I just finished teaching Hamlet in AP Literature, and I was reminded of how many other texts reference the play, which made me think of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, which made me remember the “Calamity Song,” based on the Eschaton scene in that book. (My friend Keith shared this literary-musical genius with me as I was reading IJ). So I decided this week’s Friday Five should be about songs with literary references or about literature. I have a feeling this may become a regular feature here–I posted on Facebook asking friends about literary songs and there was a deluge. So here’s 5 to tide you over–these 5 are all related to my AP Literature texts. Look for next time when we do a Lord of the Flies song list…
- The Decemberists “Calamity Song” was written to depict the Eschaton scene in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.
- James Blunt’s “Tears and Rain” references Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.
- The Police’s “Don’t Stand so Close to me” references/retells Lolita (Just like that old man in that book by Nabokov) . I also find this song exceedingly creepy as a teacher, but Sting looks so young in the video…hard to decide my feelings on this one.
- The Cure’s “Killing an Arab,” retells the story of Albert Camus’s The Stranger is a sort of cliff notes version of the novel.
- Finally, Iron Maiden’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” gives us Samuel Taylor Coleridge in all his glory if he’d been in a heavy metal band.
My thanks to all my friends and colleagues who contributed to this list–I think it may become a regular feature here. Feel free to comment with your personal favorite literary songs.