Serendipitous Relevance and American Lit

I like to show how the books we study in school have left a lasting legacy to contemporary society.  If nothing else, when students complain how boring and outdated the books are, I can either try to elicit some open mindedness by showing them that P. Diddy consciously imitates The Great Gatsby, or I can at least argue that their recalcitrance is in opposition to the popular culture with which they’re enthralled. 

This year has been an especially good one for that.  I started the year off with The Scarlet Letter, just as a teen comedy loosely based on it, Easy A, hit theaters.  When we read Moby Dick, I was able to show them the recent Blackberry ad about the novel (many students told me that the ad made much more sense afterwards!).  We finished Huckleberry Finn last month and now, as we review the semester, there’s a national controversy brewing about a new, censored version of the text. 

Near the end of this year, when I try to wrestle some Faulkner into my students, I’ll be able to tell them that Hollywood hunk James Franco is directing a new film of Faulkner’s novel, As I Lay Dying

Now if only I could find a more recent reference for Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea than a second season episode of The Simpsons

Reviewed: Savior of the World

180px-sotwSavior of the World is a theatrical production by the LDS Church that premiered in November 2000 in the church’s Conference Center in Salt Lake City, and has since been performed in other locations.  I saw it for the first time last night in Henderson, Nevada. 

The first thing to know about Savior of the World is that it’s not really about the Savior, in the sense that a traditional nativity or passion play focuses on His life.  Jesus only shows up a few times in the play, and when He does it’s only as a monolithic dispenser of quotations–His presence in the play is completely devoid of personality.  The intent is clear:  to focus on the lives and needs of those others who played supporting roles in His ministry. 

One is reminded of Ben-Hur, where Jesus Christ’s few “cameo appearances” contained no dialogue and were shot only from behind.  Savior of the World strives for a similar degree of reverence–the actor portraying Christ doesn’t even come out for the curtain call. 

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