Watching movies in class is often thought of as a treat or reward or as a “free” day in class, but John Golden wants to change that. In his article, “Literature into Film (and Back Again): Another Look at an Old Dog” he provides the reader with a step-by-step instruction manual on how to transform film into a valuable tool for teaching literature.
Part of what makes Golden’s approach unique (and successful) is being mindful of going beyond the simple comparison of what makes a film adaptation different from the original book. Pointing out the differences and discussing which one you liked better is not enough. To push students into a new territory of learning, teaching film and literature together requires teachers to understand that these are “different animals” and should be taught for what they are—not simply in comparison to each other.
Golden suggests that film can be “read” just as literature can, and that if we teach film with a similar approach as literature, we can increase a student’s understanding of particular aspects such as themes, motifs, and devices employed by authors and directors. Lessons learned from “reading” film can then be transferred over into analyzing literature.
Film provides teachers with a supplemental way of reaching students who may have a hard time understanding concepts within a text. If students are given an opportunity to grasp the complex possibilities of film, they will be greater prepared to search for and discuss such aspects in literature.
Golden adds this disclaimer in his article: “I am not a film teacher. I am an English teacher who happens to like movies.” But he provides teachers with a thorough approach to breaking down elements of film and relating them to literature. He walks us through how we can teach the cinematic, theatrical, and literary elements of film as well as a new means of comparing film and literature through what he refers to as directly or indirectly “filmable” parts of a written piece.
In the video interview on this page, Golden explains how part of his motivation for writing and sharing his ideas about film and literature was to make teaching film more accessible and less intimidating for English teachers. In his article, he also admits to wanting to “relieve guilt about using the movie versions of the text you are studying.” This means changing the film-watching experience in the classroom from one where students are falling asleep or distracted to one where students are encourage and required to engage.
Along with detailed instructions and examples, Golden includes additional references and resources including his own book titled Reading in the Dark: Using Film as a Tool in the English Classroom.
For anyone who may still be unsure of the idea of using film in the classroom, I believe Golden’s closing statement offers a solid argument: “And just as I learned more about English grammar by studying Spanish, the students in this ‘film’ class have learned more about literature than they do in my traditional English classes.” I believe that film can be a valuable resource and teaching tool if used correctly, and Golden certainly makes it easy for teachers to gain access to the right information and resources to be successful in teaching film. I also think that teaching film in a literature course encourages students to be more analytic, aware, and mindful of other mediums they may encounter. If students can experience an empowered sense of analysis when approaching film and literature, perhaps they will also be prepare for making educated opinions and analysis regarding other forms of media.