174. The Scream: Edvard Munch

Perhaps you’ve felt like this. It’s nearly summer break, and… well, I don’t need to tell you why you might feel like screaming.

One of four versions of Edvard Munch’s iconic painting “The Scream” is up for sale. What I had know before today is that before the painting came the poem. It is written on the frame of the painting up for sale; the text is below.

Read the poem and have your students draw their own picture of what is happening. Don’t show them the painting, yet. One of the problems I find students encounter is that they cannot picture what is physically happening in the poem (the plot, I call it, as opposed to the theme or meaning), and so they cannot even begin to find meaning (I’ve had student struggle with visualizing “The Red Wheelbarrow” as we are a Vermont farming community).

Then, reveal the painting.

Did it match their vision? Does Munch’s vision match the poem? In the end, who owns the image? Are the students wrong (it is, after all, his painting based on his poem–how could Munch be wrong?–but he might be!)?

Here is an NPR story about the iconic painting and what it means today in a world of mugs, calendars and screensavers. Does it even have meaning anymore, or is it deflated by marketing and irony, and how has that changed over time? Perhaps, in the end, the poem is the more powerful medium.

Perhaps, their vision is the most powerful.


The Scream
Edvard Munch

I was walking along the road with two friends. The Sun was setting —
The Sky turned a bloody red
And I felt a whiff of Melancholy — I stood
Still, deathly tired — over the blue-black
Fjord and City hung Blood and Tongues of Fire
My Friends walked on — I remained behind
— shivering with Anxiety. I felt the great Scream in Nature.


One thought on “174. The Scream: Edvard Munch

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  1. Funny learning about history, then to learn Munch wrote about my family in one of his last entry creating one of his last works, given from him to my great grandfather personally, wow. What a privelage to be reading from his original poems or entries, I am truly astonished learning about one of the worlds artists whom I enjoyed, I never understood my love of art. To know and read such poetry, regardless of the negative impact of the entries and how my family suffered. Thank you for allowing me the privelage, my father kept this work, handed down by his mother from her father and his father. I am learning Dutch, Swedish, Hebrew, a bit of other languages just deciphering one little book of poetry!

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