Twilight Series: For Pleasure & For Pedagogy

Posted on June 9, 2008

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I’ve gone on a fiction reading binge while lounging on the beach this past week. There’s no better way to re-energize after a taxing school year than to sit in a beach chair beside the ocean, inhale the salty air, soak in the not-yet-too-hot sun, massage the feet in the sand, and escape via literary pages. Perdido Key provided the sand and surf, and Stephanie Myers provided the pages. I did escape. Completely.

It’s been quite some time–perhaps since reading Tess of the D’Urbervilles or Madame Bovary–that a book, actually a series of three: Twilight series–touched me so deeply. I still haven’t been able to shake Edward and Bella from my subconsciousness. I find myself daydreaming about them, re-playing scenarios from the book in my head, dreaming about the fourth and final book and what will become of the pair. Will Bella ever really become a vampire? If so, will she regret it? Will she be able to see her parents ever again?…

I love the series not only because I’m a sap for love stories, but for Myers gifted writing. Two elements grabbed me, elements I plan to design a series of mini-lessons around for next school year:

  1. Her allusions to classical works. Engrossed in the plot, I neglected to mark up the text as I normally do. The story and characters moved me: I neglected to read like a writer. So–I will dive back into the pages to hash out the details here, but, from memory, two stand out: Romeo and Juliet and Catherine and Heathcliff (from Wuthering Heights). In both instances she parallels Edward and Bella to these classical romantic duos, establishing the parallel as a motif. She creatively quotes from the classical texts, one time having Edward read a Bronte passage aloud to Bella, another time having Bella re-read a passage she has dog-eared in her well-worn copy of the text. I found it fascinating: Myers’ allusion sets up a metaphor that she traces throughout the book, establishing a motif. What better text to use to teach these three literary terms? A degree in English literature, there’s no doubt Myers carefully and purposefully crafted the alluson/metaphor/motif.
  2. She uses stacked metaphors/similes. Yes–I’m coining this phrase, one that came to me in a dream (no lie–I really have been obsessed with these books!). Myers frequently uses a string of similes or metaphors, rather than a single one as if she’s piling up comparisons, stacking one on top of another. These stacks allow her to share multi-dimensional insights into a concept or a character-like a triple mirror in a clothing store, like a storyteller shifting point of view, like a Gardner inspired lesson appealing to mutiple intelligences.

So, added to my summer to-do list is creating lessons that use excerpts from MyersTwilight series as anchor texts to explore this stacking metaphors technique and to teach a few literary elements.

Of course, like thousands of other Twilight fans, I’m anxiously awaiting the fourth and final book and hoping the movie–now in the making–doesn’t fall too short (it can never capture the artistry of Myers’ language).

Enamored as I am with Myers, I promptly rushed to a bookstore on our off-beach day to purchase The Host, her latest release, an adult science fiction. It’s good. It didn’t move me like Edward and Bella, but it’s still a good read.

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