How Might We Show Structure

Today in AP Lit we undertook a design process that began in the contemplation of a selected sonnet’s structure, and culminated in the creation of a project that demonstrated or expressed said structure. The entire time, we chose to keep these two quotes from Thomas C. Foster’s “How to Read Lit Like A Professor” in our minds.


“A sonnet in fact, we might think of as having two units of meaning, closely related, but with a shift of some sort taking place between them.”

“The magic of a sonnet lies in it’s structure.”


Here’s what happened:




The process began with creating an empathy map using the speaker of our poems as our user. I chose Sir Thomas Wyatt’s “Whoso List to Hunt” and used the poem to infer what Wyatt was saying, thinking, doing, and feeling based upon the things he said or ideas he expressed in the poem. The one caveat being that the empathy map had to take into account the poem’s Volta, where the speaker’s message or meaning undergoes a shift. I thought that I would have to do extensive searching to find things to say about the Volta, but I was surprised by quite the opposite! Whatever I ended up listing in each category of the empathy map seemed to culminate in my realization of the Volta. After this practice I am convinced that the Volta is not the crossroads from which each aspect of the poem diverges, but rather the crossroads at which all aspects of the poem meet.



The next part of the design was putting together materials for a construction that could represent the structure of our poem. Above are the materials I chose for my construction. After taking a few minutes to conceptualize the design, I was ready to begin.



This was my product. Multilayered in meaning, I am confident of this product and believe it accurately represents my ideas of the structure of “Whoso List to Hunt”. The sonnet is broken up into an octave, followed by a quatrain, and ending with a couplet. However, the volta is found in the seventh line of the sonnet, which perfectly bisects the poem into two equal bodies. The first seven lines of the sonnet are represented by the seven cups stacked to make up the tower, meaning that the seven beginning lines work together as a cumulative body with the purpose of furthering a single idea; that the man who hunts is torn between whom is loyalty belongs. The top of the tower opens up into a chalice, which represents the last seven lines. There is no segmentation in this part of the structure because the last seven lines come after the volta and flow freely together in a crescendo that is the hunter pursuing the deer. Held within the chalice is the man’s prize —a deer— yet when the man’s search comes to fruition he finds the destination lacking, for there seems to be an unbreachable distance between the hunter and his prey. This distance is represented by the fourteen stones at the bottom of the tower, which are meant to be the jeweled collar that circles the neck of the deer, signaling that though she is wild, she belongs to another.


Overall I think it was a neat process executed under a perfect time constraint. Any less time would have made the task impossible, any more time and I would have been second guessing my decisions. I think that creating something tangible as a means to think through an idea is a good exercise. Sometimes it isn’t enough to just think about something. Creating the ideas cements them in your mind and brings new insights within reach. I left class today with a better grasp on my own ideas about the structure of my sonnet, and a new way of thinking involving tactility that is very successful.