Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Music and Literature

University of Arkansas literature professor Christian Goering was interested in incorporating music into his English classes as an "instructional and motivational tool" for his students to connect better with the books they are assigned to read. Steinbeck and Tracy Chapman, Jane Austen and Counting Crows, Harper Lee and Johnny Cash: students draw on their CD collections to identify songs that evoke the book's themes, and the two are used together to help students understand their readings. A lot of musicians derive their songs from literary sources — Iron Maiden's Rime of the Ancient Mariner helped me through Senior English — so much of the list seems rather obvious, but if a student needs to get their head into a book, adding an audio component appears to be helpful according to professor Goering.

Goering asked his students to identify as many song connections as possible for the book Of Mice and Men, and the came up with a hundred connections, allowing Goering to pull six common connections that a song might have with a book:
  • A song is inspired by literature directly;
  • A song connects to a text thematically;
  • A song’s setting connects to the setting of a literary work;
  • Characters in a song mirror the characteristics in a classic work;
  • The tone of a song is similar to the tone of a piece of literature, and;
  • A song’s plot structure or narrative follows that of a literary work.
Goering's research has been included in The Essential Criticism of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, but he's been collecting more than just Mice and Men's related tunes at his LitTunes website. If you want to get to the meat of the associations and set up your iPod appropriately, the database of relationships can be found here. As a sidenote, I'm bookmarking the page about using Johnny Cash as an example for teaching writing for future reference.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since we're being scholarly I'd give preference to the original artist. In that case it's Buffy Saint Marie for Universal Soldier.

9:00 PM  

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