Old Idea Remix
Using movies and TikTok and memes to look at literary classics from a new angle
Welcome to From the Teacher’s Desk, where we take turns further reflecting on our episodes and applications to the classroom.
I’m pretty sure one of the cardinal rules of being an English teacher is you have to always believe the book was better than the movie.
But when we dismiss all other media besides traditional ink-and-paper books, we’re missing out on a lot of opportunities to connect the classics to students’ everyday media intake.
In our Pride and Prejudice episode this past week, Sarah and I talked about the importance of adaptation to help us better understand what a classic story is and how it can be repurposed for newer audiences and more inclusive lenses.
And isn’t that what Lit Think is all about? Our goal in making this podcast is to remind everyone that pop culture can and should be brought into the English classroom - to study, to analyze, and to revitalize the stories we already know so well.
Back to the book vs movie debate: it doesn’t always have to be about which is better. It could just be about how different stories feed off each other.
I think it’s important to acknowledge that some students are going to engage more deeply with a literary text when body language and tone are added to the story, along with the text on the page. So here are a few adaptation warmups I’ve used when teaching Shakespeare to get you thinking:
Show clips of Warm Bodies to teach Romeo and Juliet (seriously - a zombie named R falls for a girl named Julie…there’s even a balcony scene).
Invite students to talk about the eerie similarities between Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker in Batman: The Dark Knight and Iago in Shakespeare’s Othello (lots of great conversation around masks from this one scene too).
Use scenes from Pixar movies to talk about some great Greek tragedy terms like anagnorisis, hamartia, and catharsis
I know this idea isn’t original to me - but don’t just go to social media for memes that make you laugh about classic literature. Invite your students to make originals! Here is one of my favorites a student made after we read Beowulf a few years back:
Or play with dating apps in relation to lost love opportunities in whatever text you’re currently reading! This is one of my favorite activities to share with students when we read Frankenstein.
If you haven’t included #booktok in your classroom, you’re missing out on some great book recommendations! Some of my favorite bookstores have great TikTok accounts, and they use them to recommend thematic and character-driven book recommendations. When it comes to looking at adaptations of an idea across a wide variety of genres, check out:
And these 60-second movie summaries are also pretty great!
What are some of your favorite classic adaptations - either based on theme or character? How could you plan to share them with your students in the future?
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Great post, Alicia, which inspired me to write my own -- referencing yours of course: https://terryfreedman.substack.com/p/bringing-shakespeare-to-life?sd=pf I love the idea of adapting classic texts. I've seen several Shakespeare modern dress productions, and apart from anything else I love the creativity of the directors and producers involved. Thanks again for a really interesting read.