From archetypal plots to prime time television, character analysis and motivations permeate every genre of any culture. The univeral themes of the old literature classes do not have to be a mystery to today’s twenty-first century learner because those seemingly archaic themes bear their universality in most shows slotted for prime time viewing.
Trying to find new ways to convey classic literature and its elements to the learners who are so easily distracted by their iPods, Blackberries, and PCs takes a teacher no further than the high definition flat screen wall television (it’s a wonder Bradbury hasn’t put his name on one of these paneled monstrosities that span entire walls in one’s home!).
I have found great success in using contemporary reality shows to give students in my Bible Literacy class a chance to see the sacred old fathers of Judeo-Christian history. Two shows, in particular, lend themselves beautifully to this concept. The Amazing Race is the perfect venue for some of the most famous pairings in the Old Testament.
Imagine Cain and Abel as a team in the reality show that pits pairs against one another in a great race around the globe. My students first assumed that the two sons of Adam and Eve wouldn’t make it to the first checkpoint. But I suggested they think about the first meeting with the Lord where God favored Abel’s offering over that of Cain, thereby sending the eldest son into a rage.
The students saw how Cain and Abel would make it to the first checkpoint, but snickering broke out among the class when I smiled at an eager student’s outburst that revealed the obvious lack of Abel’s presence at the second check point. Imagine, I told them, what the judges at the second checkpoint would ask Cain.
Would Cain say yet again, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Upon discovering the fratricidal act of Cain, he would, of course, be banished from the race (not to mention all the other legalities involved in murder and crimes of passion) but he would fear the consequences of corporate sponsors who might lose millions of dollars. Cain would seek mercy of the producers of the racing show, and he would get the mark of Cain so he would be protected from the sue-happy lawyers.
Such a connection for students to be able to discover new meaning in old characters and plots of not only the Bible but also other works of literature. As well, certain other pairings would be utterly hilarious.
Imagine Joseph and Potipher’s wife! The students laughed out loud over the image of Joseph outrunning the seductress.
Who would win the race? Most students agree on Abraham and Isaac, the dynamic duo of Hebrew Scripture, as the probable winners since they worked so well together during the Binding of Isaac. The trust alone between the two…
Alas, I get caught up in the moment of comparison between two cultures, showing how universal themes indeed are global and unconstrained by time. Try this for the lit class. It works!