May 9, 2014

Crash Course Literature

‘That’s the pleasure and challenge of reading great novels, you get to see yourself as others see you and you get to see others as they see themselves’. – John Green

You may know John Green’s name. Whether it’s as an author of young adult fiction; the man that wrote The Fault In Our Stars, the film adaptation of which will be released 6th June; one of 2014’s most influential people according to TIME; or, as I first knew him, one half of the brother duo Vlogbrothers.

Today though, I want to introduce John as the writer, presenter and co-producer of Crash Course Literature, a fantastic series of YouTube videos teaching English Literature novels, plays and poetry: The Great Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye, Romeo and Juliet, Emily Dickenson, Things Fall Apart, Jane Eyre, Frankenstein, Hamlet, The Odyssey and To Kill a Mockingbird. Literally everything that I studied through school and university. If only Moby Dick was on the list; I’d be acing that novel right now!

Crash Course’s aim is to provide entertaining, high quality, education to the entire world for free. And, it does it extremely well across a broad range of subjects, all taught by John and his brother Hank. Crash Course Literature is like a fun, succinct version of Sparknotes. Every episode is around 11 minutes long and jam packed with insightful analysis into whatever piece of fiction John’s teaching that week.

It’s hard to know what angle to enthuse about Crash Course from; the bright stylised graphics by Thought Bubble; the humour and accessibility of the series; John’s passionate, perceptive reading of each texts’ themes and characters; the fluid way that he explains the wider context of each text, and indeed of literature as a whole; and the tiny bits of significant detail he picks up in each novel. I mean, who knew the colour yellow was highlighted numerous times at the end of The Great Gatsby? I was too focused on the colour green!

I would absolutely, one hundred percent recommend Crash Course Literature to anyone studying any of the above books (and I believe Slaughterhouse-Five is coming next week). It’s like having an internet personal tutor, who cares far more about the book than the mark you’re hoping to get, consequently, making you more passionate about what you’re studying, and get a fantastic mark as a result, bonus!

Yet, for anyone not studying these books, even if you haven’t read them, I urge you to watch the series. You might believe that once school and university and evening classes finish, academic learning stops. But, Crash Course’s philosophy, to provide free education to all through the internet, is fantastically idealistic but utterly achieved through the series. John makes literature approachable, and breaks down the barrier to reading by making classics less intimidating.

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