Saturday, August 20, 2011

Holding Out for a Hero

The past six months has seen a renaissance of superheroes, particularly in feature films such as The Green Lantern, Captain America, and Thor.  The final installment of the Harry Potter movies, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, however, does not feature a superhero, but instead a hero in the classic sense – one who completes his quest and hence concludes his archetypal heroic journey. In completing his quest, Harry joins the pantheon of archetypal heroes such as Gilgamesh, Odysseus, Huckleberry Finn, Luke Skywalker, and many others.

Archetypes are recurring types of characters, events, or symbols found in stories, artwork, religions, and mythologies throughout the world’s cultures. They’ve been present in folklore and stories for thousands of years, and have garnered attention largely due to the work of psychiatrist Carl Jung and professor Joseph Campbell. In his seminal books The Hero With a Thousand Faces and The Power of Myth, Campbell compared myths from around the world and highlighted many common themes among them. He was particularly interested in heroes, and the archetypal heroic journey portrayed in world literature, art, and religion. Campbell found that many myths and stories present heroes’ journeys in similar stages. The hero begins in the everyday world and receives a “call to adventure” that enables him (or her) to leave his familiar life (“crossing the threshold”) and enter an unfamiliar world where he must engage in a series of tasks or tests. Sometimes the hero must face these trials alone, and sometimes he receives assistance from companions or other loyal helpers. The tasks ultimately conclude in a final battle, after which (if successful) the hero again crosses the threshold to re-enter ordinary life. In all, Campbell identified 17 distinct stages of the archetypal hero’s journey, which he dubbed the “monomyth.”  

The study of archetypes and the heroic journey is a fascinating addition to the classroom, as it pulls elements from art, literature, religion, world cultures, and mythology. Younger students can be introduced to common archetypes through fairy tales, such as the wise old woman or man characters, the “trickster” (usually a fox), the child(ren), and the villain. Young students don’t have to be told about archetypes per se, but may be encouraged to think about the types of characters and situations that frequently occur in fairy tales and other stories. Older students are able to delve much more deeply into the texts, relating them to similar journeys in other texts as well as in films. The Star Wars films are famously based on Campbell’s monomyth, and many other films such as The Lion King, The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings, Avatar and others also feature the heroic journey. Higher level students can also examine how archetypes and the hero’s archetypal journey can be viewed as man’s search for self-knowledge.

This week’s picks feature three resources from the Gateway’s collection on the archetypal hero and the heroic journey for a range of ages. We’ll also feature many more lesson plans, activities, and information throughout the week on our Facebook and Twitter pages, so please be sure to check those pages for lots of good classroom ideas and materials.

Identifying Supporting Evidence from a Text - What is a Hero?
Subjects: Language Arts
Grade: 1-4
Students watch a 3-minute video about Ping, a young hero who proves himself worthy to be the emperor of China. Students identify what makes Ping's behavior special using evidence from the story. This lesson is designed for grades 1-4. It includes video and support materials. This resource was produced by PBS LearningMedia, an online site offering educational materials and public media content for PreK-16 teachers.

A Story of Epic Proportions: What Makes a Poem an Epic?
Grade: 6-8
Students learn about the epic poem form and to its roots in oral tradition. They study the epic hero cycle and will learn how to recognize this pattern of events and elements in both ancient and modern texts, including Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter. This lesson is a product of EDSITEment, an educational outreach program of the National Endowment for the Humanities. EDSITEment offers lesson plans and activities for social studies, literature and language arts, foreign languages, art, culture, and history classrooms.

I Need a Hero
Grade: 9-12 Gifted
The heroic archetype features prominently in literary analysis at the high school level. A clear understanding of, and the ability to manipulate and apply, this idea is critical to any approach to world literature for the high school student. This series of lessons was designed to fulfill the needs of gifted children for extension beyond the standard curriculum with the greatest ease of use for the educator. The lessons may be given to the students for individual self-guided work, or they may be taught in a classroom or homeschool setting. This lesson was produced by Mensa for Kids, part of the Mensa Education and Research Foundation. The Foundation is committed to the pursuit of excellence in the areas of intelligence, and focuses on scholarship, education, and awards.

~Joann's Picks - 8/12/2011~

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for reading our blog! We are so glad you are joining in the discussion.