Tag Archive for Heart of Darkness

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

Tiny Texts: The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories

iStockphoto.com

Between blog posts, tweets, and RSS feeds, I find myself swimming in a sea of “tiny” text.  While all of them are informative, I’m not always certain that this hyper reading makes me a better reader. As with anything that we consume, sometimes it’s necessary to stop and reflect upon style and craft.

The amount of work that goes into tiny “texts” is evident when you examine Joseph Gordon Levitt’s hitRECord, an “open collaborative production company” where together a variety of artists collaborate and create.  You can join and collaborate or simply browse the “layered” art in mid construction.

Have students watch the actual background video on Gordon-Levitt’s project as a way to get them thinking.  Consider using the questions below as a starting place.

  1. What is the argument Gordon-Levitt makes about the difference between social media, exhibitions, and studios?
  2. What is his argument about business and collaboration?
  3. What is the value in this type of project?  How does it differ from something like a Turntable app?

Among these creations is The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories, sixty-seven “tiny” illustrated texts that cleverly tell amusing and endearing stories.  It’s useful for several reasons.  It’s a great way to have students read for detail/language and sometimes even “pun” in a very small space.  They can’t get distracted or sidetracked because of the size.  hitRECord offers several examples that you might show your students.  Either discuss the value of this type of project or think bigger.  I’ve included an animated version below to further the idea of what is possible!

  • It’s also a perfect model for students’ own unit projects.  Partner the above exercise with authors or texts that use sparse style, i.e. Hemingway’s In Our Time or Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and have student mimic these authors’ styles with their own tiny, illustrated stories.
  • Use it as an assignment to finish a study of The Glass Castle, Hope in the Unseen, or Unbroken.  Have students write memoirs or personal essays in conjunction with our Twitter Memoir assignment.
  • Consider having students take slim but weighty texts like The Awakening, “The Yellow Wallpaper” or Heart of Darkness and choose the most significant portion of the text and create their own stand-alone tiny story from that “moment.”

Student-Created Podcast Project

I love the unpredictability of a class discussion. However, I don’t love the varying degrees of participation.  I have tried every gimmick in the book to ensure equal participation.  Yet, it never fails:  some students blend into the background and fail to make a comment in class because they are shy or are unable to overpower the more dominant voices in the discussion.  Having your students create and record their own podcast is a great way to solve all of these problems. Read more

Anticipation Guide: Day One

Aw…the egregious pick-up line.  We’ve all heard them, most of us have ignored them, some of us have fallen for them, and we’ve all pitied the poor fool who actually thought that saying “If you were a new hamburger at McDonald’s, you’d be McGorgeous” would warrant a meaningful relationship.  Or that “excuse me, do you have your phone number, I seem to have lost mine” would actually invite a girl to share her number.  Or that the oldie but goodie “come here often” will bring about a lifetime of happiness and wedded bliss.  Read more