Tag Archive for Macbeth

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.”

 

 

Song Use: Day Three

As teachers, we love trivia nights, teen Jeopardy, and Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader, because, let’s be honest, we are smarter than fifth graders.  We build up these insignificant factoids about authors and texts in the hope that one day we will find ourselves plagued with an obscure question that no one really cares about, yet we feel compelled to give an answer because we are English teachers and these are literature questions.  In an effort to help, I’m going to provide a little known fact that might prove worthy the next time you watch a little Trebek.  Where did the band Aerosmith get their name?  In their autobiography a band member described how he was drawn to a title that incorporated the idea of an “aero” but, upon thinking of the name Aerosmith, had to convince his fellow band members it had nothing to do with the Upton Sinclair novel they had read (and apparently hated) in high school called Arrowsmith.  I’ll take “awesome” for $300, Alex. Read more

Novel & Unit Projects: Day Three

I have this tendency to want something incredibly creative from students as we end the study of a unit.  I want something bright, colorful, thoughtful, artistic.  I want to be blown away.  I forget the following: I’m no artist and most of them aren’t either.  Drawing always ends badly in my class.  Even though we long for something “creative” that spans multiple disciplines we still have a responsibility to have students consider motivation and purpose.

The New York Times ran an article about a high school student who curated a city-wide art show for teens.  The story was remarkable. It reminded me that often we do our students a disservice when we don’t make them reach.  They are capable.  This article reminded me of a synthesis question the AP Language and Composition exam used in 2007.  The premise of the prompt was that every single exhibition depends upon a series of “decisions” made by a curator. It is in this that we have the basis of an alternative project.  This project itself asks that students identify themes.  It’s particularly good for weightier works like The Grapes of Wrath, The Odyssey, All the King’s Men, MacBeth, The Poisonwood Bible, etc. The basic premise is that you want the novel or the characters or the unit to serve as the exhibition itself.  You will have students become “curators” for their own exhibition using the microblogging platform Tumblr.

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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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Annotation: Week in Review

                               

     Friday Dialogue from Your Two Favorite Educators 

As Emily and Aubrey look back over the week they use their razor sharp wit to assess their innermost feelings about annotating.

1.  When did you start marking texts?  What does your personal style of annotation require? 

Emily:  I think it started with Mrs. Nell in my senior English class when we were reading Macbeth.  She asked to look for repetition of words or images.  When I started to recognize the trends I was hooked on annotating and close reading like I’m hooked on Arby’s Beef and Cheddar sandwiches.  However, one of the biggest compliments I have ever received about my annotating abilities came on a flight a few years ago.  My students were reading Kite Runner and I was re-reading and marking up the text for the stylistic patterns.  The woman sitting next to me asked if I was an editor.  My response:  “No, I’m just a really anal retentive reader.”  Still one of the biggest compliments of my life…which maybe says more about my personal life than it does my annotating life!

Aubrey: It’s funny that you say senior year because it was for me too.  Mrs. Biehl had us read “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” and I can remember color-coding the entire story at my part time job on a dinner break.  Especially the suggestive bits.  I highlighted those in green.  Back then I was “highlighter.”  Now I’m obsessed with post-it notes.  Nothing makes me happier than those post-it note flags.  I can write just enough on them and also have them on all three sides of the book.  They’re so neat and tidy something that comes into direct opposition with my messy annotation.  I went to a book club once with my copy of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (see day one again) and the response I got was “oooooh” but not an ooooh like people watching fireworks on the fourth of July.  More like oooooh, crazy town has arrived.

Emily:  Let’s be honest.  They thought crazy town had arrived before you pulled out your book!

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Anticipation Guide: Day Three

This is an alternative to the “Four Corners” activity, one where students are asked to move to four corners of the room if they “strongly agree,” “agree,” “disagree,” or “strongly disagree” with belief statements read aloud.  Again, students are familiar with the format so, in an attempt to maintain the level of engagement but vary the approach, I turned the assignment into a gender analysis.  Read more