Out of the Silent Planet–C.S. Lewis

Today is the birthday of C.S. Lewis.  I wrote a little about Lewis last week and today want to talk about the first book in his space trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet.

I used this book while teaching literature to some high school students. There are themes running throughout the book such as the value of life, social Darwinism, and the spiritual battle of good & evil which make for very good discussion with this age.

In this trilogy, the main character, Ransom,  seems to be a lot like Lewis himself. He is a professor, an expert in languages and medieval literature, single, and was wounded in WWI, but Lewis always maintained that he fashioned Ransom after his good friend, J.R.R. Tolkien.

In Out of the Silent Planet, Ransom is kidnapped by some scientists who take him to another planet, Malacandra, believing they need him as a sacrifice. Ransom manages to escape after they land & begins to meet the inhabitants of this planet.  Though he is afraid of them at first, he soon learns that they have more intelligence, and certainly are more moral, than the scientists who have kidnapped him. He also discovers that Earth has been exiled from the rest of the solar system due to its fallen nature.

Ransom settles into a routine with these beings and has his ideas about life–mainly, religion and humanity–challenged and questioned. Before he can get too comfortable, though, he is summoned to meet the ruler of  Malacandra. Here, he is challenged still greater about his previous beliefs in God and his own planet, Earth.

Though Lewis was a genius at explaining God & theology in his non-fiction writings, his analogies and allegories are also amazing and thought-provoking throughout his fictional writings.

I used the literature guide from Progeny Press when I taught this book. I highly recommend all of their guides. They divide the book into readable sections with vocabulary and discussion questions. They have several others for books by C.S. Lewis including some of the Narnian Chronicles and The Screwtape Letters and are a Christian-based curriculum.

Happy Birthday, Professor Lewis!

Folger Shakespeare Library

Folger’s Shakespeare Library is a major center for scholarly research. It describes itself as ‘lively venue for performances, readings, and exhibitions’ and is located in Washington, D.C. Unless you can actually manage a field trip there, the best way this library can be helpful to us as homeschoolers is to check out their website, www.folger.edu, and subscribe to their emails. They have links to helpful sites, lesson plans for teachers, and news about anything Shakespeare. One of their recent emails had these links: www.shakespeareinamericanlifekids/index.cfm & www.shakespeareinamericanlife.org/teachers/lessonplans/index.cfm

Also available at that website is a fun slideshow, showing different ways Shakespeare has been used in America from advertising to crafts. Go to:www.shakespeareinamericanlife.org/slideshow/crafts_commerce.cfm.

Continue reading

C.S. Lewis

Today marks the day one of Christianity’s greatest writers died in 1963. Lewis’s writings continue to inspire, entertain, & educate over 40 yrs after his death. Lewis is known mainly for his Christian apologetics–an Oxford professor who became a Christian much against his will. His book, Surprised by Joy, tells of his conversion to Christianity. His book, Mere Christianity, is a Christian classic.
Lewis also wrote books that, though for a younger audience, are continuing to entertain all ages. I read his Narnian Chronicles in a literature class in college and used that first book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in a literature class with a homeschooling co-op.
On Lewis’s birthday, 11/29, I will post about another series I used while teaching literature to high school students.

Reinventing Rachel by Alison Strobel

I recently read this book & reviewed it on goodreads.com, so thought I would share it here, too.

In Reinventing Rachel , Rachel has been raised a Christian & has spent her youth & college years ‘living for God’. She believes she is doing all the right things & is living the perfect life, so when things begin to fall apart, she is devastated and feels that God has not ‘had her back’. So, she goes to Chicago to start a new life, away from God.Rachel makes new friends and tries a new life-style, but it’s not long before she finds that God is not so easy to get away from.

Strobel does a good job of presenting some normal frustrations and disillusions that some people have when they have their own ideas of how God should be, how He should behave, and how we should be treated by Him; especially if we have done all of the ‘right’ things and been a basically good person.

At first, I didn’t think I would like this book as Rachel was very unlikable in the beginning, giving a negative viewpoint of Christians that is too easy to find in secular fiction. But, as the story progressed, I could understand her struggles & felt she grew as a character in a believable way.

Here is a video introducing the book: www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnHdq371LKc

A. J. Hartley, UNCC Professor of Shakespeare

Tomorrow night, November 17th, at 7:oo Dr. A.J. Hartley will be giving the keynote address for The Big Read Union County at the Monroe Library (316 E. Windsor St.).

Dr. Hartley, a British born writer, holding a M.A. & Ph.D from Boston University, is currently the Distinguished Professor of Shakespeare at UNC Charlotte.

Dr. Hartley has also written several books for adults and young adults including: The Mask of Atreus, Act of Will, Will Power, & Macbeth A Novel. Will Power was voted one of Kirkus Reviews’ best scifi/fantasy books of 2010.

For more info about Dr. Hartley and his books, see his website: ajhartley.net

Hope to see you tomorrow night at the library!

Shakespearean Teaching Aids I

Shakespeare’s works can be introduced and taught to students of all ages. To get your younger (elementary and middle school) students interested in reading Shakespeare, have them first read some books that will entertain and teach them more about the time period. I will review and suggest some different books in this category over the next few weeks.

Susan Cooper’s King of Shadows is about an American boy, Nat, who is picked to perform with a new acting company who will perform at London’s new copy of the Globe, the theater William Shakespeare performed in. Nat goes to bed sick one night, wakes up well, but finds himself in the 16th century expected to perform at the original Globe with his costar, William Shakespeare.

Reading this book will give students a feel for the theater, the time period Shakespeare lived and performed in, and will introduce them to the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A website that contains discussion questions and suggested activities for this book is: http://www.multcolib.org/talk/guides-king.html.

Shakespeare: To Read or Not to Read?

The new movie Anonymous has just come out in theaters, causing an old controversy to arise. Did William Shakespeare of Stratford really write all of those amazing plays & sonnets?

This is an interesting argument and one that can be used in your classroom as a great way to learn some debating skills. Two opposing websites are: http://www.doubtaboutwill.org & http://www.shakespeareauthorship.com. Both of these present interesting arguments and could be used as a subject for debate for your high schoolers.They provide links and essays to try and prove their point. The first ‘Doubt About Will’ even has a Declaration of Reasonable Doubt About the Identity of William Shakespeare. They complain that orthodox scholars say there is no room for doubt and that it’s not even an important question. They argue that there is reasonable doubt and that it is an important question for anyone seeking to understand his works, the culture in which they were produced, and the nature of their literary creativity and genius.
Those for Shakespearean authorship complain ‘Antistratfordians try to seduce their readers into believing that there is some sort of “mystery” about the authorship of Shakespeare’s works. They often assert that nothing (at most very little) connects Wm. Shakespeare of Stratford to the works of Wm Shakespeare, the author . . . These are astounding misrepresentations that bear little resemblance to reality.’
So, as educators, how much does it matter if these works were written by one certain man or not? If it can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that William Shakespeare is not the genius playwright most of us were taught he was, does that mean we stop reading and teaching the ‘works of Shakespeare’?
I believe these works have lasted several centuries for many reasons and those reasons have little or nothing to do with who actually wrote them. Disproving authorship may change the way we teach the works and certainly change what we think about Will and the importance of his life–but the times he lived in, the history of the theater, and the actual plays themselves are still full of history, human drama, incredible wordplay, and they are a great way to teach the history of the English language.

In my next post, I will include some teaching aids for teaching Shakespeare for all ages in the form of books and websites.