Sauk Valley Community College

Humanities 210

Lecture Five


This Is Just to Say 
William Carlos Williams

I have eaten 
the plums
that were in
the icebox 

and which
you were probably
for breakfast 

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold.


Narrative has been a means of structuring texts for centuries. Ever since Aristotle, we have learnt that stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end - in other words, a linear construction. But narrative doesn't only apply to fiction: the television news is presented as stories, documentary programmes frequently use narrative as a framing device, and we recount our daily life to others in story form.

from MENO (Multimedia, Education  and Narrative Organisation Website)

We are the story-telling animal. We love to tell stories and we do it very well. In fact, many psychologists and anthropologists believe that telling stories is how we create ourselves and the world around us.

Stop and think about how you do something as simple as carry on a conversation. Our conversing is full of "He said," "She said," and "Then I said to her....."  In relating something that has happened to us we construct a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. We describe  "characters" and we add detail to make the story either more entertaining or more convincing. Everyone of us is a storyteller.

We can also think of the paintings we explored in the first half of the course as stories. Go to the link below and choose one of Munch's paintings. You will be taken to a page that describes the painting you chose in terms of its story. 

Munch, Edvard

The pages you just visited are part of the Literature, Arts, and Medicine Database website. This website is a database for doctors who use the Narrative Method--that is, telling stories about illness. Here is the full list of the various art forms in the database--you might even find your favorite movie on the list.

Narrative as Method

Again, the reason this approach works--having patients both interact with artworks as well as tell their own stories about their conditions--is that we understand the world through stories. Literature then could be thought of as outgrowths of this normal tendency. Short stories, novels, plays, scripts for movies and TV shows, are all sparked by our natural love for telling and listening to narratives. 

But where does literature take place? In language, of course, both oral and written. Just as the visual arts take place in some sort of media such as paint and canvas or stone and plastic, and just as music takes place in sound, literature has its own medium--words. Therefore, it makes sense to take a look at the earliest form of literature and that is poetry. (Your Reading for this chapter also talks about poetry and its metaphoric content, so be sure and keep both the Lecture Notes and the Reading in mind as you do your writing assignment.) 


Many art works were created as responses to other art works. Music written about literary works, literary works written about paintings, paintings about ballet, ballets about... well, you get the point. Here are four examples of poetry written in response to viewing a sculpture, a Classical Greek vase, and two paintings. Notice how all four, besides describing the work that inspired them, also comment, in some way, on the act of creation itself.

As we all know, poetry should be read aloud, so now we will visit some sites where we can hear poetry being read. In order to listen to the poems, you will need a program such as Windows Media Player or RealPlayer installed on your computer. (If you do not have a program for playing sound clips,  then I suggest RealPlayer. Trust me, it is very easy to install. Since we will definitely need it for the Unit on music, you may as well install it now.) 

Poet of the Day: Richard Wilbur

We have already read a poem by Richard Wilbur ("Museum Piece"--see above)  and we will read two more in the Reading for this Unit.  The link below will take you to information on  Wilbur as well as the chance to hear him read his own poetry. Next to the article, in the left hand column, is a list of four of his poems. "The Prisoner of Zenda" has a little speaker next to it. Click on the speaker and it will take you to the poem. Once there, click on the little speaker again and you will hear him read it himself. (When you click on the speaker, the RealPlayer will automatically open up).

Poetry Exhibits - Richard Wilbur

Notice the difference it makes to hear the poem rather than simply read it. But even when reading a poem to yourself you should "say" it--that is, either read it aloud or hear a voice as you "read" it in your head. 

An Event

Just below are some good examples of the difference between letting the poem just lay there on the page or hearing it read aloud. Thanks to the help from some "guests," we have four sound files of four different readings of "An Event." Listen to all four and then think about how they compared to your own internal reading of the poem. (These clips will also be used in the Unit Five Reading and Writing Assignment.) Choose either Real Media files  or .mp3s.

Richard Behrendt   President Emeritus, SVCC
Real Media             MP3

Joan Kerber  Vice President, Instructional Services, SVCC  (Not up yet.)

Jason Hedrick  Assistant Professor, Theatre and Humanities, SVCC
Real Media           MP3

Kris Murray  Assistant Professor, Music and Humanities, SVCC
Real Media            MP3

Here are some sites for poems in print. Pick a couple to practice reading aloud.


Please use Google for your research. (Be sure to click WWW for searches beyond this site.)