This week in English Composition II we focused on evaluating source material and elements of argument.
When students are made to consider how they digest media, whether for school or for life, they must consider spectacle. To sift through this concept I thought we’d better read Roland Barthes “The World of Wrestling.” Barthes’ piece was also paired with two supplementary readings: “The Spectacle of Excess: Roland Barthes, Wrestling, and the Eucharist” and “On ‘The World of Wrestling’ by Roland Barthes (Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Blog About Professional Wrestling).”
Song: Animal Collective, “What Would I Want? Sky”
In our song this week, students pointed out the dissonance in the song and how it’s similar to the myriad of messages they receive every day. This song also shows a dichotomy between thought and pragmatism (which Barthes discusses in his piece).
Audio Object: John Cena Prank Call (Good to get the students laughing. Life is hard.)
This piece, in addition to being silly, is an example of inundation of consumer culture. It’s important students know how to determine the stakes behind what they are absorbing and the constant bombardment they may not notice. There is a difference between passive observation of information and critical consideration. I learned about this clip from a former student when he insisted I listen to it. Barthes can be a heavy reading, so it was nice to break it up with some laughs. It fit nicely into our discussion.
For our activities we did an argument essay checklist. Students brought in four articles about the same topic. They broke into groups to figure out if the pieces fit our criteria.
Reading: Roland Barthes, “The World of Wrestling”
In Barthes, from a composition standpoint, we focused on: pointed vocabulary, taking pains to create prose, making sharp references, defining “the spectacle,” myth in society, and students used their theory cheat sheet to determine what school Barthes was working from. We determined he was a sturcturalist/post-structuralist and a predecessor to affect and queer theory.
Right now it’s hard for students and teachers alike to tackle all the daily events bombarding us. In wrestling people find comfort in the clear struggle between “good guys” and “bad guys.” Barthes says:
In the ring, and even in the depths of their voluntary ignominy, wrestlers remain gods because they are, for a few moments, the key which opens Nature, the pure gesture which separates Good from Evil, and unveils the form of a Justice which is at last intelligible.
Our jobs are harder. We have to figure it out for ourselves.