Tag Archive for Hamlet

Art to Pair with Literature

Horace once said that “a picture is a poem without words.”  What this is really speaking to is the expressiveness of an image.  Often art can help to capture the essence of piece of writing and therefore bring out the emotions and purpose of a piece of literature.

However, I don’t think I need to convince you.  I think a primary reason why English teachers don’t use more art in the classroom is not because they don’t think it serves a purpose but because they don’t know which pieces best match the literature they teach in class.  Therefore, the purpose of today isn’t necessarily to justify the use of art in the classroom or advise teachers on how to implement art.  Instead, I’m going to suggest pieces of artwork that pair nicely with commonly known texts in an English classroom.  Tomorrow, I’ll present activities that will help students analyze the connection between the art and the texts.

Most of the artists I will suggest fall under the Cubist movement.  While not exclusive to the list, I think these work best because they are so abstract that
students won’t be tempted to connect the painting and the text by subject matter.

 

When teaching texts that involve an introspective look at the main character or

that features a character that faces internal struggles, Picasso is an excellent resource.  Picasso often features a singular subject in a distorted perspective.  Because of this, it can be explored how Picasso paintings reflect the struggles of the character.  This particular painting of Picasso’s known as El Sueno, conveys a woman who appears passive and at peace, while her head is being split in two and is surrounded by bold, contrasting colors.  This piece would work well with texts like Picture of Dorian Grey, Oedipus Rex, and Catcher in the Rye.

It is relatively easy to find images of men and women.  But, when teaching texts that portray complex relationships between men and women it is more challenging to find a painting that fully depicts the intricacy.  However, the iconic image American Gothic, by Grant Wood, is an excellent depiction of the ways in which men and women interact.  The shifting use of lines (rounded for the woman and landscape and angular for the man and house) brings out a contrast between genders and leads viewers into a discussion of power and how it is manifested by people.  This certainly works for pieces like Daisy Miller and A Doll’s House.  However, if teaching Shakespearean pieces, such as Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and King Lear, you might want to consider using a more connotative piece like Titian’s Venus and Adonis. Unlike the Wood piece, this painting reflects a sense of urgency and movement in the positioning of the figures.  Students might also explore the role of power within a relationship by exploring the use of coloring and skin tone for the woman, Venus, and how it contrasts the rich-colored clothing of the man, Adonis.  Also, the fact that the setting of the image takes place before Adonis is killed in a hunt provides students with context to consider the seriousness of a quest or journey that takes place within the story.

Even though they vary greatly in subject, Animal Farm, Heart of Darkness, Anne Frank, and even Mrs. Dalloway, profile an easily understandable subject matter in a very distorted way.  The same is true with the Cubist painters.  For these particular works, I would consider using pretty much any work from Picasso, or, specifically, the image from Georges Braque titled Still Life: Le Jour.  This oil painting features a still life, in which an artist has placed on a table a series of items to be painted.  However, Braque takes these common items and alters them to suggest a disfigured view of life.  While it might not explicitly connect to the pieces of fiction, students can engage in a discussion about the ways in which an ordinary details is treated in a very extraordinary manner.  Students might also analyze the perspective Braque provides the viewer on depth (especially the ways in which the table appears to “grow”), which could metaphorically represent the shifting depths of a character or plot point.

When reading pieces about revenge or discord between men, like Hamlet or Of Mice and Men, a softer, more sensitive side to death can be explored through the piece from Jacques-Louis David titled Death of Marat and features David’s constructed view of Marat’s, a French Revolutionary leader, death.  In this image, Marat is bathed in light and appears almost angelic or revered because of this.   David’s use of chiaroscuro, a shading from dark to light, highlights the vulnerability of this fallen leader and transforms the way critics see him.  This also helps establish a sense of vulnerability because of the facial features of Marat and the fact that he appears unarmed in the bath.  Students might consider how this portrayal mimics the loss of a leader.  An image like this could even work for any text when trying to bring out sincerity for a character who has fallen.

Exquisite Corpse

Finally, one of my favorite pieces doesn’t necessarily fit a theme.  It really just captures a time period:  American Modernism.  I love using the sketch from Man Ray, Joan Miro, Yves Tanguy, and Max Morise titled Exquisite Corpse when teaching pieces from Hemingway or Fitzgerald.  Specifically, the image draws a natural parallel between The Great Gatsby and the relationship between Daisy and Gatsby.  The image calls into question the role of society in a relationship and the ways in which a relationship can reflect the values of a time period.  Because of the joining of heads and the colors used, students can always engage in a really thorough discussion of how it connects to the novel or comparable works like “Winter Dreams,” or Hemingway’s “The End of Something.”

 

 

Ad Analysis: Contemporary Ads Paired With Novels

I think all teachers cringe when they hear “when I am ever going to use this again.”  I like to believe the dumbfounded look combined with annoyance is part of a teacher’s DNA.  I can’t help it.  It is unnatural for me to respond any other way.  Even though I think yesterday’s discussion of using primary source advertisements in the classroom is valid and important, I think a lot of students feel so detached from them because of their publication.  But that doesn’t mean the skills are lost.  It just means that, as teachers, we need to find current advertisements that connect thematically to the literature.  Today we are celebrating Digital Literacy Day and suggesting online print ads that are much more striking and Read more

Argument Analysis: Literature Connections

While the GRE prompts and suggestions for this week are great for an AP English Language class because of the focus on argument, these prompts could also work really well when partnered with literature. The pool of “Analyze an Issue” prompts tend to work better when pairing with literature because of the nature of the prompts and the brevity of the statements.  The beauty of these prompts is that they could be used at any point within a novel; however, I think they serve as an excellent way to introduce the text.  Similar to what was stated yesterday, I struggle to write my own quality statements for anticipation guides; they tend to be generic and fairly short-sighted.  Now I just use GRE prompts because they are complex enough to generate really meaningful discussion.

Consider using some of the suggestions on Tuesday and Wednesday to incorporate the below prompts as a form of an anticipation guide or use some of the suggestions from our week on anticipation guides.  You could have the students thoroughly analyze or debate one of the below issues or compile multiple statements into for students to consider the extent to which they agree with each.

TEXTS WITH MAN v. SOCIETY CONFLICT-like The Great Gatsby, Grapes of Wrath, Pygmalion, and Crime and Punishment

  • People’s behavior is largely determined by forces not of their own making.
  • Claim: The best way to understand the character of a society is to examine the character of the men and women that the society chooses as its heroes or its role models. Reason: Heroes and role models reveal a society’s highest ideals.
  • The increasingly rapid pace of life today causes more problems than it solves.

TEXTS WITH MAN v. SELF CONFLICT-like Death of a Salesman, Catcher in the Rye, Hamlet, and Lord of the Flies

  • Unfortunately, in contemporary society, creating an appealing image has become more important than the reality or truth behind that image.
  • As we acquire more knowledge, things do not become more comprehensible, but more complex and mysterious.
  • It is primarily through our identification with social groups that we define ourselves.
  • The luxuries and conveniences of contemporary life prevent people from developing into truly strong and independent individuals.

TEXTS WITH MAN V MAN CONFLICT-like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, A Separate Peace, and To Kill a Mockingbird

  • Claim: We can usually learn much more from people whose views we share than from those whose views contradict our own.  Reason: Disagreement can cause stress and inhibit learning.
  • In any situation, progress requires discussion among people who have contrasting points of view.
  • Scandals are useful because they focus our attention on problems in ways that no speaker or reformer ever could.

TEXTS WITH POLITICAL UNDERCURRENTS: like All the King’s Men, Fahrenheit 451, Animal Farm, and Julius Caesar

  • The well-being of a society is enhanced when many of its people question authority.
  • Governments should not fund any scientific research whose consequences are unclear.
  • Leaders are created by the demands that are placed on them.
  • Claim: In any field—business, politics, education, government—those in power should step down after five years.  Reason: The surest path to success for any enterprise is revitalization through new leadership.
  • Some people believe that in order to be effective, political leaders must yield to public opinion and abandon principle for the sake of compromise. Others believe that the most essential quality of an effective leader is the ability to remain consistently committed to particular principles and objectives.

Non-Fiction to Pair with Coming of Age: Role of Parenting

Image from Eva Maria

I love my niece and nephew and my friend’s children, but the more I’m around them the more I realize how incredibly tough it is to be a parent.  It is, without a doubt, the hardest job imaginable.  Not only is there no instruction manua,l but, as literature has shown us, parents screwing up is the primary reason the memoir genre even exists–ahem, Augusten Burroughs and Jeannette Walls.  In fact, so much of who we are as adults is shaped by the way in which we are raised.  Therefore, when looking for pieces of non-fiction to pair with coming-of-age novels, consider providing texts that explore the role of parenting.  These could bring about discussions hypothesizing the way in which our character’s personalities are shaped.

Welcome to the Age of Overparenting,” is an article that appeared in Boston Magazine that describes the consequences of being too protective as a parent and provides suggestions on how to parent.  Have your students read the article and identify the qualities that lead to and the effects of overparenting.  Then, have them evaluate the role of parenting as possible interpretative motivations for the actions of the characters in the following pieces of literature:  David Copperfield, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Hamlet, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Jane Eyre.  Even a text that is antithetical, like To Kill a Mockingbird, would work well with this article.

In a different activity, have the students compare and contrast the methods of parenting in “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior,” by Amy Chua, and “No More Mrs Nice Mom,” by Judith Warner.  These texts in particular would be great pieces to study alongside “Mother Tongue,” by Amy Tan, another piece of non-fiction.  While all are explicitly cultural-based and would work well with similar-focused novels like House on Mango Street and Song of Solomon, the interpretation deduced from these articles could be used in conjunction with the above texts as well.

Non-Fiction to Pair with Coming of Age: Conflict

Ugh…junior high.  Even though I interviewed for a high school position, the first job offer I received was for 6th grade.  It was also the first job I rejected.  People told me I was a dumb naïve 22-year-old (which I very well might have been), but I remembered too vividly how horrible junior high and the early years of high school were.  We were all on a quest to understand ourselves and in the process created insecurities and anxieties, all of which came about because of envy.  While I’ve worked through (most of) my deep-seeded insecurities, I’m still surrounded by them through my students.  There is something about adolescence that perpetuates this sense of envy and usually serves as the largest source of conflict in high school.  Even though the students might not realize it, so many of their disputes and problems come from a type of envy they feel toward another.  The same is true of the literature that reflects this growth and initiation into adulthood.  When studying the conflict that arises in coming-of-age novels, students need to consider the root of it:  envy.  The below examples of non-fiction pair nicely with fiction because they pose questions about the nature and effects of envy and fighting. 

Excerpt from The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer, Arthur Schopenhauer.  A more challenging piece of non-fiction, Schopenhauer delineates the different types of envy and the cause of them.  Have students identify the various types of envy described by Schopenhauer and argue which type best correlates with characters from the fiction they are reading.  Natural connections with fiction can be found with Lord of the Flies, Hamlet, House on Mango Street, the Harry Potter series, and Atonement.

Excerpt from On Duties, Cicero.  Another challenging essay, Cicero evaluates the nature of fighting as it is born out of envy.  He ascertains that the way in which we treat others during battle reveals a lot about the character of the individual.  Even though this text deals primarily with war, this could be explored in a more figurative sense with the conflict between two characters.  Again, provide the essay and have students determine how Cicero would describe the moral fiber of the characters based on their knowledge of both the non-fiction and fiction pieces.  Consider pairing this with The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn, Hamlet, and Lord of the Flies.

Non-Fiction to Pair with Coming of Age: Examine the Teenager

Image from Vivian Chen

Teenagers love themselves and all are, to some degree, self absorbed.  Seriously.  If I had a $5 Arby’s gift card for every time a student made some self-important comment I’d be rolling in Beef ‘N Cheddars.

But I don’t fault them.  That is the perk of being a teenager, right?  Living without consequence or fear or responsibility.  Yet, because of their narcissistic view, they often struggle to see the big picture because they struggle to see outside of their immediate lives.  This certainly causes a problem for interpretation.  As a teacher of teenagers, I feel it is my duty to make them more self-aware and ask them to evaluate who they are and what they believe and where these values came from, which will allow them to better evaluate a text.

Coming-of-age novels are typically brought into the classroom for students to relate to and learn from.  Reading a novel in this genre allows students the opportunity to place themselves in the situations and scenarios and consider how they would respond if they were the main character.  Yet, it is important for us to not just keep the self-exploration limited to the text itself.  For some students, it is impossible to connect to a character from the 19th century, regardless of the similar traits they possess.  Therefore, providing contemporary essays and articles about their generation as a supplement to the coming-of-age novel allows students a great opportunity to examine themselves and their values in the guise of fiction.

Below are a series of essays/articles that explore the current nature of the teenager and would serve as nice supplements to pieces of literature.

  • A Generations vanity NYTarticle by John Tierney-NYT: This article examines the lyrics of songs popular with contemporary teenagers and deduces that the narcissicism encourages a sense of isolation and loneliness.  This article might be a nice supplement to a song/text comparison, which allows students to discuss how music becomes an indicator of a group’s mentality.  Even though this article addresses the narcissistic nature of teenagers, due to its discussion of depression it can be appropriately be connected to pieces like Hamlet,  Catcher in the Rye, The Chocolate War, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
  • Demon Denim,” op-ed by George Will from The Washington Post:  This conversationally constructed opinion piece is a fascinating look at the moral degeneration of today’s teenagers and their inability to “grow up.”  Ask students to study the root of Will’s argument and evaluate the extent to which it is true today.  While it might not always align with the main character, consider pairing this op-ed with many of the pieces stated above as well as This Side of Paradise, Lord of the Flies, and A Separate Peace.
  • Amusing Ourselves to Death Postman,” excerpt from Neil Postman book:  Critic Neil Postman is known for his clear and often biting opinions.  In this piece he critiques the way in which culture has created an ill-informed society that has a difficult time thinking for oneself.  While this piece is centered around media, it can be used as a study of how teenagers are ultimately shaped by their environment and the manner in which they bend to fit into various cultures.  Ask students to examine the consequences of Postman’s argument and then compare and contrast it with the fictionalized characters in pieces like Never Let Me Go, Atonement, and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.

Novel & Unit Projects: Day Four

Ah the dreaded oral presentation.  Hmmm.  I feel as if I’ve used that line before.  Oh wait I did, on Monday.  Oral presentations have been end-of-unit assignments from the beginning of time, or at least since my time, which feels as long.  I understand the appeal, but I can remember the terror.  Students aren’t kind to one another, especially when it comes to being “bored.”  Presentations have lots of room for “boredom.”  They are however an expectation.  See the common core standards for further reminding.
So, how do you approach them in a way that isn’t terrifying or tedious for all parties?The answer lies within how you set the parameters.  Speeches should be short.  Expecting them to fill 3-5 minutes can be difficult for everyone involved.  So today’s end-of-novel/unit project is something that utilizes short student speeches.It takes time to construct a meaningful speech.  As a teacher I speak everyday.  But I have a captive audience.  They can’t leave.  That doesn’t make me a good speaker.

Weekend Tech: ITunes U Part 2

Yesterday I profiled a teacher treasure:  ITunes U.  A scholarly resource equipped with videos and podcasts that are appropriate for and accessible in classrooms through a teacher’s ITunes account.  Even though ITunes U has material for every discipline (history, religion, art, music, etc.), today I’m going to profile some of my favorite outlets within the site and some ways they can be used in the classroom. These can be found through doing a search in ITunes.

 

UPenn’s 60 Second Lectures:  During the spring and fall UPenn’s School of Arts and Sciences invites professors to give a guest lecture to the campus on their favorite topics.  However, the professors are limited to sixty seconds.  Imagine summing up a topic as sweeping as the Crusades in one minute while making it witty and enjoyable to the majority.  Not an easy task.  Yet the professors manage to accomplish it with flair and precision.  Even though they are sixty seconds and prepared by ivy league professors, the material is widely accessible to students of all ages and abilities.

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