Authored by Daniela Di Panfilo

"Popular culture can help students deconstruct dominant narrative and contend with oppressive practices in hopes of achieving a more egalitarian and inclusive society" -E Morrell


Reinventing the Classics to Connect to Students Today
Main Entry:
popular culture
Part of Speech:
contemporary lifestyle and items that are wellknown and generally accepted,
cultural patternsthat are widespread within a population; also called pop culture

Popular culture has a very important role in todays classroom. In a time where technology, film, music, television, and the internet have the biggest influence on young people it is the re-creation of the classic that allows them to relate to those classic pieces of literature on a more personal level, inspiring a whole new generation to fall in love with literature written hundreds of years ago. The reinvention of the classic works as a valuable tool in the classroom where the teacher is able to connect the old with the new.
In a time where culture, technology, and society are rapidly changing it is the responsibility of the teacher to find bridges and connections for students to classic literature.

The Ontario Curriculum gives clear guidelines and expectations for the study of English literature, in order to help students meet the curriculum goals laid out for them the use of popular culture in the classroom is imperative, especially if they are having a hard time connecting to the original texts.

Understanding in the classroom is the most effective tool a teacher has in order to inspire students, it is through this understanding that the principles underlying the english curriculum will be met. The use of popular culture to connect to classic literature will help students to understand and therefore attain the following, as per the Ontario curriculum documents.

Successful language learners:

  • understand that language learning is a necessary, life-enhancing, reflective process;
  • communicate – that is, read, listen, view, speak, write, and represent – effectively and with confidence;
  • make meaningful connections between themselves, what they encounter in texts, and the world around them;
  • think critically;
  • understand that all texts advance a particular point of view that must be recognized questioned, assessed, and evaluated;
  • appreciate the cultural impact and aesthetic power of texts;
  • use language to interact and connect with individuals and communities, for personal growth, and for active participation as world citizens.
Media Literacy
Media literacy plays a vital role in the English studies classroom today, it is an imperative tool that allows students to see use and analyze the various types of media. Through this medium students are able to use critical thinking tools which allow them to analyze, interpret, and understand concepts in a variety of ways. The internet, television, film, and music are all aspects that are essential to this type of learning, and are used as vehicles for bringing popular culture into the classroom. Through various sources of media in the literary classroom young people are able to construct their own meanings and personal connections to literature and the classics. Mahiri writes, " [T]eachers continue to become more aware of the motives and methods of youth engagement in pop culture in terms of why and how such engagement connects to students' personal identifications, their need to to construct meanings, and their pursuit of pleasures and personal power (Mahiri, 385)

Media Studies Overall Expectations

1. Understanding Media Texts: demonstrate an understanding of a variety of media texts;
2. Understanding Media Forms, Conventions, and Techniques: identify some media forms and explain how the conventions and techniques associated with them are used to create meaning;
3. Creating Media Texts: create a variety of media texts for different purposes and audiences,
using appropriate forms, conventions, and techniques;
4. Reflecting on Skills and Strategies: reflect on and identify their strengths as media interpreters
and creators, areas for improvement, and the strategies they found most helpful in understanding
and creating media texts.

Resources: Literary Classics evolved by Pop Culture

The phenomenon that has come to be known today as Twitter has become an average part of daily life for many. The beauty of the written word has become abbreviated as people "tweet" about their lives using a limited number of characters. In many ways perhaps this is the way that our minds have become conditioned to thinking. Twitterature, published by Penguin takes literary classics and summarizes them in the "tweeting" genre. This may be a positive idea that they have come up with as the attention span of students seems to be getting shorter and shorter... Modern Day Coles Notes? Activity: After your students have completed reading the assigned text have them create some of their own twitterature. It is their responsibility to come up with the Tweeter profile of the character and form a number of tweets in order to summarize the story. This will allow the students to show their understanding of the text while being creative and having them use a forum that they are more comfortable with. Please see the example from the text below.
Hamlet by William Shakespeare

@OedipusGothplexMy royal father gone and nobody seems to care.
Mom says to stop wearing black.
STOP TRYING TO CONTROL ME. I won't conform! I wish my skin would just … melt.
I'm too sad to notice that Ophelia's so sexy and fine. And mother also looks rather fair despite all her struggles.
AN APPARITION! This shit just got HEAVY. Apparently people don't accidentally fall on bottles of poison.
Why is Claudius telling me what to do again? YOU'RE NOT MY REAL DAD! In fact you killed my real dad. :(
2bornt2b? Can one tweet beyond the mortal coil?
I wrote a play. I hope everyone comes tonight! 7pm! Tickets are free w/ great sense of irony.
Uncle just confessed to Dad's murder.
I had a knife to that fat asshole but bitched out. Now he's alive and still taking to bed with that beautiful wo— … er, my mother.
Gonna try to talk some sense into Mom because boyfriend totally killed Dad. I sense this is the moment of truth, the moment of candour and –
I just killed my girlfriend's dad. Does this mean I can't hit that?
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are here, up to their shenanigans. YAWN.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. Anyone miss them? Didn't think so.
The gravedigger's comic speech isn't funny at all. It's heavy and meaningful. Just send me YouTube vids instead, pls. I am so borrredddd.
Ophelia just pulled a Virginia Woolf. Funeral is on the morrow.
Laertes is unhappy that I killed his father and sister. What a drama queen! Oh well, fight this evening.
Anybody want a drink? Uh-oh. That went poorly.
@PeopleofDenmark: Don't worry. Fortinbras will take care of thee. Peace

Shakespeare and Hip Hop
The prose of William shakespeare may seem to go over the heads of todays students... for many it may even seem to be gibberish, an unattainable language that they cannot relate to at all. The Hip Hop Shakespeare company is trying to break down the barriers between students and Shakespeare as they try to make a relation between one of todays most popular forms of music and the classic prose.

Modern Day Film Adaptations of Classic Literature
The film industry has been taking a vested interest in classic literature for years. They take a timeless piece of writing and turn it into a blockbuster hit. For some traditionalists this may seem to be slightly scandalous, as you lose the beauty of the written word, for others it is the exact connection that society needs to make in order to bring back the original texts into the main stream. For a teacher, these films provide a connection to the students which allows them to compare and contrast the original and modern text and ideas, making the themes throughout something that they can relate to in a more tangible manner. The mega blockbuster The Matrix, is a modern day version of The Allegory of the Cave, Pride and Prejudice has been adapted into Bridget Jones Diary, and the bollywood classic Bride and Prejudice; The Taming of the Shrew was adapted into The 10 things I hate about you.

"By combining popular film with canonical texts, the students were able to hone their critical and analytical skills and use them in interpretations. They were also able to understand the connection between literature, popular culture, and their everyday lives" (Morrell, 75).
Classics as Comics and Graphic NovelsThere are a number of classical texts which have been made into comic books and graphic novels. This is a wonderful tool to help engage students of all ages to see visual representations of the text and to grasp the stories in a way which is more familiar to them. This is also a valuable resource to teachers who are looking for resources to assist with IEP's and differentiated learning plans. janeeyre.jpgjaneeyreo13.jpgThe Classics as Video GamesDante's Inferno comes to life as a video game, as you travel through the rings of hell you becoming a living character in the classic literary work; this game exposes students to a classic work of literature some may have never encountered.

What to do?
As educators there are countless resources at our fingertips that bridge classic literature and the popular classics. It is up to us to utilize these resources in order to make learning the classics a tangible and interesting experience for our students. By using popular culture and modern technology we are able to reach students and open them up to classical experiences by using methods that they can relate too.

References Boyd, Fenice B, Mary Ariail, RObert Williams, Jorina Joeson, Gertrude Tinker Sachs, Kezia Mc Neal, Bb Fecho, Maisha Fisher, Mary K Healy, Tom Meyer, Ernest Morrell. Real Teaching for Real Diversity: Preparing English Language Arts Teachers for 21st -Century Classrooms. English Education. Volume 38, No 4. July 2006. Pg 329-350 Evans, Jerome. From Sheryl Crow to Homer Simpson: Literature and Composition through Pop Culture. The English Journal. Volume 93, No 3. January 2004. Pg 32-38 Mahiri, Tabari. Pop Culture Pedagogy and the End of School. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy. Volume 44, No 4. Dec 2000-Jan 2001. Pg 382-385 Morrell, Ernest. Toward a Critical Pedagogy of Popular Culture Literacy Development among Urban Youth. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy. Volume 46, No 1. Sept 2002. Pg 72-77. Weedman, Roslyn . Research in the Clssroom: mass Appeal: Pop Culture in the Composition Classroom. The English Journal. Volume 77, No 7. Nov 1988. Pg 96-97