Listening to Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s On First? ” can provide a helpful introduction to E.E. Cummings’s special use of pronouns in “anyone lived in a pretty how town.” Like Cummings, Abbott and Costello convert pronouns, other parts of speech, or short phrases into proper nouns. After students wrestle with this context in relation to the poem, they will be ready to think about other contexts, such as the legacy of Emersonian individualism or the Romantic idea of the child’s closeness to God. Finally, the role of gender in the love story is also worth exploring, and the romance between anyone and noone can be considered in the context of the ballad tradition.
This document was originally published by Teaching American Literature in Teaching American Literature: A Journal of Theory and Practice. Copyright restrictions may apply.
Westover, Jeff. (2016). "Cummings, Abbott and Costello: How "Who's on First?" Can Help Students Understand "anyone lived in a pretty how town"". Teaching American Literature: A Journal of Theory and Practice, 8(3), 54-70.