English class reads Hunger Games
Published: Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 19:04
English professor Kyle Meikle assigned the best-selling young adult novel “The Hunger Games” to his freshman honors English class.
He said he had no reservations about assigning the book to his class called “The Games We Play.” Meikle said he chose games as the theme for the class to reflect and understand social norms. Despite its reading level, he said he realized the content in “The Hunger Games” has various in-depth themes he can talk about in class.
“I was hesitant to read it because I had unfairly linked it to other adolescent fiction like the “Twilight” quadriology, but I think it’s really ambitious, and it involves all different types of games—reality television, gladiatorial sports, the Olympics,” Meikle said. “It’s a perfect storm of different games, so I thought it would be a great text for my course.”
The fictional book by Suzanne Collins is about an 18-year-old girl in a futuristic post-apocalyptic society who is sent to compete in a fight to the death with other teenagers while the entire country watches. The book was named a New York Times Notable Children’s Book of 2008 and, according to Scholastic, is written at a sixth-grade reading level.
Meikle, a Doctorate of philosophy student, said his course was meant to open his students’ eyes to the world around them. In that world, he said, games serve as an expression of contemporary problems. Meikle said the point of the course is to explore how people draw boundaries between the real world and gaming.
“I think that ‘The Hunger Games’ blurs those lines a lot,” he said. “I’m hoping what they get out of it is a better sense of why we define games the way we do and the purpose games serve in our lives from everything from touch screen games on our smartphones to big games like football or the Olympics.”
Meikle assigned other reading material such as “End Zone” by Don DeLillo and “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell. Students also watched “The Game” by David Fincher.
Paula Ferrara, a freshman taking Meikle’s class, said “The Hunger Games” offers a valid commentary on popular culture.
“I think he wants us to understand how different types of games affect communities and cultures, and how, with ‘The Hunger Games,’ our own civilization has caused something like this to happen, how our own entertainment has become so bloody and gory and uncivilized,” Ferrara said.
Ferrara said she expected the book to be well-received by the class because she said students are more engaged in essays and projects when they genuinely want to read the material.
Another student in Meikle’s class, freshman Allison Herold, said that interesting, popular content in a book can be more important that literary acclaim. She said if a book is a fun and easy read, students are more likely to read it.
The class started reading the book last week and Herold said much of the class was relieved by the book’s style.
“It was straightforward and fast-paced, which better fit within our attention spans than other more obscure or abstract texts,” Herold said. “We knew we were not going to have to decode every sentence as if we were reading Shakespeare.”
Meikle said some books required for other classes are at an eighth-grade reading level, but the level of difficulty does not matter if the content can open up a dialogue.