Refining Contrapuntal Pedagogy: Reflections on Teaching Warsan Shire’s “Home” and W.H. Auden’s “Refugee Blues” to First-Year Students
Keywords:contrapuntal pedagogy; Edward Said; Mikhail Bakhtin; Warsan Shire; W.H. Auden; decoloniality; empathy; affect
This article reports on and discusses the experience of a contrapuntal approach to teaching poetry, explored during 2016 and 2017 in a series of introductory poetry lectures in the English 1 course at the University of Johannesburg. Drawing together two poems—Warsan Shire’s “Home” and W.H. Auden’s “Refugee Blues”—in a week of teaching in each year provided an opportunity for a comparison that encouraged students’ observations on poetic voice, racial identity, transhistorical and transcultural human experience, trauma and empathy. It also provided an opportunity to reflect on teaching practice within the context of decoloniality and to acknowledge the need for ongoing change and review in relation to it. In describing the contrapuntal teaching and study of these poems, and the different methods employed in the respective years of teaching them, I tentatively suggest that canonical Western and contemporary postcolonial poems may reflect on each other in unique and transformative ways. I further posit that poets and poems that engage students may open the way into initially “less relevant” yet ultimately rewarding poems, while remaining important objects of study in themselves.
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Copyright (c) 2020 Bridget Grogan
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