These lessons are designed for students to close read several John Donne poems and passages from Margaret Edson’s play Wit. Vivian Bearing, the main character, is a demanding John Donne scholar facing her mortality. She is a teacher who treats her class like a literary boot camp, often ignoring her student’s personal issues. When she is diagnosed with cancer, Bearing is forced to reevaluate her beliefs. Embedded in the film or play are dramatic readings of John Donne’s poems.
There are several links to multimedia, including an original video illustrating an NPR story of a recent revival of the play starring Cynthia Nixon. There is a link to the HBO production of Wit starring Emma Thompson, who in 2001 won the Emmy for the Best Outstanding Actress in the role of Vivian Bearing. In teaching the concepts of paradox or conceits, there are links to several YouTube video explanations of the concepts as well as music videos designed to accompany the teaching of John Donne classics such as “The Flea”, “Holy Sonnet X” or “Meditation 17.”
In the packet there is a detailed study guide for Wit, where bracketed to the left of the questions are several literary terms students can easily spot in the film or text in the play. A complete answer key is also available. Finally, two different writing opportunities are in the packet employing AP style prompts. An analysis of “The Flea” with several student samples and commentary from an experienced AP English reader, and a synthesis essay that combines knowledge of the John Donne poems and the reading of the play are in the lessons. The study guide is designed to help the students write the synthesis essay. Again, student samples and commentary are provided.
Key words: John Donne, Margaret Edson, Wit, The Flea, Meditation 17, Holy Sonnet X, Death Be Not Proud, metaphysical conceits, British Literature, AP English Literature, AP English Language, poetry, Gifted, video study, essay writing, characterization, tone, diction, synthesis writing, drama, American Literature, cancer, nursing