Monday, December 1, 2008

High School Brit Lit in the DVD era

I really love teaching the British Literature class I teach every Wednesday morning at a nearby library. The class is very small, consisting of only four girls, two of whom you may be already familiar with if you read this blog frequently. I enjoy hearing the girls' opinions of the things we read, and in my usual textbook-finishing style, we are plowing through with just a little over a month to go until the class ends along with the first semester.

Literature surveys are my favorite type of lit class to teach because there's so much variety; I got kind of tired of dealing with The Scarlet Letter all those years ago when I was still teaching in a public high school, and just last year, when I was facilitating a middle-school reading group, I started getting pretty weary of David Balfour's adventures in Kidnapped, particularly when he was stuck on that island and couldn't get off for fear of drowning, and then it turned out that the island was connected to the mainland by a shallowly-covered isthmus and the silly dork could've just walked across instead of lurking around on the rocks being all dramatic and eating mollusks that disagreed with his digestion.

The one bad thing about survey classes is that they go so quickly, though. And, contrarily, I find myself thinking wistfully, "If only we had time to read this book...." Yeah, I know. If we actually DID have time to read all the different books, I would probably go crazy. It sure wouldn't be a one semester class, that's for sure.

Which is why I am so pleased that we live in the Age of DVDs, when it is possible to find all kinds of great literature on film. No, it isn't the same as reading the books. Not nearly the same. And just for the record, I think that watching the DVD when you're supposed to be reading the novel is just, well....unethical.

But if you're in a literature survey class and you're slamming through the centuries like a printing press just caught on fire, DVDs can be very helpful in giving a student a good overview.

Today was cold, windy and snowy, so the girls and I stayed inside and watched the black and white Criterion version of Great Expectations, which stuck reasonably close to the novel -- it was about two and a half hours long and the actual novel is as thick as an Indianapolis telephone book, so you know a lot was cut out. I confess that it's been so long since I read Great Expectations that I can't honestly remember what was cut. However, I did print out a plot synopsis and character analysis for the girls to look over before we started watching, and the movie went right along with the plot synopsis, so I think that was a good choice.

We also watched Roman Polanski's Oliver Twist, and it was very good in spite of the fact that the entire Maylie/Monks/Fleming story line was cut out, as was the Charlotte/Noah Claypole bit, obviously in interests of time: The DVD lasted for two solid hours in spite of the trimming. The ending was less satisfying than it could have been if the story ends had been neatly tied up with Oliver finding his family and knowing who his parents were and discovering Edward Leeford's machinations in Oliver's life. In fact, the ending was odd and weird and very un-Dickens-like with no "God bless us, every one!" or the right two people ending up married after being torn apart by circumstances, none of that. But otherwise, it was entertaining and the costumes and sets/scenery were great.

We watched the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice last week, all six hours of it, and the only thing I have to say about that is Mr. Darcy. Mmmmmmisssssssssterrrr Daaaarrrrrrrrcy. Colin Firth is so yummy striding around in those tall boots, I just can't stand it. Yes, Elizabeth may think, my younger sister's reputation has just gone to heck in a handbasket and my entire family's along with it, but if he'll just walk into the room with those boots on one more time, I;ll accept his obnoxious proposal and go live in his big house. With the boots. Ohh, the BOOTS.

Next up: Wuthering Heights. Jane Eyre. And, I'm afraid, Kidnapped.

1 comment:

Kayte said...

oOOOOOOOOOOoooooooohhhhh Colin Firth...did you write anything else before that? I lost all track after I saw the words Colin Firth....LOL.