I start today's class by asking students to get active--they write evidence of transcendentalism they found in Pursuit of Happyness on the board.
One student asks, "What about stuff that wasn't transcendental?" What about that? Let's start a second column. An opportunity for discussion comes up; how is it that there can be both transcendental and very NOT transcendental evidence? The class enters into a great discussion about duality; there is gray between black and white, ying and yang. I point out that this applies to all areas of our lives, a universal truth which can better help us understand the world around us.
I open this section of the lesson with another question--what is a text? Students respond as expected.
Yup. What else?
They are stumped. I smile and open their minds to a whole new world--texts are everywhere! They are songs, ads, television shows, movies, magazines, even pictures. Why do I bring this up now? Because I'm asking them to use modern texts in their next essay, perhaps even the movie we just watched together.
Students open the literary analysis essay, and we read through the assignment together. Then, to model how to approach using quotes in the assignment, I open a Word document and project it to the board.
I share that I love the Katy Perry song "Roar" and that I think it would be a good choice for this assignment. Students laugh at me (apparently they think I listen to only classical music), but they are able to help me analyze the song since they know it. I ask them what quote they think I should use to show transcendentalism. We decide on the main refrain, in which Perry sings, "I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire/Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me ROAR/Louder, louder than a lion" (2013). I write only the quote on the document and ask, what do I need now?
"A citation?" Yes. I add one after the quote. What else?
"An introduction to the quote?" Yes. I ask for ideas how to word it.
"In 'Roar,' Katy Perry sings..." Good. What else?
"Explanation, right?" Yes! How does this quote show transcendentalism? Their thoughts are included below. I also ask them if we need the whole quote, and they decide we can cut to what is most relevant.
In "Roar," Katy Perry sings, "...you're gonna hear me ROAR" (2013), which reveals the transcendental trait of self-focus. Perry wants people to let their voices be heard, no matter who pushes back; this is very comparable to Emerson in "Self-Reliance" (1841), who asks the audience to "trust thyself" and share their own beliefs.
Our end product is a good model for how the class should use their own quotes.
With the assignment and model examined, I ask students to outline their own essays. They work collaboratively, sharing song ideas and movie quotes. The ability to choose modern texts which they listen to and view has engaged them and made transcendentalism seem more relevant than ever before in our studies.