For years I’ve shown Citizen Kane in my beginning J. classes. I love the cinematography and the story and it’s considered one of the top movies ever made.
But then Ulysses is considered one of the top books ever written. I read Ulysses once. And all I got from it was Joyce used drugs. Lots of drugs. And then he wrote a story I never quite understood.
My professors LOVED the book. They could talk for hours about the green snot world. And I dutifully listened. I read, I took the notes, I did the online research and read the criticisms of the book. I used passages from the story I didn’t understand in papers because I knew the profs would like it. And now, years later, I still don’t get it. I made As, I even talked about Ulysses in my oral exams for my MA. But ask me to be specific and I’m at a loss.
I think the majority of my students see Citizen Kane the way I see Ulysses. I think I’ve become my professors. Looking back I realize I got a lot from the profs’ discussions, but I LEARNED a heck of a lot more from Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses than I ever got from Joyce’s Ulysses. They’re not the same book, but the hero’s journey is in both.
So now I’m in search of the new Kane. What can I show my students that will have the same impact and lead to great discussion and thinking and writing assignments?
There’s a writing lesson here too. Make it relevant or it doesn’t matter how good the story is!