Activity: The Ships of Theseus

Activity: The Ships of Theseus

As Theseus takes an old ship and changes it piece by piece into something that seems entirely different, we will revitalize an old poem by changing it piece by piece into something fresh. 

1. Read “The Ships of Theseus,” Steve Gehrke and/or my discussion of the ancient philosophical paradox at Metaphysics Poems.

2. Start with an old poem of your own or a favourite poem written by someone else, and practice the art of revision: Change one line at a time, until every line has been altered significantly.

3. Share both poems with the rest of the group, and consider the questions below for discussion:

  • Is it still the same poem? Why or why not?
  • What have you learned by altering your poem?
  • Does it still have the same subject and/or main idea, or does it seem completely different?
  • If there is a significant shift in subject, did you make this change consciously from the beginning, or did it happen organically as the revision process went on?
  • If you began with a poem written by someone else, is the revision your poem, or does it belong to the author of the original poem? Why?
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