WAC Clearinghouse home page
About ATD   Submissions   Advanced Search

CCCC 2004: Review

Review: J 24 Popcorn Meets Pedagogy: Movies, Literacy, and the Composition Classroom
Reviewed by: Wendy Warren Austin, warren@edinboro.edu
Posted on: April 30, 2004

Previous Previous

 

Next Next


Bronwyn T. Williams, University of Louisville, KY: The Stuff that Dreams Are Made of: Movies, Literacy, and Everyday Life”

Amy Zenger, University of New Hampshire, Durham, “From Cinema to Classroom: What Students Learn about Literacy from Watching Movies”

Actually, I couldn’t figure out which session to go to during this time frame, and slipped into this session a few minutes into it, missing the very beginning. However, I found their handout on a seat in the back, and began reading and listening, thinking I could get out again quickly and quietly if I found the ideas to be boring. To the contrary, Bronwyn Williams was speaking when I arrived and he explained about how even though we always complain or are concerned about our students lack of reading, we know that movies are one cultural context through which we might reach them. As he spoke, Amy Zenger, his co-presenter, would occasionally weave her commentary into the message; that although scenes of literacy in popular movies largely go unnoticed, if we look closely at how literacy is portrayed within them and are prepared to discuss these cinematic perceptions with our students, we can generate discussions about reading and writing and public perceptions of literacy as well as how we and our students respond to these perceptions.

Instead of droning on and on about these ideas, which in themselves were stimulating enough, they proceeded to show a clip from As Good as It Gets in which character played by Helen Hunt, Carol, is writing a letter, talks about it with her mother, and then later reads it to the obsessive-compulsive writer played by Jack Nicholson, Melvin. After the clip, they pointed out how Carol agonizes over how to spell one little word in her letter, but uses the letter to pour out her deepest feelings of thanks to Melvin—her literacy is tied closely to her emotions and needs. On the other hand, Melvin, a writer by occupation, approaches his task in a businesslike manner, but has his routines of writing well-established. He treats writing as simply a means by which he earns his living, one that is not at all connected with his emotions or his own everyday reality.  

Next, they showed several clips from Harry Potter: The Chamber of Secrets, one in which Harry Potter finds the book where he writes in disappearing ink, and immediately a reply appears momentarily in ink, then disappears again. After the clip someone in the audience pointed out astutely that this scene is very similar to the way teenagers talk to each other in instant messaging mode.  Other scenes from Harry Potter involved the book that he finds on the floor and which is also involved in the most revealing scenes from the movie. Lively discussion followed after the clips were played. It was one of the most thought-provoking and interesting sessions I attended during the conference. It is so easy to dismiss Hollywood’s influence as so much fluff, but this presentation made me reconsider how to use what’s out there to our advantage to get students to think about all forms of literacy and the often-insidious portrayals of it that we miss even while they pass before our eyes and into our psyche.  


Previous Previous

 

Next Next