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Literary Work with Fine Arts

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Literary Work with Fine Arts

In order to really understand literature as one of the arts, a person should train oneself to study all of the arts. Poetry is especially used in relation to the visual arts, for poets have written about paintings and painters have created art by examining poetry. When a child is young, this study may be particularly useful in teaching analysis on a simple scale. Children enjoy the sounds of poetry and love pictures, so combining the two and asking for simple comparisons and contrasts is a great way to develop questioning and analytical skills.

Some examples of such art are "Achilles' Shield" by W.H. Auden, "Ode on a Grecian Urn" -- John Keats, and Zadie Smith's "On Beauty."

Robert DiYanni's textbook, Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, Drama and the Essay, includes a chapter pairing poetry with fine art.

I introduce "The Metamorphosis" every year with a discussion of "The Waiting Room" by George Tooker (google the title); the emptiness of the people's expressions, their lack of connectedness and the implied vastness of the waiting room make a good jumping off point for similar conditions in Kafka's work and his commentary on modern society.

I have also frequently used works by Rene Magritte with "The Metamorphosis." I send kids to a Magritte website and ask them to choose a work that parallels the emotional content of "The Metamorphosis." They find this pairing challenging because they want to pair content, not tone.

I also introduce Old Man and Sea with Picasso's The Old Guitarist.

Girl with a Pearl Earring, while not great literature, is still an engrossing book to pair with Vermeer's paintings.

Girl with a Pearl Earring, while not great literature, is still an engrossing book to pair with Vermeer's paintings. Gustave Dore produced wonderful engravings of Paradise Lost and "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," and William Blake produced an entire series of paintings to go with Dante's Divine Comedy as well as illustrations to go with his own poems.

Aubrey Beardsley did beautiful, elaborate illustrations for Pope's Rape of the Lock. If you search for book titles using Google Images, you'll find many pairings of paintings with books and drama, esp. Shakespeare.

Works Cited

Bauer, Susan Wise and Jessie Wise. The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home. W. W. Norton and Company: New York, 2004.

Tabori, Lena and Alice Wong. The Little Big Book for Grandmothers. Welcome Books: New York, 2002.

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