5 Reasons to Teach Watchmen

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Widely considered the Citizen Kane of graphic novels, Alan Moore & Dave Gibbon’s mid-80’s masterwork Watchmen offers tremendous value to the AP Lit classroom.  Yes, there are superheroes and costumes.  Yes, there are panels and word balloons.  Yes, the violence is plentiful and the themes adult.  And yes, the color pallette feels dated. (It was the 1980s — forgive them.)  Beyond the aesthetics, one finds a deeply complex, multilayered narrative thick with allusions, symbolism, archetype and an exploration of the same themes found in more traditional texts.  Here are five reasons to consider adopting Watchmen into your AP Lit reading lists.

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Cracking the Code: Language and The Awakening

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We dive into language with a unit called “Breaking Free”, which focuses on feminist literature. Because high school students are saturated in the literature of “dead white guys”, this unit is meant to immerse them in the feminine perspective. Before The Awakening, we study The Story of an Hour and Desiree’s Baby. In addition, we read The Cult of Domesticity and True Womanhood, which drives an entire class period of discussion. Students become outraged and mock the text. It is always one of the most lively discussions of the year and I just ask them what they think.

Because a student’s entire understanding of the novella hinges on his or her reading of the first chapter and all of the clues that Chopin embeds , I read the first chapter in class and ask students to mark up the text as I read. Much of the time, this just becomes circled names and actions. Next, I ask them to go back and look at it through the lens of How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas Forster, which they read over the summer. They get a little closer to the text and pick up on Chopin’s nuances– a primary symbol, characterization, and colors. … KEEP READING