Tuesday 27 June 2017

Diary of a Schoolteacher: It's time to sex up the classics for today's iPhone teens

My students never tire of telling me that they don't like the prescribed literature for Junior Cert and Leaving Cert English. Being teenagers, of course, only the most recent or coolest material appeals to them, and it's with this in mind that I'd now like to suggest we make use of a few well-known recent commercial literary and TV successes and make these books more relevant to today's youth.

For the Junior Cert kids let's rewrite To Kill a Mockingbird and call it Ma, He's After Killing Me Mockingbird, using Martha Long's much-loved novels as inspiration. In this version, Scout is arrested for walking a mile around the Liberties in another person's shoes and after a court room scenario is sent to years of servility as a drudge in a convent.

For Leaving Cert English there's a lot we can do to make English literature a lot zappier and up to date. Take Maeve Binchy's Circle of Friends out of the fifties (prehistory for most fifth years) and rewrite it as a teen vampire drama set in the much hipper 1980s. Circle of Fiends would be the story of a girl, inexplicably called Alan, who goes up to UCD from the country and falls in with a group of vampires led by the dark and mysterious Kevin Dodd who runs the notorious prefab known as Belfield Bar.

With a backdrop of music by The Smiths, The Cure and Dali's Car, Alan finds herself caught between the half-world of posing in the Arts Block and a terrifying Drug Squad raid which totally wrecks Vampire Soc's Christmas party.

Next we transform Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbevilles into X Factor of the D'Urbevilles. This new version opens with massively successful pop svengali, Angel Clare, checking out a girl group called The Durbyfields who are suggestively performing Rihanna songs in a field in Wessex. They sign a contract with Angel and under his suggestion change their name to the classier 'D'Urbevilles' and before long lead singer Tess becomes a huge star after the group win the X Factor TV show. Only problem is that washed-up '70s performer Alec D'Urbeville sues Tess for pinching his name and totally wrecks her dream of being a world class act.

Jane Austen's Emma is a great book, but might be a tad long and slow for the iPhone generation. Let's rework it as The Only Way is Highbury, the story of a group of very sassy friends connected by Facebook in the village of Highbury, who are brought together to flirt over lunch at Avoca Handweavers after Emma posts an 'Event' on FB. However, Emma's clever networking is totally wrecked when she eventually posts her status as 'sooo into hunky Chandler Knightly'.

Finally Martin McDonagh's excellent play The Lonesome West is rendered as CSI Connemara. When a guard's body is pulled out of a bog, gorgeous blonde vol-au-vent-chomping detective Kelly D Keane is called in to scientifically piece together the last hours of the victim.

E GRADE

Irish Independent

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