“More than just Bells and Whistles: Engaging Students with Interdisciplinary Pedagogy in the English Classroom”

Dr. Cameron Dodworth
Department of English, University of South Alabama

When teaching a World Literature course, it is sometimes difficult to successfully and thoroughly engage students with a text that can oftentimes be several centuries or millennia old.  Particularly with Ancient Greek texts—like Homer’s The Odyssey and Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex—students can sometimes be unwilling to engage (or uninterested in engaging) with the material, due to the assumed archaic language and concepts.  This paper discusses not only successful approaches to Ancient Greek texts taken with the use of visual art—in terms of engaging students with a sense of artistic and cultural context that enhances class discussions of Ancient Greek concepts that would otherwise be limited to just words on a page—but also film.  While contemporary film adaptations of the stories of Greek Antiquity might be considered more accessible by students, they often rely on special effects, and particularly violence, which tends to inhibit more intellectual and cultural concepts—as seen in Zack Snyder’s 300 (2006) and Louis Leterrier’s Clash of the Titans (2010).  This paper discusses Joel and Ethan Coen’s O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) and Fred M. Wilcox’s Forbidden Planet (1956), in relation to The Odyssey and Oedipus Rex, respectively. While these films are not straight adaptations of these texts, this paper discusses the specific ways in which students are able to focus on the more intellectual and cultural connections between the texts and films because of the fact that they are not straight adaptations, and also as a result of a multimedia/interdisciplinary pedagogical approach.