Today, guest blogger Melanie returns with a post for those of you who teach English, love Jane Austen, are interested in video blogs or just want to see an amazingly creative riff on classic literature. Here’s Melanie.
Even if you don’t teach Pride and Prejudice in class, this web series presents a special opportunity for teachers and bookworms alike. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries(LBD) is a modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice told through a series of 5-minute vlogs (video blogs). The LBD tells the story of Pride and Prejudice over the course of a year, posting vlogs every Monday and Thursday. Occasionally, when Lizzie has been away from home at Netherfield, Hunsford and Pemberly, Lydia has posted vlogs sporadically on Tuesday and Fridays. (However, while Lizzie to-date has posted 83 vlogs, Lydia has posted 22.)
Not to spoil too much, but Lydia is a more sympathetic character. Charlotte and her sister play a greater role in the story. Mr. Collins is adorkable. Mary is a cousin and Kitty is an actual cat that follows Lydia around everywhere. Collins didn’t propose marriage to Lizzie but offered her a job that she did not want. Wickham isn’t a soldier; that would be too respectable a job in our day. Instead, he’s a swim coach. Darcy’s the CEO of a media company. The Bennet sisters have jobs and school but still face job uncertainty, financial distress and social pressures in their relationships.
Because the story is told through the limited frame of Lizzie’s videocamera, some action is re-dramatized in costume theater. Some characters are meta-aware of the camera and the vlogs (Caroline, Wickham) and others are not (Bing Lee).
The writers have also created a transmedia storyline that enriches the vlogs (character twitter accounts, pintrest, linkedin and youtube channels). Characters tweet in real time with plot-related tweets. For example, when Lydia goes to Vegas/Brighton, Georgiana (Gigi) starts commenting on Lizzie’s videos when she watches them. The show also encourages audience interaction. You can connect to the transmedia in chronological order from the website: http://www.lizziebennet.com/. The creators announced that they will be adapting another story after this one. However, they have not announced which story.
Lizzie Bennett, and vlogs in general, offer a range of options for classroom creativity. Lizzie Bennett could be incorporated into classes as a weekly warm-up, a lesson on modern adaptations, or even a focus on the Common Core outcomes regarding analyzing multiple versions of a story, or using technology to share writing. Start by reading a short chapter (Mr. Collins’ proposal or Darcy’s profession of love and his letter) and then watch the segment from a period piece (BBC/Knightly) followed by the parallel LBD vlog. Students can track the story differences in family dynamics, profession, and relationships. Students should consider what parts of the story are left out because of the mode of storytelling.
Then, students can propose their own vlog adaptation of a period story they have studied, creating a short script or storyboard–or even a vlog of a particular scene. Imagine Huckleberry Finn or Oliver Twist as contemporary characters. Perhaps Huck would really like to skateboard and film his boarding tricks, but be in and out of schools. King Arthur might interview and vet the resumes of his knights. Or what if you are reading Treasure Island: who will be voted off the island first? Lewis and Clark could have a travel blog!
Here’s Alane again. Isn’t this fascinating? And what better way to hook technology-saturated students into the complexities of period literature than doing what any good teacher does–tie it to what they know. Of course, the key that will move this from a motivating-but-tangential activity to one that leads to in-depth understanding is the degree to which it is structured to require students to create and justify real parallels. If Huck Finn is a skateboarder, why? What characteristics from the novel support the decision? How are the relationships and struggles in the Lewis and Clark travel vlog representative of what happened to the original explorers? Helping students make and justify such decisions can lead to critical analysis of literature, boundless opportunities for creativity, and a lot of fun.
I’d love to hear about your experiences in the world of vlogs.