There are four primary objectives for this curricular unit:
Knowledge of narrative form and how it works
What “epic” means and how the form works
The media of poetry and anime
Engaging students to create, inspired by these forms
First and foremost, it’s important that students know what a story is and how it works, so the elements of fiction and a correct understanding of them are a high priority for this unit. Students should be able to break a story down into its essential elements and understand how they work together to create meaning. The first objective then is to set up the students’ ability to analyze stories by reviewing (or teaching for the first time – often students only think they understand these terms when in fact they struggle even to define what a story is) the narrative elements of point of view, setting, character, protagonist, exposition, conflict, plot, crisis, and resolution. Then within these elements it’s important to focus on a clear understanding of point of view (since we will study the implications of medium on point of view), a more nuanced understanding of conflict (as the interaction of opposing forces rather than a “vs” equation), and an understanding of the “climax” as the conflict’s crisis (the point where the plot forces an engagement with and resolution to the conflict). These three elements of analysis will be a constant springboard into interpretations of the variety of texts we study.
The main quality of these texts is their epic nature, and it’s important that students learn not only what it means for these stories to be epic, but also how “epic” works in different scales.
as a constraining text and the anime that accompany it are more often than not both foreign and fantastic. It will be important for students to be able to relate to the core theme and see the epic in their lives as well. The unit will challenge students constantly to ask the question: if an epic narrative is extraordinary, majestic, impressive, and grand in scope, where might we see the epic around us where we don’t expect?
If the first two objectives focus on content, the third objective draws students’ attention to the medium that conveys it. This unit will expose students to epic poetry and anime that present the same ideas in different ways, creating different experiences for the reader, since viewing anime should be treated as “reading a visual text.” By the end of the unit students should be comfortable with these flexible ways of reading, understanding key aspects of the forms, knowing how they’re put together and what to look for when analyzing them. Hopefully a knowledge of the working of epic poetry will make it more accessible and appealing to the students, and a knowledge of the mechanics of anime will disengage students enough to take a look at how it creates the experience they tend to enjoy so much.
Lastly, the unit aims to encourage students to engage with the epic and the anime genre through writing. They’ll be writing about what they see and think informally over the course of the unit, but it would be interesting to see what happens when students who have in-depth knowledge make their own connections. Part of the reason this unit exists is the already present background knowledge of the students; so it would be a shame to waste the opportunity to capitalize on that. With this in mind the unit will build up to a major project that gives students freedom to choose how they will meet it. Students will either review anime, create anime (in the form of a storyboard), or connect anime to their own life. In class sessions we will be making the connections explicit between anime and
, and their informal writings will address their understanding of this, but the objective of the major composition assignment is to extend their knowledge beyond the borders of the course of study.