ben Bulben"
"The Circus Animals' Desertion" "A Prayer for my Daughter," by Marc Conner


1.  Meet outside of class two or three times to discuss and analyze your assigned poem--think about the poem in terms of the very questions and issues we have been discussing all semester long, the questions and issues of coming-of-age (for example, is there a coming-of-age moment in the poem? what is it? when does it occur? what prompts it? what is the poem's view of youth, age, innocence, experience?   You might even begin by asking:  why did Professor Conner assign this poem as a "coming-of-age" poem?).  Take some notes, jot down some key ideas and elements in the poem.  If you have questions about aspects of the poem, schedule a time to speak with Professor Conner.

2.  Schedule a time to meet as a group to begin composing your web-page reading.  This will probably require two or three meetings, of 1-2 hours each.  You will need to structure your reading as a coherent, well-organized movement through the poem.  You need not comment on each and every line of the poem; but you will certainly need to comment on and explain the central lines, the most important lines, those lines that comment most forcefully on the great theme of coming-of-age.

3.  Make your web-page reading as attractive and visually interesting as you can.  Try to incorporate images, colors, make a creative use of space, type, font, et cetera.  You might want to include some information from the poet's biography (consult the Dictionary of Literary Biography essay on Yeats, on reserve at the main desk of the library--the librarian can direct you to this resource), or quote some scholar's view on the poem (although outside research is neither required nor necessarily recommended, I do recommend you consult John Unterecker's A Reader's Guide to William Butler Yeats, also on reserve at the main desk of the library).

4.  The final web-page reading must be completed and posted by Friday, December 14 (the last day of exam period).

* for a sample of what I might have in mind, see my own reading of Yeats's "A Prayer for my Daughter."  This is a model only, that you can follow or not, add to or subtract from, and indeed I hope you will improve on this.  But it will give you a sense of what I might have in mind.