MICDS Juniors learn to deeply explore texts through practiced literary criticism.

Exploring a New Dimension of Literary Criticism

If you were passing through the upper hall of Olsen last week, you may have paused at the door of an English classroom, wondering if students were watching a 3D movie. Perhaps it was Avatar or Dial M for Murder. It wasn’t a movie, but a lesson in literary criticism (“lit crit’).

Juniors in Mr. Dan Sadicario’s “Literature of the Northeast” class experienced literary criticism in a new dimension. The trimester class covers a variety of texts specific to the northeastern United States, the most densely populated corner of the country. From witch trials to Broadway lights, from urban ghettos to leafy suburbs, the Northeast has provided a context for the exploration of the tension between the wants and needs of the individual and the constraints of community.

While all juniors this year are learning how to incorporate secondary sources (scholarly articles) into their essays as they analyze literature they’ve read, Mr. Sadicario used a unique, hands-on approach to explore a major challenge of engaging in literary criticism. He wanted to demonstrate that literary criticism, while important and useful, also comes with the challenge that whatever is illuminated makes it a little bit difficult to see the other parts of the text and, metaphorically speaking, other perspectives. To show how easy it is to see only part of a story, he guided his students into the third dimension. “I cut 3D glasses in half and taped them back together with the same color lens so that each student had two pairs of glasses: one red and one blue.” He then designed their discussion text to be projected in different colors so when students donned their 3D glasses, they could clearly see only part of the text. “The activity was merely meant to hook their interest and frame their thinking about how to use lit crit. What students view through their glasses is a metaphor for the way lit crit makes certain elements of the story ‘pop out’ at when they might otherwise have trouble seeing them,” said Mr. Sadicario.

Perhaps students will someday watch The Creature from the Black Lagoon in 3D, but for now, they’re able to view literary criticism with a practiced, knowing eye that allows them to deeply explore the entire text.