On January 29, 1845, American author Edgar Allan Poe’s famously eerie poem “The Raven” was published in the New York Evening Mirror. Equally praised and panned by critics of the day, the poem made Poe famous throughout America and England. “The Raven” was parodied soon after its publication, and continues to be an important cultural and literary text even today.
Read aloud the opening stanzas of Poe’s “The Raven.” Ask students to note their reactions to the language of the poem as they listen. The following questions can guide their written or verbal responses:
- What are their impressions of the poem’s speaker and atmosphere?
- What emotions/feelings might the speaker be experiencing?
- How can a reader tell the mood and tone of the poem, after hearing only the opening stanzas?
- What words, images, and details does Poe provide to create this effect?
After students have finished, glean from their responses the words and phrases Poe uses to create the voice of the speaker, a figure who is obviously not “normal.” Continue reading the poem, or distribute copies to students for their own reading. Discuss the changes or development of students’ first impressions as “The Raven” continues.
For more on Poe and “The Raven,” visit these resources from the Library of Congress:
- Edgar Allan Poe and “The Raven”
- Edgar Allan Poe: Today in History
- A “Craven” Welcome
- 1913 recording of The Raven part 1 and part 2
- “The Raven” and Mr. Halloween Himself
Curious about the NCTE and Library of Congress connection? Through a grant announced recently by NCTE Executive Director Emily Kirkpatrick, NCTE is engaged in new ongoing work with the Library of Congress, and “will connect the ELA community with the Library of Congress to expand the use of primary sources in teaching.” Stay tuned for more throughout the year!