Lorna Goodison’s By Love Possessed is a collection of short stories that explore Jamaican life. These lesson plans can be used to engage younger readers across skills levels,
as they offer opportunities for both reluctant readers and more confident readers to discuss the literature and examine specific narratives in a more substantive way. Students will be given the opportunity to study symbol, character, and theme. These lesson plans also provide the opportunity for students to research Jamaican artists, Jamaican music, and aspects of Jamaican history. Students may also use Goodison’s fiction to express their own creativity through art, photography, and/or writing. Lesson Plan Designer: Eisa Nefetari Ulen
I. Topics for Discussion
A. What is a collection of short fiction?
B. Define these Terms
C. How is this book different from a novel?
D. Which is easier for you to read, a novel or a short story collection?
E. Do you enjoy longer narratives or do you prefer shorter narratives?
F. Which story do you like the most in this collection? Which one is the most vivid?
G. In her interview with Clarence Reynolds, Goodison says, “My particular role, as I see it, is to accurately represent my people. I have this real concern about how sometimes Jamaicans, and Caribbean people, are represented. And in my own writing, I want to tell their stories, but I want to do it in such a way that I think accurately portrays them.” Do you think she succeeded in accurately representing Jamaicans in By Love Possessed?
H. Consider the theme of freedom in “God’s Help.” The male character is sent to prison, and the woman character is compelled to go to church. In what ways is the church like a kind of prison, at least for the female character forced to go there? Do you think the characters are both free when the story ends?
II. Essay Idea
Write a book review of Goodison’s collection. Think about the themes that reoccur in By Love Possessed. Decide which stories to mention in your review. Re-read the introduction to the interview with Goodison that appears in this issue of Mosaic, and consider Reynolds’ work as you start your own.
III. Additional Activities
A. Choose a character that Goodison has developed in one of her stories. Write another story using that character. In your story, the character might be older or younger. You might re-imagine Goodison’s character moving from Jamaica to your community. Write your own short story based on a character Goodison has created in her book.
B. Look at a poem, short story, or essay that one of your classmates has written. Write a list of questions based on your classmates’ work and interview her / him. Share your interview, along with the poem, short story, or essay that inspired it, with the class.
C. Find a map of Jamaica and identify the places Goodison mentions in her stories. Highlight or mark those areas. Share your literary map with the class.
D. Goodison mentions Peter Tosh in her interview with Reynolds. Identify the musicians the author references in her collection of short stories. Choose one or two and listen to their music. If you are able to find video(s) of the musician(s) you choose performing live, watch those videos. Think about the way Goodison uses music in her stories and write an essay about the author’s use of Jamaican sound in her writing.
E. Think about the title of this collection. What does it mean to be possessed? What, exactly, is love? What does it mean to be possessed by love? What kind if love is expressed by characters in Goodison’s stories, especially in the title story? Create a visual representation of Goodison’s book title. You might want to make a collage using pictures cut from magazines, or a painting, or a sketch or drawing. You might also want to use a camera to take a picture of an image that you think conveys Goodison’s idea of “by love possessed.” Share your visual representation, your art, with the class.
F. Form a group and discuss these lines:
1. “… bigger than the governor’s washing tub” on page 18 in “Jamaica Hope.”
2. “…whiter than pelican sh**” on page 62 in “By Love Possessed.”
What do these figures of speech mean? Think about what happens in the stories where these lines appear. Do these forms of expression help the careful reader better understand the main themes of the narratives in which these lines appear? Come up with a list of colloquial and quirky figures of speech that you and your friends use. Come up with definitions to help someone unfamiliar with these forms of expression understand what people mean when they use them. Share your list and your definitions with the class.
I. Topics for Discussion
A. The female protagonist looks at a George Rodney landscape for four minutes before entering the restaurant. What does this suggest? What does the landscape painting symbolize? What about the tree outside the window, with blossoms that “created their own painting” on page 1? What might this tree, an element of the natural world, symbolize?
B. Examine the Hatshepsut quote on page 5. Why do you think it is significant that “Queen Hatshepsut had written that about herself”? In what way(s) is the female protagonist in this story like the Egyptian queen?…
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