I discovered Maris Kreizman this summer at the Cape Atlantic Book Company. I’d taken a day trip down to see the lighthouse (and, of course, visit a few bookstores). Rain came down in torrents, prohibiting any view more than about six inches in front of my face. Soaked through and mildly disappointed, I visited the Cape Atlantic Bookstore and found sunshine in the form of books and delightful bookshop owners. Slaughterhouse 90210 was displayed facing out and I swear a spotlight encompassed the book and I heard flights of angels singing. I knew immediately I needed this book and the lessons it contained.
Essentially, this book takes classic quotes from literature and pairs them with images from popular culture: TV shows, films, rockstars, and political events. Originally a tumblr blog, the book showcases many pairings that make you consider how, as humans, we’re more alike than not alike (to paraphrase Maya Angelou). Fast forward six months later, and I’m using the book / blog as a jumping off point for teaching Hamlet to my students. One of my biggest goals in teaching Hamlet derives from the belief that we haven’t changed much as humans in the last few hundred years. So I’m asking them, a-la-Slaughterhouse 90210, to take a quote from Hamlet, and pair it with an image from pop culture. They then need to explain the connection for a reader who might not initially see the connection (or know the reference in the visual). So far, this assignment is going swimmingly. As I teach, I periodically stop and ask if students have noticed any passages, quotes, themes, or situations that seem familiar, or that they could connect to other stories. Unsurprisingly, Harry Potter has come up often, but also my seniors have mentioned Game of Thrones and other television shows (see Game of Thrones image below).
So far, results have been impressive. This activity will also help scaffold our final synthesis essay, where students will be asked to choose a theme to write on and include at least five primary texts and three secondary sources and explain something significant about what it means to be human. This activity already has them thinking about connections between texts based on characters as well as themes.
Plus, this is a transferrable activity. You could essentially do this for any book. It could be an in in-class assignment or homework for any text, really. You could start by choosing one quote and do it as a class, or you could place students in pairs or small groups and have them match quotes and images. There are so many ways to incorporate Kreizman’s brilliant idea. The benefit of seeing the threads between texts are plentiful. Students begin to make connections on their own, they begin to see archetypes and tropes, and they can tie their own interests to the texts you read and discuss in class.
Let me know in the comments if you plan to try this out and what your results are with your students!
This connection to Whiplash and the obsessive way he trains himself was one of my favorites–a connection I would not have thought of but that makes perfect sense.