Thursday, October 1, 2009


One of our past lectures had us talking about this idea of transmediation. I find this concept extremely interesting as it basically is the process of taking something in one sign system and placing it in another. For our purposes, I am going to establish literary texts as our first sign system.

Now let's say I was teaching 12 grade AP British Literature and our assigned text was the epic poem "Beowulf". Most students react to this text in a "Aw, not another poem" attitude. High school kids hate poetry (I know I foolishly did). Guys usually assign poetry to Romance; essentially a subject they aren't interested in (hence dooming most heterosexual relationships). When girls this isn't a love poem (as they have been socialized to believe all poetry to be), they immediately tune out.

As heroic violence ensues verse after verse, it's realistic to state that most students would be more interested in the text if they could actually see the action unfold. Fortunately (or unfortunately for a literary purest), there have been a handful of film versions of the poem. If you were to poll most high school students, you'd find they much rather watch a movie then read a book. And while a teacher does want to appeal to their student's tastes, it would be erroneous to cast the text aside and make the film the basis of your class's educational focus.

Instead, I would argue that it would be more constructive to use the films as supplementary teaching tools. As students, we are aware of the fact that there are multiple ways in which one learns. While the text can work for one student, a film might be able to better convey the literary elements some students failed to pick up through their reading. When it comes to an English class, we also have to be aware of the fact some of our students won't be at the reading level they're suppose to be. A film can definitely serve as an academic bridge for struggling students.

Transmediating a text to a different sign system like film can be a great tool for teachers to use. Since not all students learn the same way, a different sign system opens up academic doors that would otherwise be closed to them.

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