Today we talked more about the history of visual media becoming a mass medium. Be sure you understand the vertical integration of Production, Distribution, and Exhibition throughout the 1920s and 30s, and why 1927 was such an important year for both film and television. Remember, if I write it on the board, it’s something you’ll want to hang onto.
Here are the videos we watched in class, just in case you want/need to watch them again:
I also quickly recapped the end of The Time Machine, but it’s not necessarily the plot points I want you to remember. Instead, anchor in your mind how influential HG Wells was for storytelling in radio, film, and television, not to mention what he did for Science Fiction. I mentioned a handful of shows and movies that were inspired by his work, and that only scratched the surface.
To listen to the lecture, click here.
There is no homework this week, but if you’re concerned about your grade and want to do some extra credit, here you go: Watch the 1985 classic film Back to the Future and write a 400-500 word short essay comparing the film to The Time Machine. Writer/Director Robert Zemeckis is on record saying how influential that story was for the creation of the Back to the Future trilogy. If you’re unfamiliar with Back to the Future, then you are missing out! 🙂 Turn in the short essay by Dec. 2.
Happy Thanksgiving and stay well!
I threw a lot of terms, names, and dates at you today as we started talking about the history of visual media, so here the ones you should make sure you have written down (and know what/who they are): Thaumatrope, Zoetrope, Eadweard Muybridge and his first film through sequenced photos, Louis LePrince’s “Roundhay Garden Scene” as the first film, Hannibal Goodwin’s use of celluloid, and Thomas Edison’s creations – the kinetoscope and vitascope. All of the videos are linked to those terms, so if you need/want to watch them again, please do. It’s important you understand how these concepts came together and ultimately led to the creation of the nickelodeon in 1907. The ability to project a film is what turned film into a mass medium.
Also be sure you know who Georges Méliès is – the first to storyboard a film and tell a story. You watched The Vanishing Lady in class.
If you need to listen to the lecture, click here.
Finish reading The Time Machine and answer the response questions below. Also, take a few minutes to watch these two short films: A Trip to the Moon by Georges Méliès and The Great Train Robbery by Edwin Porter.
- Compare and contrast the Eloi and Morlocks. Can you track how evolution led to these two species?
- What does the Time Traveler see and experience as he approaches his original time period?
- What finally convinces the narrator himself of the truth of the Time Traveler’s story at the end of the novel?
- What did you think of The Time Machine? How do you think H.G. Wells influenced future works of science fiction? Give me some examples.
- What did you think about the silent films you watched?
Many apologies for being absent today. Double apologies for doing the weird “recorded lecture in class” thing.
What I hope you took away from today is how influential H.G. Wells has been for Science Fiction, particularly for his contributions to the Golden Age of Science Fiction in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. (We’ll talk a little more about that next week.)
This week you’re starting The Time Machine. It’s a short novel (some call it a novella), but H.G. Wells had a dense writing writing style. He also grew up in Victorian England, so his language reflects that. If you can’t get into the text, opt for the audiobook. No big deal there.
If you need to listen to the lecture, click here.
Read Ch. 1-8 (I-VIII) in The Time Machine. Then start a new Google Document and answer the following response questions substantively by Wednesday night:
- What do you consider to be some of the most important human innovations of all time, and why?
- Describe the Eloi. What can you tell about their way of life? How do they look and act? What does this futuristic society look like?
- What is the relationship between The Time Traveller and Weena?
- Describe the Morlocks. What is your impression of them?
- As I mentioned, Inequality and Social Class is a big theme in the novel. Give me a couple of examples from the text that spotlight that theme.
I hope you all enjoyed seeing the film clips of how Frankenstein and his monster have been depicted on film. There is so much more to show you, but you are all capable of Googling those things. I am actually restraining myself! That’s how much I love this story.
Be sure you you wrote down the three reasons why the Frankenstein story is still relevant today – our conversation on genre, ethics, and the human condition.
If you need to listen to the lecture, click here.
Here are the clips I showed you in class, in case you want to rewatch them:
- 1910 Silent Film
- 1931 Frankenstein
- 1948 Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
- 1974 Young Frankenstein
- 1994 Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
- 2012 Frankenweenie
Finish the graphic novel. Then, listen to the “Frankenstein: Our Dark Mirror” podcast. This one should be more entertaining to you than the British academic podcast from last week. Do pay attention to each of the five chapters within the podcast.
Then, answer the following questions in your same Google Document by Sunday night:
- Summarize the second half of the graphic novel for me. How does the story of Frankenstein and his monster end? Don’t be vague.
- There are five “chapters” within the Our Dark Mirror podcast. Share something that stuck with you from at least three of them. (Chapter One– Standing On the Shoulders of Giants, Chapter Two– I Bid My Hideous Progeny Go Forth and Prosper, Chapter Three– Monsters Always Come Back, Chapter Four– confronting our monsters, Chapter Five– Frankenstein In the 21st century).
- What is your take on the story of Frankenstein? Tell me what you’ve learned.
Today we started the second half of the semester talking about graphic novels and Frankenstein. The key takeaways that you’ll need to hang onto are the names and dates related to the start of mass-produced comics – “The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck” by Rodolph Topffer in 1842, “The Yellow Kid” by Richard Outcault in 1895, and then the surge of comic books in the 1920s and 30s, and beyond. Definitely remember Maus by Art Spiegelman, since he was the first and only creator to win a Pulitzer Prize for a graphic novel. As I said in class, the history of graphic novels is connected to comic books, but as its own thing, they are really only part of our recent history.
You will also need to remember the pop culture history of how Frankenstein’s Monster was changed and shaped, starting with that 1823 play “Presumption!”. All of the info I gave you about the films was intentional.
One of the ways graphic novels are being enjoyed today is by using the medium to adapt classic works, which is exactly what we’ll be doing. I tried to give you enough context for Frankenstein so the graphic novel makes sense, but don’t hesitate to do your own research on the novel if you get confused. To fully understand how Frankenstein was changed through pop culture, you have to understand the original story.
If you need to listen to the lecture, click here.
Read the first half of your graphic novel. If you’re unsure where to stop, then stop reading after the DeLacey family walks in on the monster talking with the blind man. It’s pg. 77 in my copy, but it might be different in yours. If you end up reading further, or if you finish it altogether, that’s not a big deal.
Then, listen to “In Our Time: Frankenstein”, which is an academic-based recap of the story that also addresses some of the bigger themes within the text. Pay close attention to the middle part of the podcast when they start talking about the Adam analogy.
Finally, start a new Google Doc and answer the following response questions by Wednesday night.
- Describe the artistic style of the graphic novel you chose. What do you like about it? Have you read graphic novels before? How does this compare with others you’ve read or seen?
- In class, I told you about my first experience with Frankenstein being a character in the 1987 film The Monster Squad. What is your personal experience with Frankenstein as you’ve heard/seen the story represented in popular culture?
- Retell the first half of the story as you understand it through the graphic novel. Do not be vague, but also there’s no need to give a page-by-page summary. (I want to make sure you understand what’s going on.)
- After listening to the “In Our Time: Frankenstein” podcast, tell me what you think about the analogy they make connecting the Monster to Adam from the Creation story. Make a case for Victor Frankenstein and the Monster as the Creator and Adam.
- Following the previous question, do you think monsters are born or made? Defend your answer.
Thanks for working hard on your mid-terms today. As you can tell, the weekly work is pretty lax as long as you’re keeping up and doing the work I’ve assigned. You’ve likely discovered that most of the homework revolves around, “What do you think about that?” I know that can be a tough question, but this whole class is designed around how you receive and interpret messages – your own semiotics, in a way. I’ll be asking you that question for the rest of the year.
That being said, I do expect you to connect ideas and keep up with note-taking because the things I talk about in class will come back around on the test. If you struggled today, maybe you need to readjust your efforts for the rest of the semester. If you breezed through it, then you’re doing just fine.
There is no homework over fall break, but do get your copy of Frankenstein – the graphic novel of your choice. Be sure to bring it with you to class when we meet on October 22.
Today we went through the history of sound recordings, which isn’t the same as the history of music. Music has existed as long as people have existed, but we weren’t able to share our music with the masses until we had the technology to do so. Remember our cycle of Mass Media and Pop Culture: one feeds the other which feeds the other, and so on.
Make sure you catch these things from the lecture today: The three main structures of literary writing (drama, prose, and poetry), French printer Eduoard-Leon Scott de Martinville in the 1950s with his hog’s hair bristle, Thomas Edison’s creation of the phonograph in 1877, Bell and Tainter’s invention of the graphophone in 1886, and Emile Berliner’s flat-disk gramophone creation in 1887. You need to know what inventions really prompted the sharing of music – electricity and vinyl – as well as how we came to have 78s, 45s, LPs, cassettes, CDs, and mp3s.
I also talked a lot about folk music and how it traditionally speaks to the current culture in which it’s created. I played “T.V.A” by the Everybodyfields, which is a folk song written by a Tennessean about the counter-culture opinion of farmers who lost their land in the 1930s and 40s after FDR signed the TVA Act.
If you need to listen to the lecture, click here.
Side note: When I created this class, I envisioned us having much more conversation than we do. I know the masks make it hard, and I also know it takes courage to speak up among your peers. But – I *really* hate listening to my own voice for 45+ minutes every Thursday morning. As the semester goes on, please endeavor to contribute. I’d rather have a conversation than give a boring lecture. When I ask you questions, be brave enough to speak up.
Listen to “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel and “Everybody is Free to Wear Sunscreen” by Baz Luhrmann. You’ll likely need to look up the lyrics or do some extra research for more context on these songs. Listen to them more than once if you need to. Both of these songs have a message – one has a big message and the other has lots of little messages. Take them in and consider them.
Then, write a 600-word short essay on what you’ve learned. Tell me what you think. In fact, THINK about what you really think before writing. Then, at the end of the essay, tell me about a song that is meaningful to you. Share a link to the song with me so I can listen to it. Tell my WHY you love it or why it speaks to you.
Share the link to your essay by Wednesday night, and get your notes in order for the test on Thursday.
If you are behind on previous work, please catch up!
“Audio is one of the most intimate forms of media because you are constantly building your own images of the story in your mind and you’re creating your own production … and that of course, is something that you can never get with visual media.”– Emma Rodero
Today we talked more about the history of podcasts. The biggest take-aways are that Apple really owns this podcast history. No other technology made it this easy to listen on the go. Also, podcasts have grown exponentially in the last ten years, not just in programming but also in audience. Serial was a break-out show that I highly recommend (with parents’ permission, since it has explicit content). Sarah Koenig, the host, is one of my favorite journalists and voices to listen to.
Also, make sure you’re connecting the concepts of creative nonfiction and Freytag’s Pyramid. Storytelling is storytelling, whether the story is true or fabricated. No one wants to be bored.
Read “This is Your Brain on Podcasts” in The Atlantic. Then, choose a story from The Moth and listen to it. (You can peruse stories on the website or just scroll through the Podcast app on your iPhone.) You may start one, get bored, and find another. That’s all fine. Whenever you find a story that you enjoyed, listen to it carefully and write a paragraph or two that summarizes it. Share that on a new Google Document.
Finally, YOU record a story for me. I know that sounds terrifying at first, but I won’t be sharing these with anyone and I’ll delete them as soon as I’m finished. It may help to write a draft of the story first and then read it to me. That’s fine! Or, just press record and tell me a story off the cuff. It doesn’t have to be some sort of confessional. Just share a favorite memory or family story that is special to you. It might be how your parents met or what your earliest memory is. It could be something that happened to you last year that’s funny, memorable, or special. No need to make it long, but do aim for 2-5 minutes. You can use the Voice Memo app on your iPhone and email it to me directly. (If you can’t figure out the Voice Memo app, click here.)
Try to get your work to me sooner than later. I’d like to listen to your stories before we meet again next week.
Today we quickly reviewed the last bit of Into the Wild and talked about how the Circle of Influence between Mass Media and Pop Culture really took off with Chris’s story – from him being inspired by Thoreau’s and London’s works, to others being inspired by Krakauer’s magazine article and book – I hope you can see how these elements work in tandem.
I also spent a good chunk of time going over the history of radio. I hope you wrote down all those names and dates. You’ll see some of them again.
Historical names to catch from the 1840s to 1906: Samuel Morse, James Maxwell, Henrich Hertz, Guglielmo Marconi, Reginald Fessenden, and Lee De Forest.
Terms to catch: telegraph, Morse Code, wireless telegraphy, format radio, and Podcast
Listen to the two podcasts linked below and answer the response questions in a new Google Document by Wednesday night. You don’t have to stream them through the computer, unless you just want to. Let me know if you have trouble accessing them.
- Describe your listening experience. What did you do while listening to the shows? Did you need to keep busy or were you able to sit still and listen?
- If you listen to podcasts, tell me the shows you enjoy listening to (and why). If you don’t listen to podcasts, are you interested in giving them a try? What might be the benefits to listening to podcasts?
- Briefly summarize both episodes and tell me what you learned from them. Are you left with more questions? Were you bored? Entertained? Intrigued? (This block of response questions should have a substantive answer. Resist the urge to be brief.)
*If you need to listen to the lecture, click here.
*I’m updating this page on Wednesday, Sept. 9 since I won’t be in class on Thursday, Sept. 10*
The substitute will play a recorded lecture for you, but I’m also linking it here in case you need to listen to it again. (Click here for the lecture.)
Finish reading Into the Wild. Then, read this article and interview with Carine McCandless for a deeper understanding of Chris’s life.
When you’re finished reading, write a minimum 600-word essay that reflects what you think about Chris McCandless, his journey, Jon Krakauer’s work as a journalist, and how the article you read from Carine shifted your perspective. You do not need to worry about citing from the book or the article. Please spend more time thinking about how this story impacted you and what it made you think about. Avoid vague writing here. You are in an upper-level English class. If you write something like, “I liked the story. It was interesting,” you won’t receive a strong grade. Dig deeper than that. Your grade in this class will be based on your ability to express yourself.
Share the essay with me by Wednesday, Sept. 16, in a new Google Document. Use the proper MLA format for font, spacing, etc.
Today we went over the first five chapters of Into the Wild and highlighted a few key things I want you to hang onto:
- Is Chris a rebel or an adventurer, or both? Both characteristics involve leaving society behind and taking risks.
- Despite Chris being intellectually sharp, he seems to lack what we’d call “street smarts.” Why burn cash? You can’t trace it! As Wayne Westerberg said, perhaps Chris was TOO smart for his own good.
- The Stampede Trail was made famous by that abandoned bus and Chris taking his photo in front of it. People made pilgrimages to see it. The link I’m posting below will tell you more about that.
- The paragraph on pg. 44 about Chris’s obsession with Jack London is telling. London wrote FICTION after one winter season in the Yukon. He died at 40 years old on his estate in California, hardly living the hard life in the wild west. This really speaks to how we romanticize the things we see, read, and hear in media. Do we really believe influencers live such great lives? Or are we buying into the story they project the same way Chris bought into London’s works of fiction?
Read Ch. 6-13 in Into the Wild and answer the following response questions substantively:
- One of the primary themes in Into the Wild is the combination of Arrogance, Innocence, and Ignorance. In your own words, describe how Chris McCandless fits these descriptors. Then, explain how they work together and against each other.
- Mrs. Westerberg says on pg. 67, “He was hungry to learn about things. Unlike most of us, he was the sort of person who insisted on living out his beliefs.” In what ways do you live out your beliefs?
- On pg. 85 in my book, Krakauer writes: “McCandless didn’t conform…well to the bush-casualty stereotype. Although he was rash, untutored in the ways of the backcountry, and incautious to the point of foolhardiness, he wasn’t incompetent—he wouldn’t have lasted 113 days if he were. And he wasn’t a nutcase, he wasn’t a sociopath, he wasn’t an outcast. McCandless was something else…. A pilgrim, perhaps.” Explain why you think Krakauer refers to Chris as a pilgrim. Do you agree? Why or why not?
- Read this webpage from Jamie Campos from DownTheTrail.com (click here). It is lengthy, but it’s not a hard read. You can probably skim some of it because it includes hiking tips for the Stampede Trail. Anyway, things have come full circle for both the messengers and the receivers in the world of mass media and pop culture when it comes to the Magic Bus. Explain what you think I mean by that. (Hint: The fact that this page exists at all should tell you something.)
- Finally, watch the video and listen to the song “Society” by Eddie Vedder, who wrote the entire score for the soundtrack of Into the Wild. Analyze the lyrics and select a few lines that have the most impact on you. What do they mean? Do you think they represent what Chris was experiencing? Try to view the lyrics through Chris’s lens.
Share your Google Doc with me by Wednesday night.
There are a few terms I hope you wrote down today. They are: Interpersonal Communication, Mass Communication, Media Literacy and the five questions you ask to develop media literacy, and the Six Mass Media Structures (print, audio, visual, interactive, social, and advertising).
Also be sure you caught the main facts about Henry David Thoreau and Jack London, as they were hugely influential in Chris McCandless’s life. Do your best to understand transcendentalism too! 🙂
If you need to re-listen to the lecture this morning, click here.
Read this excerpt from Walden. You might recognize some of the sentences here, as Thoreau is one of the most quoted American writers of our time. The excerpt isn’t long. Try to imagine being on a remote piece of property, secluded from the world, in the sort of headspace where you’re trying to solve all of life’s problems. Some of Thoreau’s work is pretty profound if you can get into it.
Then read Ch. 1-5 in Into the Wild. Likewise, try to imagine Chris’s point of view – the desire to live off the land, separated from society. I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts next week.
Finally, answer the following response questions in a Google Doc and send them to me by next Wednesday night:
- One of the most commonly quoted passages in Walden is: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Does this sentence resonate with you at all? How and why? If not, what other passage from Walden speaks to you?
- Why do you think Chris changes his name, telling people his name is Alex?
- This quote comes from Ch. 3: “The trip was to be an odyssey in the fullest sense of the word, an epic journey that would change everything. [McCandless] had spent the previous four years, as he saw it, preparing to fulfill an absurd and onerous duty: to graduate from college. At long last he was unencumbered, emancipated from the stifling world of his parents and peers, a world of abstraction and security and material excess, a world in which he felt grievously cut off from the raw throb of existence.” Put this concept into your own words. Try to connect with the idea of external forces (authority figures) pushing you into a box that doesn’t fit your own ideas and plans. Elaborate on the idea if you connect with it personally.
- What do you think about Chris ignoring what seems like basic common sense rules – that he might need some money, that it might be nice to give his parents some peace of mind that he was alive, that a simple fix could’ve meant his car lasting longer… How do you view his frame of mind? Why is he so resistant to accept help?
I know today didn’t feel like an English class, but bear with me. We’ll get there. Your main takeaway from class should be what semiotics is and how our own interpretations of signs influence the feeding cycle between mass media and pop culture. Your engagement with books, film, music, TV, social media, and advertising (which infiltrates all other media) not only reflects your personal identity but it also contributes to the culture at large. Like I said in class, Starbucks is popular because we helped make it popular. We made it popular because we wanted our own Central Perk. (This is a loose explanation, but it’s a thread we can follow when we look at the relationship between pop culture and mass media.)
But what about books and literature? We’ll get there, I promise. You’ll be reading Thoreau and starting Into the Wild next week. For now, I want to anchor these new concepts into your brain. If you need to do some extra Googling on Semiotics, feel free. Just know that it’s a deep well of philosophy, anthropology, and sociology – maybe deeper than you’re interested in. We are keeping it simple this year.
- Read Mass Communication: A Critical Approach. I’ve underlined some key things in the text, so it may help to print out the pages. This is an upper level English class, so I’m pushing you to engage with some bigger ideas and topics. You can do this!
- Then, create a Google Doc and answer the following questions based on your reading:
– Explain the interrelationship between mass communication and mass media.
– In your own words, explain The Linear Model, the Cultural Model, and the Social Scientific Model as approaches to strengthen media literacy. (For what it’s worth, we will focus more on the Cultural Model in our class.)
– Briefly explain your takeaway from our first day of class. What stuck with you? Refer to your notes if you need to.
- Finally, write a short 350-400 words on a cultural fixture that resonates with you. Take some time to think about this. Don’t rush. Choose a band or genre of music, a TV show or film, an app, a book, a celebrity or public figure, a store or fashion style, or some other thing that has helped shape your identity. Don’t just give me the what. Explain the why. It might be helpful to go through the same brainstorming process as we did with the Starbucks exercise.
Share your Google Doc with me by Wednesday night. (Both assignments can be on the same document.) Let me know if you have questions.
These three elements of communication – literature, mass media, and pop culture – intersect in unique and specific ways. As our ways of sharing information expand, so do our ideas, perceptions, and interpretations. This class is designed to connect the dots between what we read, hear, and see across a handful of mediums. This class counts as a high school English credit. It is recommended for 11th and 12th grades.
We’ll read books and articles, listen to podcasts and watch videos, and students will create their own projects through various mediums. We’ll examine media literacy and the power of advertising. We’ll discuss ethics, digital citizenship, and how pop culture is created and shaped. Students will read contemporary works, classics, fiction, and nonfiction.
Fall Book List
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (978-0385486804)
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (graphic novel) *see below
The Time Machine by HG Wells (978-1949982909)
Spring Book List
Macbeth by William Shakespeare (No Fear Shakespeare)
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (978-0062073471)
A Long Way Home: A Memoir by Saroo Brierley (978-0425276198)
Short stories, fairy tales, and excerpts of other works will be provided.
Students will also need access to a podcast platform (Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, Stitcher, etc.) and a way to access several films and documentaries. I’ll be sure to give adequate warning so you can grab those from your local library or find them online.
* I will be using Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a graphic novel illustrated by Pete Katz, but that does not mean you’re required to find that exact graphic novel. Instead, I encourage your student to select the graphic novel that looks the most interesting to him/her. There are MANY to choose from, all with different artistic styles and aesthetics. Just be sure you’re not buying/borrowing a graphic novel that has modified the original story. You want the real story. But the art? Let your student pick.
Finally, as this is an upper level English class, please note that some works may have profanity and cover more mature ideas and themes. As always, I encourage parents to read the books I assign alongside their students. For what it’s worth, the parents who do this usually enjoy it!