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Judging a Book by its Cover: The Art and Imagery of The Great Gatsby
|Grades||9 – 12|
|Lesson Plan Type||Standard Lesson|
|Estimated Time||Five 50-minute sessions, plus reading and discussion time|
Charleston, South Carolina
Francis Cugat's 1925 cover art for The Great Gatsby and The View of Toledo by El Greco, mentioned in the final pages of the novel, are the focus of prereading and postreading activities in this lesson plan. Before reading the novel, students tap visual literacy skills as they analyze the artwork commissioned for the novel’s cover. Based on their analysis, students make predictions about the plot and imagery of the novel. After completing their reading, students revisit the visual imagery and artwork and discuss how their interpretations have changed. Next, students explore allusion by analyzing an El Greco painting alluded to in the novel and discussing what the allusion means. Finally, students conclude their study by selecting images and designing their own cover for the novel.
- Book Cover Creator: This online tool allows students to type and illustrate front book covers, front and back covers, and full dust jackets.
- Prereading Analysis Sheet: Use this handout to help student analyze the cover art for The Great Gatsby prior to reading the novel.
- Postreading Analysis Sheet: This handout guides students through reinterpreting the cover art for The Great Gatsby after reading the novel.
This lesson focuses on visual connections-both visual images related to the novel and the visual imagery included in the novel. This visual link invites students to connect with the text in ways that go beyond the typical literary analysis. In "You Gotta BE the Book": Teaching Engaged and Reflective Reading with Adolescents, Jeffrey Wilhelm explains that "visual imaging encourages students of all backgrounds to access and apply their prior knowledge as they read, increases comprehension, and improves the ability to predict, infer, and remember what has been read. [Researchers] have also shown that the use of visual imagery while reading helps students to monitor their comprehension" (117-18). As they move from cover art to images described in the novel to their own visual representations of the novel, students tap prior knowledge, explore predictions, and increase their comprehension of the novel as a whole.
Wilhelm, Jeffrey. 1997. "You Gotta BE the Book": Teaching Engaged and Reflective Reading With Adolescents. Urbana, IL: NCTE.