Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Libro de Alexandre: Just like Kim Kardashian's Sex Tape!

It is the rarest of opportunities that a medievalist has to compare epic poetry to The Jersey Shore. Yet that was exactly what I did today, and it worked even better than I was expecting.

Having become a fan of John Green's World History Crash Course (thanks to @girlarchaeo, who put me onto this series) I was very excited that the Alexander the Great installment was framed in such a way that it would be very easy for me to incorporate it into my class on the commodity-topic of paper, which I introduced by way of the most famous Ibero-Romance version of the life of Alexander the Great.

The video is well worth a watch:

And here's how I set up the discussion for the students in the recitation sections:

(Click to enlarge to a readable size. If you've not watched the video, the handout won't make sense, regardless of how much you enlarge it, though.)

What was especially, unexpectedly successful about this lesson was that since the students were already in a frame of mind containing Kim Kardashian, they were also more open to relating to the material. The commodity topic for this week was paper and parchment; the Libro de Alexandre is relevant in such a context in that it is a self-aware text that makes reference to the materials on which it was written. So, as with many of the lectures in the course, the commodity topic is a jumping-off point to discuss other issues in history and literature, including Alexander's all-things-to-all-men-iness. But since the students were already in a sort of contemporary frame of mind, they seemed to be much more engaged with the commodity material, eagerly drawing analogies to their favorite e-readers and digital indexing strategies.

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