Thursday, July 28, 2005

Sign of the apocalypse

A new SOTA has recently emerged - the conversion of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales into rap songs.

He said: "I tried to keep the rap versions as close as possible to the original, so I went through the tales line-by-line.

"It was a painstaking process to convert Chaucer into a rhyme scheme that young people would like."

The tales have been condensed for performance, but with the aim of maintaining their original sense.

For instance, the phrase "goone towards that village" translates to "hit the streets".


I mean, I am all for helping kids get turned on to classics. I even liked the Baz Luhrman version of Romeo & Juliet. But there is a line, and I think this is where I would draw it. Part of the point of studying the Canterbury Tales is to give the student an understanding not only of the work itself, but how this work helps show the evolution of the English language. You can't teach that if you change "goone towards that village" to "hit the streets".

Sure, perhaps at some point in my life I'll have to stop being old-fashioned. I accept the fact that such works are hard for kids to get through. But there are ways of teaching it that can invoke the interest and curiousity of the students without having to resort to rap music. I really think that at some point we have to start expecting more from students and stop trying to "dumb down" things so much.

4 comments:

Michael said...

Yeah, I agree that we should leave some things unblemished...

Or it could be that I had to suffer reading them and I want to know that others are suffering as well...

It's one of those two...

Kat Coble said...

I blame the Cosby Show. Remember when they thought it was all clever and cute and krep to show Theo and Cockroach rapping about Shakespeare?

Thus began the downward slide.

melusina said...

Aww, Michael. Obviously, not everything we read in school is going to be pleasurable, everyone has their own opinions about what they like. But there are ways to make things like CT, Beowulf, Shakespeare, etc., interesting to kids without resorting to rap and the like.

The Canterbury Tales isn't at the top of my list, but I think it serves a purpose in the literary "canon", and I don't think it can serve that purpose in a rap translation. I could be wrong, though.

Microphyt, I remember the Cosby Show, but I don't remember the raps to Shakespeare. I think I've blocked it...

melusina said...

Dammit, I totally butchered your name in my comment, Mycropht. Sorry about that. I don't know what I was thinking. Maybe Microsoft was sending me signals or something.