‘Viceroy’s House’

11 Jun

I recently watched Viceroy’s House, a film about the transition of British India to independence.  The film was beautifully made, utilising the difficulties of a love between a Hindu (Jeet Kumar) and Muslim (Aalia Noor) to represent the divisions in a nation that will need to be partitioned in order to realise dreams of independence.

I think the film could be an interesting partner for a study of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.  This pairing would be a particularly useful way of exploring how the relationship between protagonists illuminates broader social tensions.

It would also be a good related text for Year 11 AOS Journeys or Change.  In both instances, students would be able to analyse the experiences of characters and then connect this to journeys or change on a national scale.

‘Hag-Seed’

28 May

I recently read Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed.

Initially, I wasn’t hugely impressed as it seemed like an unimaginative adaptation of The Tempest; like Prospero, the protagonist (Felix) was usurped and experienced a period of exile, albeit from directing plays.

However, as I continued to read I found myself getting sucked in.  Particularly interesting was Atwood’s emphasis on notions of imprisonment; Prospero is imprisoned on the island, Caliban is imprisoned by Prospero and the protagonist of Hag-Seed is imprisoned by the past.  I do think this notion was laboured a tad by setting Felix’s path as directing plays for prisoners.

I was also intrigued by Atwood’s representation of Miranda (Prospero’s daughter in the play, and Felix’s daughter in the book).  Unlike in the play, where Miranda is very much alive, in the novel she begins as a memory and them begins to assume ghostly form.  This was reasonably effective as a metaphor for representing the haunting spectre of the past, and the way in which the past informs present action.

Overall, I am not sure I loved Hag-Seed as a novel.  However, as a companion to The Tempest (as it will be in the new HSC) it does, definitely, have merit.

Comfort Zones

22 May

I recently read an article online about comfort zones.  This article sought to challenge the conventionally accepted wisdom that we should try move beyond our comfort zones.

While reading the article I couldn’t help but think of Eliot’s ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’.  In this poem, the persona desires to “disturb the universe” and challenge the boundaries of the unknown, but is unable to do; he is crippled by his anxiety and indecision.  In other words, he does not venture beyond his comfort zone.  For him, however, being stuck in the bubble of his comfort zone is not a good thing – when in his comfort zone he is not living to the fullest.  In fact, he is not living at all!

Silences and Gaps

25 Apr

I have been spending a bit of time recently considering the silences and gaps in texts, and how to make students aware of these.

I am fascinated, for example, with Mr Collins in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  Elizabeth mocks him for his chatty ways, deeming his contributions worthless and undesirable.  What would the narrative look like from his perspective?  How would he perceive Elizabeth?

I am also interested in Marjane’s perspective in Persepolis.  The voice of a young woman in the context can, perhaps, be described as revolutionary.  As such, it becomes a fitting vehicle by which to chronicle the changes in Iranian society over time.

Equally, I am fascinated by the stories told by the child protagonist in Haroun and the Sea of Stories.  The narrative functions as an allegory for a number of issues faced by society.  The voice of the child is, often, marginalised in literature and should be celebrated.  Additionally, the use of allegory means readers need to read between and across lines in order to interpret authorial purpose and meaning.

‘The African Doctor’

25 Mar

I recently watched The African Doctor.  This film explores the experiences of a recently arrived family of Congolese descent as they seek to find their place in a rural village in France.

Although overly simplistic at times, the text engages with ideas of tolerance, acceptance, identity and communal action.  For these reasons, I think the text has the potential to engage students.

That said, I think I would be reluctant to study this text in isolation.  I think it would work best either as part of a comparative unit, or as a related text for AOS Journey or Discovery.

‘Refugee Boy’

12 Mar

I have just finished reading Benjamin Zephaniah’s Refugee Boy.

Despite some initial concerns that Refugee Boy would be simply another variation on Boy Overboard or Girl Underground, I found myself hooked from the outset.  I think my interest was stimulated by the text’s opening – a short outline of a mixed-race family’s experiences in Ethiopia, followed by an almost identical incident, this time in Eritrea.  I found this to be a very effective way of illustrating the complexities of that family’s situation and in illustrating the challenges faced during times of war.

I think this would be an interesting text to study in Years 7 or 8 in a unit with a focus on identity.  Indeed, the text deals with the tensions between self-characterisation and social identification.

It would also be worthy of inclusion in a ‘Coming of Age’ unit as it charts both the protagonist’s growing awareness of his social surrounds as well as his community’s growing awareness of the political and social landscapes in which they exist.

It would also be interesting to study this text in a unit about migration or refugee experiences, perhaps in combination with Boy OverboardGirl UndergroundThe Arrival and/or some newspaper clippings.

Pairs of text everywhere!

5 Mar

Recent updates mean that my list of paired texts now has over 100 options!

New additions include:

  • After the Storm (film)
  • A Monster Calls (novel)
  • A United Kingdom (film)
  • Boy (film)
  • Face (novel)
  • Lion (film)
  • Queen of Katwe (film)
  • Tanna (film)
  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (film)
  • The Intouchables (film).

‘Boys Without Names’

4 Mar

I recently read Kashmira Sheth’s Boys Without Names and loved it! I think it appealed as it is a narrative about resilience, strength, friendship and family.  In this text, Gopal is separated from his family and has to survive in challenging circumstances.  He also needs to be build relationships with a group of boys in the same predicament as himself.

I think this text would be particularly well suited to a Year 7 or 8 class.

‘Brown Brother’

2 Feb

Brown Brother‘ is an inspiring spoken word poem delivered by high school student Joshua Iosefo.  It is a profound and emotional examination (and later rejection) of stereotypes; a reminder that honouring one’s heritage and conforming to limiting stereotypes are not the same things.

This would be a great text to study as related material in Distinctive Voices, an elective that is part of the HSC Standard English Course.  Students could engage with the ways in which gestures, tone, occasion and audience enhance the distinctiveness of the voice.

It would also be interesting to include as part of a study about identity, or perhaps as a suite of poetry engaging with the construction and representation of self.  Students could even be challenged to write their own shorter-form spoken word poem about themselves, applicable stereotypes and responses to these.

‘Ha’penny’

1 Feb

I recently read Alan Paton’s short story ‘Ha’penny‘.  Although told simply, it is a profoundly moving narrative about a young boy’s desire for acceptance, belonging and a family of his own.

This would be an interesting text to study as part of a unit about identity; students could focus on how individuals construct themselves in relation to others.

It would also be interesting to study in relation to belonging.  There, the focus would be on the yearning for acceptance, the lengths gone to create connections and the circumstances in which belonging is achieved.

In addition, the text offers an interesting perspective on journeys, offering opportunities for students to explore the journeys of Ha’penny, the narrator and Mrs Maarman.