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Teachers' reflections on teaching Gareth Hinds' graphic novel adaptation of 'The Odyssey'...

Updated: Jun 3


Host, Dani Kachorsky, welcomes high school English teachers Shelby Stringer and Amanda Molitor to Reading in the Gutter to reflect on their experiences teaching Gareth Hinds' graphic novel adaptation of The Odyssey. The three teachers discuss why they selected Gareth Hinds' adaptation, their successes and challenges using this text in classroom, and how they hope to revise their use of the text in the future.


This is a social media tile for Season 2 Episode 6 of Reading in the Gutter. Several ancient Greek ships are being tossed about on a stormy sea. In the distance, clear, sunny skies are visible.

Shelby Stringer is a high school English teacher and ice hockey coach at Brophy College Preparatory. Her current pedagogical obsession is learning how to leverage AI to maximize student outcomes and teacher productivity in the classroom. She has her master's degree in American History and an undergraduate degree in English literature. She has taught a wide range of humanities curses for students in grades 6-12, and she is entering her 9th year as a classroom teacher in the Phoenix area.


Amanda Molitor is a high school English teacher originally from Philadelphia, PA and currently located in Phoenix, AZ. She received her BA in English with a concentration in British literature from Wesleyan University in 2018 and her MA in English education from Teachers College, Columbia University in 2022. She spent the first five years of her career at The Hill School in Pottstown, PA and is currently teaching at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, AZ. When she is not in the classroom, Amanda is out on the water coaching rowing.


 

Note: The following transcript has been edited for coherence. Excessive "ums", unnecessary "likes”, and the like, have been removed for your convenience. Fragmented sentences and missing words have been edited to make the podcast transcript more readable.


[Opening Music]


Dani Kachorsky

Hi everyone. Welcome to Reading in the Gutter, a podcast that bridges the gap between comics and education. I am Dani Kachorsky, your host for today. Today, we are discussing the teaching of the graphic novel adaptation of The Odyssey. There's a lot of different versions out there, so specifically, we're looking at the Gareth Hinds adaptation. Joining me today to discuss this are two high school English teachers from Brophy College Prep, Shelby Stringer and Amanda Molitor. Welcome ladies. How are you today?


This image is the cover of the graphic novel adaptation of The Odyssey by Gareth Hinds. On the cover, the sea god, Poseidon, rises out of the open ocean. His head, chest, and upper arms are revealed. He wears a crown and necklace. He has long hair and a long beard. He holds a trident in his right hand. The ocean around him is filled with waves that toss a small raft about. A man in rags holds onto the raft.


Amanda Molitor

Good. Thank you--


Shelby Stringer

Thank you for having us.


Dani

Absolutely. I'm going to turn it over to each of you to just tell everybody a little bit about yourselves, where you came to teaching from and maybe what inspired you to bring this book into your class.


Shelby

Well, this is my eighth year as a teacher in Arizona. I graduated with a degree in English literature and I got my master's in US History. I've taught a wide range of English and History classes across middle school and high school school in the valley at public charter schools. Currently, I'm in my second year at Brophy, and Brophy's a private Jesuit Catholic-voice high school.


One of the reasons that I definitely was excited to teach this book was because I really thought it would just...they would read the book, which was one of the major majors.


Dani

Alright, well thank you so much for being here, Shelby.


Shelby

Thanks for having me.


Dani

Alright, Amanda.


[00:01:57]


Amanda

Hi, I'm Amanda Molitor. This is my sixth year of teaching, my first year at Brophy. For the past five years, I was at a boarding school on the east coast. I have a master's degree in English Education from Columbia University.


Let's see, so this is my first year teaching the graphic novel version of The Odyssey, but for the past five years I taught The Odyssey, but it was the Odds Bodkin audio version, which is really cool, and I thought the graphic novel version would be a cool way to kind of give the kids a fresh perspective on the original, but in a different way than I had been doing in the past.


I found that the kids really bought into it and it was a cool way to make it accessible to them. So hopefully someday they'll read the original, but yeah.



Dani

Excellent. All right, so we're going to start off just talking about why this graphic novel, why The Odyssey? There are a lot of graphic adaptations of classic literature. There's a lot of original graphic novels and comics that are out there that are worthy of attention as well. I know Amanda, you mentioned you've been teaching The Odyssey, in general, for a while now, and Shelby, had you also taught The Odyssey in some other format?


[00:03:22]


Shelby

No, I had not taught The Odyssey. I have read it a couple times for different English classes over the years.


Dani

There are some times where we get in those loops. I remember... I've read, I think Frankenstein 13 or 14 times and I just can't take it anymore.


So to kick off this discussion about why The Odyssey, just some questions to germinate [on]. We've got: Why this graphic novel adaptation as opposed to the traditional epic poem as opposed to the other graphic novel adaptations as opposed to the audio audiobook adaptation? Whoever wants to take it first...


Amanda

Yeah, as I said earlier, the graphic novel, especially if you have any reluctant readers in your class, it made it more accessible. I found my students kind of bought into it right away because they recognize this is an action packed story, whereas if, I think, I had presented them with just the text, maybe eventually they'd buy into it, but it would be sort of harder at the beginning.


I found--I don't know if you guys found the same thing--they were constantly making connections to The Lightning Thief and they're like, "Oh, I've seen this before." So they were really into it making connections across texts, really from the beginning.



I thought having that extra layer of analyzing the visuals sort of, in turn, kind of enhanced their textual analysis in a way that maybe we would've not experienced had we just had the written word.


Regarding this version versus others: I haven't really explored too many other versions, but I really liked the artwork. I thought it was really well done. I thought it sort of captured the spirit of the time where it takes place and the larger than life aspect of the gods and everything.


I thought it was a really successful unit. It was my first time doing it, so--we will probably talk about this later--[I'll] do some things differently, but I really enjoyed teaching this version.


Dani

Yeah, totally.


[00:05:28]


Shelby

Awesome. So I think one of the major reasons that I was excited to teach this book is the audience. It's an audience of teenage boys. I think in our culture there is a lot-- Obviously, superheroes are just everywhere. So, the idea of graphic novels, kids actually have some experience with that because I'm sure their parents have tried to get them to read, and that's probably something that they've been given over the years.


I also like that it's a faster pace, so it you're in the Odyssey for so long.


Dani

[laughter] Yep.


Shelby

And I think it really is great because it gives different types of learners access to the story and the narrative. Right? It's one of the greatest narratives that I feel like everybody probably, as a common culture, should know as an educated adult. But, if I gave them the Epic poem--and I know you could tell me Lexile levels, the science on them--but I was looking at it and the Lexile level of the original Homer's work is at 1310, and the bottom quartile of high school learners is going to read at 1140 or lower. And that's even if they can grasp 75% of the comprehension of that material...


Dani

And let's be real. There are plenty of kids who are reading below where they are supposed to be, too.


Shelby

Yeah, a hundred percent. I think that we've only seen those, the reading comprehension slow down with Covid. So, I think it's a great way to get kids into Homer. I had a kid, who I'm teaching this year in AP Lang, and he talked about it. He was like, "I loved The Odyssey."


I think it went well.


Dani

So he was in your class last year and had done it and--


Shelby

--with me, and then I have him in AP Language, which is a rhetoric class.


Dani

Has he gone on to try out the original by any chance? Do you know?


[00:07:22]


Shelby

No, I do not believe so, but he's very into mythology. I think that that's something a lot of our kids actually, like you mentioned with The Lightning Thief, that it's something they really do find interesting, and that's an important way to get kids into reading is what they like.


Dani

That one they've remade now as a TV show. It's on Disney. So there was the movie, there was the book, and now there's the TV show too. So I think it's going to kind of re-trigger for kids that like, "Oh, I remember this from when I was in middle school. Now it is a TV show. I'll rewatch it." And then it's like, "Oh yeah, this is thing we're doing in high school too."


So both of you mentioned accessibility, and I think that's a word that kind gets thrown around a lot. So what exactly do you mean when you're saying that it seemed like it was more accessible to students?


Amanda

Well, I think what I was saying earlier with reluctant readers, I think a lot of students, they might look at the original versions, this big thick book, and they'll be kind of turned off automatically. Other kids might be like, "Yes, let's do this!"


Dani

I can think of one who would be excited about that.


Amanda

Yeah. So I feel like presenting it in this format, something a little different. The visuals are cool to look at, and it's just a nice entry point, I think for them. What you were saying with the literacy rates and things like that, I think it's a way for them to get exposed to the story and then they'll realize, "Hey, this is awesome." Then maybe, even if they don't read the original, they'll realize they like this type of story, like mythology and all that, and maybe, it'll sort of open other doors for them. They'll realize something about themselves as readers they wouldn't have learned before. So I think it's just a nice way to get kids to buy in to it and be open to actually digging into it.


[00:09:24]


Dani

So less intimidating, visually stimulating, maybe a jumping off point for similar stories. I know for a fact a lot of comics have mythology references in them, so there's so much for them to expand on if they want to go that way. I mean, we've got in The Avengers, right, Thor and Loki, these are mythological characters that have been reinterpreted in different ways. So yeah, I think that's a great point. How about you?



Shelby

I have struggled because, I think, sometimes as a teacher, when I really first started teaching, I was like, "I need to teach this work because it's a great work. It has to be taught. I read it, it's been taught over the years." But I find that... I've found that if the kids don't understand what they're reading, then they're not going to like it at all, and it's kind of just a waste anyway.


Dani

This doesn't seem like something that should be that shocking to all of us, but for whatever reason it is.


Shelby

So I tried to teach and I spent a long time trying to find the novella book that I thought, "This is a great work. Great." So I taught The Death of Ivan Ilyich, which is by Leo Tolstoy, right before teaching this, and boys hated it. It was a slog. I mean, I tried to do everything to get them to understand the story, to empathize with the characters, but I think it came down to the fact that it was more archaic of a text and that it wasn't really beneficial because now they have a disdain for something that they might not have a disdain for if in their adult life they decide, "Oh, I want to read this, or I want to look into this." I feel like with a graphic novel, every kid is able to understand what they're reading because I mean, I think the Lexile level is much lower.


[00:11:21]


Dani

The only thing I'll say about that is there are, for certain kids, graphic novels are actually really hard. And there's two groups:


One is students with dyslexia. Because of the way that the text is written, oftentimes that comic book font doesn't set you up to be very successful because some of the letters are just so similar looking. So, I've had some students with dyslexia who struggle with them, and a friend of mine, Dr. Laura Jimenez--she has dyslexia; she's one of the hosts for the show--has talked about that a little bit about how when she got into them, it took a while to train herself for that. So I think that is something we just need to be cognizant about. If you do have a student who has dyslexia, for a graphic novel, you might want to pair it with an audio adaptation. There are certain graphic novels that have those, so they can kind of read them at the same time. But that would be a recommendation I would have for kids with prose novels anyway.


And then the other group are just the kids who have never read one before. It can be hard to get started. Sometimes they're not sure which way to go, even though it might seem pretty, I don't know, intuitive to a lot of people, some kids or some readers, especially the older they are-- Elementary school kids, they'll just dive in and go for it, but they're also used to looking at pictures and picture books all the time. The older we get and the further away we get from being little kids where pictures are okay, I think we start to lose that skill. So it's good sometimes to just introduce them to the process. Knowing there is a Z-path, but sometimes the artists will deviate from that for aesthetic value or narrative reasons. So just for other teachers who are looking to do this, it's not an automatic, every kid's going to like it. Some kids are going to struggle and there are ways to mitigate that.


Amanda, you mentioned the art in the comic, and so I was wondering if you wanted to talk a little bit more about that. I have some thoughts on the art too. Gareth Hinds is one of my favorite graphic novel artists.


[00:13:39]


Amanda

Yeah, definitely. I thought, like I said, it's just beautifully designed. I like the sort of watercolor effect. It looked like a work of art, honestly. And I thought in our discussions we were analyzing the text, but also the image and then were there ever images that sort of conveyed something that the text didn't or vice versa? So I thought there are a lot of instances of these beautiful full page, no words, just the character and okay, well what are we reading into this image from the body language and the facial expressions and everything. I just thought, especially for kids who had never been exposed to a graphic novel before, it was sort of a great first go at it. And yeah, I just thought it was beautiful just for the art.


Dani

Yeah, it's pretty to look at. Shelby, do you have any thoughts on the art at all?


Shelby

I loved it, and I think that it has a soft style and an aesthetic quality that I really enjoy in terms of art and in terms of... I mean, growing up I was a big fan of Little Bear and Maurice Sendak, and I really had a disdain for Cartoon Network as style art. I felt like the lines were really harsh. I think about Dexter's Lab, those really black, the really thick black lines, and that's popular sometimes in comic books, but that's what I really liked about this. It was a little bit... [laughs]


[00:15:11]


Dani

Yeah, it's just interesting I think, because sometimes watercolor, at least historically, has been associated with a thing that women do, and it's a super macho story.


Shelby

That's interesting.


Dani

It's really burly men fighting things all the time. So I think it was an interesting choice in that regard, but it also has kind of a nostalgic quality, which makes me kind of feel like maybe that was chosen to look back at the past. I was also wondering, this is...


I mean, Gareth Hinds, I think in all of his graphic novels uses watercolor, but I can't say that for certain, I haven't checked all of them. But I wondered if, because it's like this Greek mythos, if maybe it was a callback to Muses as inspired by art. I think there's a lot of possibilities for why that particular art style... Though I did have, when I taught it too, kids who complained about the art because the color differentiation on the deities, they had trouble. It was really subtle. And it's interesting looking at The Iliad, which he's written more recently. It's much clearer, much more saturated color to make the deities trigger as being different visually. I know we're going to be doing The Iliad over the summer for our summer read and then picking up with The Odyssey after that. I'm hoping that having the one that's a little more distinct might help kids with it when it becomes a little more subtle, they might be more attuned to it. I don't know.



Shelby

I also thought there wasn't a, and I could totally be wrong, but I don't think there was a panel at the beginning that identified the characters by faces. There might've-- Ah, but you, of course, are more prepared than I am and have your copy.


Amanda

You might be right because kids were confused sometimes.


Dani

Yeah, no, there doesn't appear to be one at the beginning.


Shelby

And it makes for, it's kind of like a puzzle and a hunt. Who is this? Who does this represent? But I would say at times that would be helpful. But that's something, as a teacher, we could copy those photos and then make that part of the introduction to reading the book, just with more time.


[00:17:32]


Dani

I'm going to try to do with it when we teach it this next year, I'm going to have them create D&D character sheets for some of the characters as a character analysis.


Amanda

I like that.


Dani

And so finding your character and having their photo as part of it will be that. So that, I think, will help a little bit. Fingers crossed.


So why don't we talk now about what exactly we did when we taught these things. So walk us through your unit of study. What was your focus, purpose, objectives, anything that was sort of activities or lessons or assignments did you have students engage in?


Amanda

Well, we started off exploring the hero's journey that cycle. The kids sort of did their own research on that. We looked at examples and then they did presentations. In the past, I've done every kind of version of this, a paper, a presentation, a project, but this time it was a presentation. They picked any story they liked, whether it was a movie, a TV show, a book, and they walked us through the hero's journey and we sort of talked about the plot structure and how it's something we see all around us if you know what to look for. So, that sort of set us up nicely going into reading The Odyssey.


As I said before, a lot of our discussions kind of hinged on the visual analysis, the textual analysis, and then kind of both of them. And like you were saying before with the faces and sometimes you hunt around, there were a lot of times where kids were like, "Wait, where did that guy come from?" Or "I thought that was a goddess, and now it's a person." They realized early on, you can't just gloss over these images just because there's no words, and you're going to miss so much.


[00:19:23]


So, I found after that first reading, they really sort of realized the level of attention to detail they need, even when there are no words on the page. That was a cool realization to see because then our discussions became a lot richer when they were really looking at the images.


Then, I guess our sort of culminating activity was they each drew their own map of Odysseus's journey, so geographically loosely where each of the stops [were], they had to draw an image to go with it, and then they needed a passage analysis for each stop. So they had fun with that, and then we presented the maps and hung them up, and I think they really enjoyed it.


Dani

It's interesting that you say that they realized that they had to pay attention. I've had that exact experience. The first time I ever taught a graphic novel, I did Fahrenheit 451's adaptation.



Amanda

Oh, cool.


Dani

The kids really did struggle with it. We got through, I think the first reading assignment, and four of them were like, "I have idea what just happened." I'm like, "Well, what did you [do]?Walk me through your process. Tell me what you did." [They said], "I read this box and this box and this box and this box." They just kind of had gone and looked at the words and hadn't looked at the pictures at all. And it's like, "Well, of course you're not going to understand what's going on. You have paid attention to maybe a quarter of the information that you need in order to understand what's happening." [The illustrators] didn't draw the pictures because they were bored. They drew them because that's carrying the story. Everything that's on this page matters. You've got to attend to it in some way. So I think that's probably a very common experience, which is why I think it's important to give them a sense of what are the parts of the comic. And yes, you have to look at [the pictures]. But, they're still not going to listen to us until they try it.


[00:21:23]


Amanda

Exactly. That's right.


Dani

How about you, Shelby?


Shelby

So this was under the class that is our sophomore English class [which] is based around the life of St. Ignatius. It was a unit on the pilgrimage to the holy land and returning home, and so, Odysseus takes his time coming home.


Dani

Yeah, he does.


Shelby

So the riding focus for me in this unit was literary analysis, and it was with a culminating literary analysis essay. I would say if I did it again, I probably wouldn't do it in that capacity, but it was to track his changes over time. Did he have a change or do you believe he's the same person he was when he started? Is that his cannonball moment*? Then I did, from you, you had generated some or created some roles for literature circles.


Dani

Oh yeah. I didn't make them up. I just grabbed them from one of the PD books I've had for an eternity.


Shelby

So I used those. The book circles, they were effective. It is difficult sometimes to make sure that are they really getting the same out of this versus if we just did this as a whole class. Because if I'm not standing over them, they're generally not talking about the book.


Dani

Yeah, no. But Amanda, it sounds like you did it as a whole class.


Amanda

Yes. Yeah, we did it as a whole class and we would sometimes break into smaller groups. We were pretty big classes, but then, we come together as a larger class. But yeah, I totally hear what you're saying [about] the smaller groups, so don't worry.


[00:23:07]


Shelby

Then, we did some other adjacent creative projects with it. In my class, I had one class for an extra day because we have a block schedule, and so I was seeing them an extra day versus the other class. I had to come up with something and it was like, "Well, this is related to what we're doing, and it's moderately fun and moderately fun would be fun for me." So, I made them make a Feast Day menu based on researching and planning a menu that would've been served in Odysseus' time with ingredients native to ancient Greece, and then sort of create some fun menus because I love food.


Then, the final project that they did right before break is they created a theme park that was based on The Odyssey. They had to come up with a map that had all of the rides that were inspired by moments within the text. Then, they also had to make a video advertisement of said theme park, which were absolutely hilarious because how do you create an ad for something that doesn't really exist? So, they were just filming interesting videos around campus, and that was fun. I did enjoy those, and they didn't have access to AI generated art, which would've been massive. The quality of... I just did a political project in my AP class. The quality of projects is insane with the ads.


Dani

I did something a little bit different, but I think having the AI for the videos... You could put in a description of your rides or your restaurants, what they look like, and you could create really cool websites or flyers or pamphlets or videos or whatever. Now that we have that tool, it really helps, especially the kids who are not artistically inclined.


[00:25:04]


I did it a little bit differently. I did the Minecraft project as part of it, but Shelby and I, we're in the same school, so same curriculum, so it was part of a literary analysis unit. I thought that went okay. I feel like I needed to do a little bit more scaffolding just with what literary analysis is. I think once they figured out, "Oh, we're focusing on character. It's pretty easy to track character."


But the Lit Circle thing, I do agree it wasn't my favorite, but I had also forgotten that a friend of mine, David, has written a article about lit circles specifically for graphic novels, and there is a different approach. He published it two years before we did the unit, and I came across it over the summer. I was like, "Oh, right. This is how I should have done that. It's more appropriate for the format."


All right, here we go again.**


Yeah. So I also taught the same unit as Shelby, though we did things slightly differently. I agree with you that the Lit Circle thing wasn't my favorite. I think part of that might be because the lit circles are designed more for prose books, and I had forgotten that a friend of mine, David Low, had done some research on doing lit circles with graphic novels in there. He came up with different roles and things that might be more appropriate and maybe more effective. that might be something to try out next semester. But I'm kind of thinking about when to do that. If this is the first thing that I'm doing in the semester, I do want to do a whole class read, kind of get a warmed up, and then break into smaller groups as we move throughout the year, as they get accustomed to having discussions that are quality. We know that if we aren't standing over them, a lot of the times they don't.


[00:27:14]


I did a Minecraft project. It was a Minecraft Airbnb project where they had to design an island from the trip in Minecraft. They really liked it.


Amanda

That's awesome.


Dani

I think I gave them a little bit too much time for it, so I would reduce that if I were to do it again. They created their island, and it was nice. They had the visual reference in the book, but then they could also use the text to have some freedom to adapt things the way that they would want. But it was the websites they made for their Airbnb that were really funny. My favorite one... I had a group who did the Cyclops island, and they kept having these meta moments where it was like, wink, wink, nudge, nudge. "We're going to eat you if you come to our island, but we're not going to say it. It's free. And it's like all expenses paid, but you may never leave or want to leave," kind of a thing that they would do on it. It was really quite clever. So they had a lot of fun with that. So yeah, I am curious to see what we come up with next year moving forward.


I think we've touched on this a little bit already, but challenges and successes: what things went well? what things were struggle? What would you definitely do again and what would you axe if you...? Or we're all going to be doing the sucker again. Or, I'm sorry. We're doing The Iliad for sure. I don't know if we're all going to do The Odyssey.


Amanda

Yeah, well that will be nice, I think, to have that, doing The Iliad first, because we sort of gave the overview of The Iliad. They kind of looked into, but it'd be cool if they had read it over the summer and then we go right into The Odyssey. So I'm excited for that.


Like I said, I think overall it was a success. It was cool to see kids excited to read, and afterwards, they're like, "wow, I really liked that. That was actually really awesome." And drawing connections to other things they've seen or read before, I sort of witnessed that in a way I haven't necessarily with other things we've read. Even if they did dislike it, I never saw them so pumped to make a connection.


I think if I were... I will when I do this, again, as we were reading, we were talking about elements of graphic novels in general, and looking back, I don't know why I didn't do more beforehand. I, for the past five years at my previous school. taught Persepolis.




Dani

Oh, yeah.


[00:29:55]


Amanda

I did a whole lot of scaffolding beforehand: "This is how you analyze a graphic novel. These are the different elements."


We did a lot of historical context and the hero's journey context going into it, but I think if I had maybe not neglected to do that beforehand, they might have had an easier time getting into it. Even though, like I said, after that first reading, they were like, "Okay, this is the level of detail I need to pay attention to." So probably that.


And then maybe weaving in some of the original text as we go once they're like, "Okay, I recognize The Odyssey's awesome. Now, I look at this epic poem without being kind of intimidated by it."


I think it was just the scheduling... Christmas break came up on us. So, in the past when I did The Odyssey, I did The Penelopiad with it. I didn't have time to do that, but I think it would be cool to pair those text as well.



Dani

Cool. Yeah, Persepolis is a classic, and it gets taught a lot in school. If there is a graphic novel canon, Maus and Persepolis are top of the list.


Amanda

Absolutely.


Shelby

I was going to teach it last year, but time.


Amanda

It happens.


Dani

That seems to happen every year. I don't know what's going on, you guys.


Shelby?


[00:31:16]


Shelby

I would probably axe everything just because that's what I do and then change it all up. I mean, I'm definitely not going to do a major essay just because of ChatGPT, in that regard. I liked the theme park project, but it was too... It wasn't tied as much to the text as I would've liked. So something like that. But just maybe having stricter requirements.


I do something, and I've done it before, that I really like, but I don't think it would work actually next year if we're going to teach The Iliad first. But I always introduce The Odyssey and this idea of epic poetry with... There's an English professor, and I don't know who he is, but he has a British accent and there's a YouTube video*** of him explaining The Iliad and drawing out what happens in The Iliad.


I think The Iliad is hilarious. It's such a ridiculous story. So, I have modeled a lecture after that to talk about this is what happened: "This happened, and then, this happened in The Iliad." Then, after that I erased the board and I asked them to then write down everything that happened. And then, they realized they can't. And I said, "Well, that's one thing to keep in mind with this form of, or just when we're reading things like Homer, is that this was a epic poem tradition where people would go house to house and have people reading these poems out." Right?


Dani

I mean, they weren't reading them because they didn't have the [printed] word.


Shelby

[laughter] They weren't reading them. They were just saying them, yeah.


Dani

Can you imagine memorizing the length of these things? It just blows my mind. Yeah, no, I think that's really interesting. Yeah, somebody... Like this is you hanging out with your family or your neighborhood, your community, and somebody is there around the fire telling this thing.


Shelby

And how it can change and how these details, they're ridiculous, and these stories are insane, but that's just because someone's trying to tell a good story. And so it's not--


Dani

They're watching you fall asleep around the fireplace and now they got to make it exciting.


Amanda

They need a twist.


Shelby

Yeah, so that's...


[00:33:19]


Dani

Alright. No, that sounds really good.


I don't know exactly what I'm going to end up doing with it next year. I like having The Iliad first. Shelby mentioned a little bit earlier, we have it as part of our... It's called the Cannonball Moment Unit, which references Saint Ignatius's experience of getting hit with a cannonball and that changing his life forever. If you want to tie that to a literary element, a plot element, it aligns very nicely with either an inciting incident in a traditional plot arc or the crossing of the first threshold, I can't talk, in the hero's journey as being the thing that kind of launches you into this experience that can change your life. If you just read The Odyssey, you're not going to get Odysseus's [cannonball moment]. You have to read both [The Iliad and The Odyssey] in order to do that. So that was one of the issues I encountered when they were writing about these moments of change for characters is that it doesn't really happen for Odysseus in The Odyssey, so it's like, how are they supposed to analyze that?


I think having it as a summer read, The Iliad as the summer read and then leading into this is going to be a little more seamless. But I also think that the thing about going up and telling the story of the whiteboard--let's be real about how many people are probably going to read it over the summer. They're kids. They might squeak it in the day before class starts or look it up on the internet and spend all that time figuring out how to cheat without [reading]. It would take them an hour or two to read. So I think having that kind of anchor experience might be good so that everybody's kind on the same page with The Iliad. I like that idea a lot.


And then in terms of, I don't think I'm going to do the lit circles, or if I do, I'm going to go with David's version of them, which means I need to spend a little time reading that one, looking over his article again, I am thinking about bringing him on the podcast to talk us through it, which would be nice.


[00:35:25]


But yeah, other than that, I have not begun to think about what I would do. I liked the Minecraft project, but like you, Shelby, I'm not sure if it was tied close enough to the text. And I sometimes think when we come up with these ideas and we try them out for the first time, that they're not as tight as we would like them to be. So I want to find something fun that can still represent literary analysis in different ways and maybe kind of focus on different elements as we move through the book. So we'll see. I don't know, any other thoughts?


Amanda

Yeah, I mean I really enjoyed it. Like I said, it was my first year teaching the graphic novel version and things to consider changing for next year. But I'm glad it's in our curriculum and looking forward to doing it again with hindsight this time.


Dani

Yeah, no, I hear you. The first time we teach something, it's never the way we want it.


I don't know if you guys had given this any thought, but we typically end with recommendations of comics and graphic novels that we think people should check out. So does anybody have anything that they've read recently or in the past that they think other people should check out and enjoy.


Shelby

If you have to teach Shakespeare... If you have to, I have taught Shakespeare with the original text in a graphic novel form. And I mean, again, if you have to teach Shakespeare, I found that the kids really, really liked it that way and being able to see the story because it is a play, right? It's supposed to be acted out. And that was successful.


And then I just bought a book, I haven't read it yet, but I'll give him a shout out because he was at your Bronco Con, J. Gonzo, but La Voz de M.A.Y.O.: Tata Rambo. It's based on this oral history of Ramon Jaurigue, an orphan in World War II Vet who co-founded the Mexican, American, Yaqui, and Others organization, which lobbied the Tucson City Council to get better working conditions for the Pascua Yaqui tribe.



[00:37:42]


Dani

Super cool idea for a graphic novel and super cool guy who wrote**** and illustrated it.


Shelby

So I'm really, really excited to read that and also see if it's something that I could possibly teach. I'm not a hundred percent sure, but yeah.


Dani

Yeah. Okay.


Amanda

Cool, cool. So I already discussed this and I know it's pretty common, but it has a special place in my heart: Persepolis. It was the first graphic novel I taught and something I taught my very first year of teaching. I've had great success with it. I only would teach The Story of a Childhood, but I read the whole rest of the series myself and really enjoyed it.



And I just find it's great to read the students for all sorts of reasons, but I always would pair it with sort of a make your own graphic memoir project, and that was always a really successful. It's a great way to get to know your students and I find that it's always a pretty powerful experience for everyone. Then, I would end it with the film, which is just a nice way to to put together the full cinematic experience, which you get kind of in part just by reading the novel. So I would like to hopefully bring that back into my teaching sometime.


Dani

Beautiful movie. And that's in French, right?


Amanda

Yes. It has subtitles, but it is in French. That's awesome to play that in class.


[00:39:11]


Dani

I think that's an important distinction because the graphic novel that people will get in the United States that's been adapted. I guess it was originally published in France. So yeah.


Let's see. So I just picked up a bunch of things, but I haven't been reading much because they've been putting together our Brophy Comic Con. So I'm a little behind on my "To be Read" Stack right now. I just finished a book called Solo Leveling, which is a Manwha, which is Korean comics, and it just got released as an anime. And it's a really interesting, I read it originally--this is the second time I'm reading it--I read it originally as part of an awards committee. I really just like the way that they just told this really action packed story. It's a little cliche in places, like the character starts off very weak and could never be a hero because he's such a weak person physically, but then it kind of combines these elements of Dungeons and Dragons and video games. He starts leveling up, which is why it's called Solo Leveling. He basically does these kind of skills tests and gains points, and I think it is an interesting premise in that regard.



And I just found a graphic novel, which I'm not going to remember the title for, but it is a graphic novel about Mary Curie.


Shelby

Ooooo.


Amanda

Cool.


Dani

So I went over to Samurai Comics the other day to pick up some stuff for Bronco Con, and they actually have quite a strong showing of comics about women--


Shelby

Cool.


[00:41:06]


Dani

--for women by women. So this is just one of the ones that I came across, but they had so many different titles. This was Mary Curie, a Quest for Light, and just the Art in it was really interesting, kind of almost like patchwork-y, but I'm curious to read that and see if it sings. But Solo Leveling was definitely fun. Maybe I can actually recommend [Mary Curie, a Quest for Light] later after I've read it.



Amanda

Awesome.


Dani

Alrighty, folks. Well, thank you both to Amanda and Shelby for coming in today and joining the podcast and testing out the podcast studio at school with me. So if it sounds different, folks, it's because we're in a different location.


Shelby

Thank you. It's been fun.


Dani

Would love to have you back sometime. Maybe we can talk through what we're going to do next year with these, do a planning session that's also a podcast.


Amanda

Cool, yeah, that'd be cool.


Shelby

Love it.


Dani

Alright, folks. Well, that concludes today's episode of Reading in the Gutter. Thank you so much for listening, and we hope you found our discussion interesting and informative. Thanks again, ladies, for coming out.


*The cannonball moment in St. Ignatius' life functions very similarly to the inciting incident in the traditional, dramatic plot structure or the call-to-adventure in the Hero's Journey plot structure.


**There were technical difficulties during the recording process, so some material is repeated here.


***The college professor is named Carey Harrison. He is a professor at the City University of New York. There are two videos, The Iliad, Illustrated (Part 1) and The Iliad, Illustrated (Part 2).


****J. Gonzo did not write La Voz de M.A.Y.O. He illustrated it.


 

[End Credits]


For information about Reading in the Gutter and resources related to comics and education, visit our website www.readinginthegutter.com, or follow us on Instagram @readinginthegutter.


Special thanks to our guests for their contributions to this show. For information about or to contact our guests and contributors, please visit the episode transcript on our website.


Reading in the Gutter is a podcast that is produced in a personal capacity. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed are solely those of the individuals involved and do not represent those of their affiliated institutions.


Post-production for this podcast is provided by Dan Perrine. Our intro and outro music are provided by the Alibi Music Library and licensed through PodcastMusic.com.

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