I mentioned my Jane Austen idea to a colleague and it turns out that someone else is doing something very similar at another school. This, of course, piqued my interest, and what started out as a random though may find itself become a full blown, legitimate event. I may just go ahead and map out my plans as expressed in that earlier note and see if the minor interest that I’ve received can be expanded. If you go back to some of my earliest posts, you’ll see that I’ve wanted to do something that involved recreating an era or theme at school. I do it when I share period foods/recipes for things like manchet or hardtack. I also share my interests when I bring in a mannequin to display a fully loaded uniform for a soldier from a variety of conflicts. But the idea of extending that from a passive event (“Wow, let’s look at what I’ve got!”), to an active one (“What are we doing?”) has always been my ultimate goal.
It’s not that I’m a huge Jane Austen fan, by the way. I just feel that her works are the ones most likely to meet with widespread acceptance. And truthfully, there’s a lot in play in your average Austenesque tale, such as issues regarding social status, marriage, wealth, poverty, the military, and the idea of what constitutes happiness. Austen is deceptively complex, and I thing that an audience of students might respond well to that. The question of whether two characters are attracted to each other, in Pride and Prejudice, for example, says a lot about emotional availability, expectations vs. realities, and prejudicial biases. It’s certainly more accessible and timely than say, Tom Jones, which would cause most students to go into shock based on its size alone.
But that said, I’d love to convince students to read Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, a book that I find infinitely more humorous and honest about the military than anything M*A*S*H ever produced (in print or on the screen). Or to get them to read Flannery O’Connor, one of the best Southern authors – period. I’m not above science fiction, either, but the book would have to be just right, and that might take some time. Mysteries? Easy – Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. Make it a campus-wide event with the idea of not spilling the solution for as long as possible. The opportunities here are endless.
There are so many things that can be done to teach, and now that there’s some level of interest in this, I want to do it. Might be nutty, but without risk, there’s no excitement, eh?