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Archive for the category “Books and Reading”

Jasper Fforde fans click here

If you’re considering teaching Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair in Extension 1 from 2015, or if you’re just a fan, this article is well worth your time. It’s from Erica Hateley – I referred to another of her articles in my last post – who works at QUT. It includes some lovely details about the book I’d forgotte – I read it a while ago, after all. And I missed that Thursday Next’s experiences in the novel mirror those of Jane in Jane Eyre. D’oh. End Eyre Affair Fforde


Wuthering High? Moby Clique?

They’re both book titles. I came across a reference to them in the latest English in Australia, that’s Volume 48, Number 2, and went browsing.

What I read of Cara Lockwood’s Wuthering High was engaging and clever. Not class set engaging and clever, but fun nonetheless.  Protagonist Miranda Tate, after a series of misdemeanours involving her father’s BMW convertible, is shipped off to Bard Academy. The school advertises itself as a place where ‘our students probe the classics in a solid academic tradition.’ It turns out that many of the teachers in the school are the ghosts of authors past. Ernest Hemingway teaches PE…

What a fabulous idea for a piece of young adult literature. Here’s a school where students get in touch with the great writers of the past – literally!  The article in English in Australia puts it like this:

Miranda and her fellow students are presumed to benefit from direct contact with dead authors, whether they have read those authors’ works or not.

I’ve always been a fan of Jasper Fforde’s ‘Eyre Affair’ series because of the way it plays with literature so I think I might have to give this one a read. I’d recommend the article in English in Australia, too: it’s Erica Hateley’s ‘Canon Fodder: Young Adult Literature as a Tool for Critiquing Canonicity.’ It’s an excellent summary recent thinking on the nature of the canon and its relationship to young adult literature. Wuthering High

Othello Resources – for those who asked

My favourite Shakespeare book is Norrie Epstein’s The Friendly Shakespeare. It’s amusing, readable, comprehensive… exactly the sort of book I wish I had at university when I was studying Shakespeare. Here’s a little sample: epstein_othello[1].

It’s a while since I taught Othello but I think that for Preliminary it’s worth going with the dramatic approach. I have trouble staying away from reader’s theatre with Shakespeare. For Macbeth I have a whole PowerPoint of production images that I’ve sourced from the net. They tell the story in pictures from a range of productions. Great for initially reinforcing plot and character but then it builds into an activity about meaning and interpretation.

I’ve always enjoyed teaching Shakespeare but I’m not a fan of the idea that he’s ‘timeless’. The explanations that take account of his very different appeals to audiences across time are more to my liking. I think I heard John Bell put it this way: ‘Shakespeare’s plays survive only if they can speak to us in ways that other plays cannot.’ That may not be the exact quote – but it’s still a good starting point!

SF Formative fun

SF formative fun image

Bianca Hewes, in her blog, set the challenge:

“… there are the usual ways of getting students to do a quiz, answer a question or two in a discussion or write a brief reflection on learning in a learning journal. These are great but can become monotonous for students and for teachers. Variety forces people to think in new ways and fall out of over-used patterns of thought.”

Here’s my response: I’ve been working on a new syllabus unit for Year 9, based around Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, looking particularly at cyborgs in SF. The emphasis is on understanding the constructed nature of the genre. So here’s my high-interest formative activity that gives students a chance to play with constructing an image then checks out their ability to discuss some of the central ideas.
See what you think. The activity is here: SF formative fun

Details of the source of the article are in the link.

Teaching SF

I’m working over the next couple of weeks on drafting up a couple of ‘new syllabus’ units.

 The first one I’m working on is based around Marissa Meyer’s book Cinder. It’s a Cinderella style cyborg love story, so naturally I’m re-working a genre unit. I’d like this to be contemporary, edgy, funky… engaging in other words. I mean yes, I love Ray Bradbury, but there are only so many times that I can teach ‘There will come soft rains.’

 So I’m looking for good ideas. Where would you all go with this?

 It’d be nice if the Borad of Studies  interactive programming tool was available, but we have to wait until day 1 next year for that. And right now, I have a bit of time on my hands. Naturally I’ll be sharing the final product so if you’ve got a moment, let me know your thoughts.

Angry Penguins

During the Sydney Olympic Art Festival, I saw a draft version of a musical based on 1944’s Ern Malley hoax. There was a particularly good song showing the conservative poets,  James McAuley and Harold Stewart, assembling the fake poems from a mashed up a range of sources – misquoted dead poets, Army manuals and so on.

It’s a fascinating story. But the musical was (as far as I can tell) never completed. The difficulty was in the point of the whole story. Who should we ridicule? Max Harris, because he was taken in by the hoax? McAuley and Stewart, because they produced their best and most interesting work as a prank?

The musical came to mind while I was listening to Assoc Prof David Brooks’ talk, ‘Literary hoaxes: Throwing out the babies with the bathwater’ at the Five Bells conference. He was arguing that we are too quick to dismiss hoaxes as being not worthy of study, when in fact they can be both influential and revealing.

I love a good hoax: I’d recommend ‘Banvard’s Folly’ (http://www.amazon.com/Banvards-Folly-Thirteen-People-Change/dp/0312300336) to anyone who shares my interest. But David’s talk asked me to look at literary hoaxes in a new light. Ern Malley and other hoaxes – Helen Demidenko, B. Wongar and Colin Johnson were mentioned –  are very revealing about our national character.  We seem to like our fiction in a safe creative ‘cage’ – that’s David’s word, not mine.Is the reason we are so dismissive or Demidenko, for example, a response to the way the  ‘The Hand that Signed the Paper’ hoax revealed our naivete about multiculturalism?

Ern Malley was influential in the world of modern poetry despite his lack of existence!  His influence continues today – see the official website http://www.ernmalley.com/index.html for details.

  Perhaps what was missing from the musical was this sense that the hoaxes provide insights that ‘authentic’ literature doesn’t?

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