English: Lesson 175
Studying American literature: print vs. movies.
The Ron Paul Curriculum American Literature English course has been divided up into two parts; classic books, and second, classic movies. Most English courses that I have taken before the RPC had me read a total of 4 books and a couple of news articles to cover the “media” section. This, to me, is not teaching English or any sort of literature. Now, Shakespeare’s Macbeth is an incredible piece of literature that every person should study, and an English student should read a whole bunch of Shakespeare’s plays in school. But, one play and three dystopian, futuristic novels that were written 10 years ago, and did not get very much attention except in the public schools, is not enough to even begin to teach an English course. To get a good foundation of classic literature and what made the English language what it is today, you must go back hundreds, even thousands of years and read those books. This is what the RCP American Literature course has done.
The first half of the course focused on the early writings of American authors, starting around 1620 with the landing of the Mayflower, and up to 1915 when the first blockbuster film, Birth of a Nation, was filmed. The second half of the course has been spent watching and studying classic movies that have gained great success and attention. It is important to study both books and movies because this is what has shaped Western culture.
When studying books and movies, you have to take a different approach to both. In terms of technology, the production of films has had herculean advancements, while the production of books has stayed relatively the same since the invention of the printing press and the popular mass production of the Gutenberg Bible. The main objective of a movie is to “show, don’t tell” a story. Technology has made this incredibly easier for a director to do in the last one hundred years, and it is ultimately an easier form of literature to consume. A person is more likely to relate to a physical character on a screen that talks, walks, dances, has a wardrobe, house, car, and everything else that the audience also has. The only major challenge a director faces and the big question he must ask himself when filming is, “How can I make this story believable in ‘x’ hours?” “The movie is not as good as the book!” A phrase often heard in the movie theatre. Why? Because a filmmaker has a limited amount of time to tell the story the way he envisioned it. He didn’t envision the lead character as blond, but brunette. “He skipped entire scenes from the book!” Well, that’s because he only had 2 hours to tell a 500-page story. The only question a viewer should be asking when they go to a movie is not, “How perfectly does this movie copy the book?” but “Is this story believable?”
Books do not have the same major problem of making a story believable. An author can take as many pages as needed to explain detailed scenarios and plot lines, depending on the age group the book is meant for. This is much more helpful for a student like me because I can take the time to analyze the story, the writing style, and the facts. If the author has done a good job, it will not be hard to imagine vivid characters and scenes and believe the story whilst reading.
In conclusion, books and movies are both important forms of literature. As a student, you should spend a good amount of time consuming and studying many different books and movies. Though they both come at telling a story from a different perspective, both forms have shaped Western culture into what it is today.