December 9, 2003

4 AM Rant

I realize I haven't posted in a while, so some sort of contrite and repentant post would probably be appropriate; however, as I sit here grading papers that need to be returned by tomorrow, I'd like to simply get something off my chest.
What is it about Blake's poems that seem to lend themselves to Disnified interpretations by students? Honestly. Is it the plates? Is it the often over simplified straight rhyme of most of the poems in Songs of Innocence and Experience? I suppose, but then again, I just don't get it.

Last year, while discussing "The Tyger," I presented Blake's plates along with the poem to discuss issues of image and text. We read the poem first without the plates, and then compared several plates to one another discussing how our understanding of the poem changes based on the image we view it with. Still, I had one student who insisted that what Blake was really anticipating was the "Circle of Life" from The Lion King. Although I pointed out that Disney actually came quite a number of years AFTER Blake and that there is a fundamental difference between lions and tigers... the entire class jumped head over heels into this interpretation, further justifying this student's erroneous claim. Each of the plates, to them, represented another stage in life, and there was nothing I could say to convince them otherwise.

Jump forward one year. Now I have students writing a paper comparing uses of sound and image in Blake's "London" versus his use of sound and image in "The Tyger." My hope was for students to explore the ways in which the sound and image reinforce one another in "London" while the relationship between sound and image in "The Tyger" is much more vexed. They didn't have to say it that way... anything in the ballpark would have been great. But Disney has prevailed once again. According to one of my students, the chimney-sweeper in "London" is a happy image. He relates it to the cheerful chimney-sweepers who dance and sing on the rooftops of London in Mary Poppins. I kid you not. He continues by saying that it is the one hopeful image in the midst of so much dreariness and negativity.

Only, it gets better. Another student likens the repetition of "Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright!" to another Disney movie--Snow White. The student says that it is difficult to read these lines and not to think of Snow White's wicked step-mother in front of her magical mirror.

Can anyone account for this? Has a generation of children raised on Disney videos completely doomed Blake in 200-level courses? Argh. I think an upcoming post will have to include a Blake-Disney pastiche.

Posted by c_jane at 4:13 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack