We started the new semester last week and we are getting started with one of my favorite things- mythical heroes!
One of the aspects of the county’s required unit stated students would, “build your knowledge of the cultural truths, identifying common cultural concepts, concerns, and plot lines in a series of literary pieces from your culture. Then analyze the similarities or contrasting ways those authors shape and refine the themes with specific details. Present your findings in a written and/or visual product…”
While thinking of all the things I could do with this. My first thought was my fairy tale unit that everyone loves but requires watching several Disney movies. With school being closed so often due to COVID, that just won’t work this year. Then, I had a vision of using a slimmed down version of my Hero Unit since we look at so many heroes around the world and how they reflect the cultural values, but we end the unit with comic book heroes and how they connect with our culture today.
Of course, I had to start with King Arthur! We have spent a week and half looking into the symbolism found within Arthurian legends, reviewing the archetypes of The Hero and The Quest, and reading the tales of Arthur’s origins.
Then we compared with other superheroes they know- specifically Aquaman! Since most had not had any exposure to King Arthur before, they had no idea that Aquaman was a modern look at the ancient hero.
We had an amazing discussion on why they thought that over thousands of years we have told countless heroic stories in every single culture around the world and they all seem to have a lot of similarities (AKA the archetype).
The county’s unit also requires us to look at theme and how it is created in a piece. So, we are focusing on choices our heroes make. We contrasted this with the boy king being anointed by heaven as he pulls the sword from the stone to the older king who had lived through civil wars and unrest and made the choice to sacrifice babies in an effort to neutralize Mordred . We discussed motive and whether or not the foretold good of the many outweighed the otherwise monstrous act. I also shared this clip from the movie Clerks in which they discuss the theoretical consequences of Luke Skywalker (another Arthur mirror) blowing up the Deathstar. Can our heroes do terrible things and still be heroes?
This week will also discuss how you can see the changes in British culture through these tales with the Celtic influences and the shift to Roman control and Christianity rooting in as the dominant religion. We will also be comparing the good and “problematic” actions of Sir Lancelot.
If you are looking for a quick and fun formative check on how students are doing with the heroic archetypes seen in King Arthur as well as theme, this activity worked really well! Most of my students had never even heard of (let alone seen) Disney’s The Sword and the Stone so it works well as a “cold” text. This activity had them apply both to the opening scene and theme song of the movie. My school is closed (yet again), so I did this in a digital learning setting, but I think it would also work really well in person.
Thanks for joining me again on this crazy adventure of teaching World Literature (and during a pandemic this year no less!). I hope you find something useful out of this post and I look forward to updating you all on how the rest of this unit plays out!