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Shake your meaning-maker

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So I’ve mentioned before that the final project in my class is a creative one in which students must occupy the position they’ve been analyzing all quarter–that of the meaning-making rhetor communicating something or other to a particular audience. Because I’m working with graphic novels, one of the ways I get them to think like a meaning-maker is ask them to find a song that epitomizes a particular book they’ve read. This exercise is far more difficult than it sounds, because it forces them to reflect upon (likely for the first time) what the lyric of their proposed song means and how that lyric relates to a book whose rhetorical and thematic complexity we’ve been discussing for weeks. It’s the perfect exercise:

It starts simple then turns fractal.

This quarter, I went with Craig Thompson’s Blankets as inspiration, which means the song needs to include equal parts evangelical Christianity, teenage infatuation, Künstlerroman, etc. No single song will perfectly reflect either Craig Thompson’s understanding of his own development or any of my students’ relation to that understanding, but the act of thinking through that mess will help them discover how they’d like their final projects to resonate with their intended audience.

All of which is merely a preface to my declaration that the song I thought best epitomized Thompson’s intent–in both lyrical intent and its relation to traditional form–was this one. (The lyrics can be found here.) I’m obviously playing a rigged game, what with me being the teacher and all, but the point is that I can make a very strong argument about how the thematic elements of that song communicate something very similar to the message of Thompson’s novel … and that I dare any of my students to proffer another case for a different song that’s stronger than the one they think I’ll make for mine. (Which means they’ll have to anticipate a critical response and plan their feints and parries in advance.)

Game on?

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