Analyzing and Podcasting About Images of Oscar Wilde
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This lesson introduces students to Oscar Wilde's public persona by studying the articles and images used to advertise his American lecture tour in 1882. Students analyze the ways that these texts both promote and discredit Wilde. As a class, students review photographs and caricatures of Wilde; afterward, they individually conduct online research in search of other photographs and images of Wilde. The lesson culminates in the production of a podcast where students compare a caricature from the lecture tour with another image they have found on the Internet, explaining how the images characterize Wilde.
- Podcast Assignment: The assignment sheet for this lesson summarizes what students need to do, including directions for the final podcast project. If students need help creating their podcast, see the Websites under the Resources & Preparation tab.
- Peer Review Sheet: This excellent resource helps students reflect on and offer feedback to their peers on their podcast scripts.
From Theory to Practice
- Students’ increased contact with media outside of the classroom means that they interact with both print and nonprint texts in new ways. Educators often ignore these literacy practices and in turn underuse them in their classrooms. Teachers must incorporate media “to build a bridge between the knowledge students already have and the content that they need to learn to be successful inside and outside of school” (p. 471).
- Millennials, or 21st-century students, are interacting with media at record levels. They use these technologies for information, communication, and entertainment. When schools ignore these new types of media, students view the classroom as boring and irrelevant to their lives.
- Media literacy is crucial for students so they can learn to interpret, compare, critique, and analyze the information communicated to them through these new technologies.
- One strategy for teaching media literacy is the T.A.P. model, which stands for Text, Audience, and Production. This strategy encourages students to learn media literacy by investigating the text itself (the medium, genre, and look), the audience (who is and is not addressed by the text), and the production of the text (how was it produced, marketed, and distributed).
- There are numerous types and examples of media that teachers can incorporate into an English classroom and use to accompany classroom discussion related to pieces of literature.
- Teaching with media engages students and encourages them to think about literature in new and interesting ways.
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
- 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
- 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
- 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
- 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
- 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
- 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
Materials and Technology
- Computers with Internet access and a microphone
- Podcast software, such as Audacity
- One computer with a projection screen for demonstration, or an overhead projector
- Locate print or online advertisements of celebrities that students are familiar with. It is important to find one image of a celebrity posing for a publicity shot used to promote him/herself, such as one that would be used on the cover of a magazine, and one image of the celebrity promoting a commercial product within the photograph. Bookmark these pages to show students on an overhead projector or make an appropriate number of photocopies of these images to distribute to students.
- Review the Oscar Wilde—Standing Ovations, Encyclopedia Britannica: Oscar Wilde, and The Victorian Web: Oscar Wilde websites for biographical background information about Wilde’s lecture tour, his relationship with the aesthetic movement, and his artistic theories leading up to 1882. This information is important as you guide students through a discussion of Wilde’s life and career.
- Review Napoleon Sarony Photograph of Oscar Wilde #10, Oscar Wilde Aesthetic Cigar Ad, Caricature: Harper’s Weekly, Caricature: Oscar Wilde From Punch, Caricature: The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco, and Caricature: Eccles Centre for American Studies. Bookmark these websites or make the appropriate number of photocopies of the photographs.
- Prepare one photocopy per student of “A Pen Sketch of Oscar Wilde”, Podcast Assignment, and Podcast Rubric; and five photocopies per student of the Peer Review Sheet.
- If you do not have classroom computers with Internet access, reserve time in your school’s computer lab for Sessions 1, 2, and 4.
- Review other photographs of Oscar Wilde at UCLA Humanities: Photographs of Oscar Wilde by Napolean Sarony, National Portrait Gallery: Oscar Wilde, and Encyclopedia Britannica: Oscar Wilde. These photographs are similar to the Sarony photograph #10 in the characteristics of Wilde they convey.
- Review Apple.com: GarageBand ‘09 Tutorials and Wise-Women: Learning Podcasting. Bookmark these sites so that students can reference them while composing their podcasts.
- Demonstrate their ability to identify ways written texts illustrate a person’s character by analyzing a newspaper article that describes Oscar Wilde
- Develop and apply specific reading comprehension strategies (e.g., note-taking, questioning, and peer-reviewing) to aid in the analysis of written works
- Demonstrate their ability to analyze images by looking for ways images either reinforce or undermine Wilde’s public personality
- Discuss the ways that images were used to sell commercial products and to market Wilde’s lectures by exploring the historical and cultural context of these images
- Demonstrate their understanding of the relationship between text and image by comparing the ways that written and visual texts describe Wilde’s character
- Synthesize knowledge by using podcasting technology to record thoughts and reflections and to increase knowledge and real-world technical skills
Session 1 (60 minutes)
- Introduce the lesson by asking students to think of examples or reasons of ways that contemporary celebrities use images of themselves. (An alternate activity might be to bring in several types of magazines [e.g., People, Sports Illustrated, Vanity Fair] and give students the opportunity to sort through them, looking for examples of celebrities using their image to promote themselves or other products.) Answers might include self-promotion (e.g., if a celebrity was struggling with addiction and is now “clean,” he or she may want to be photographed appearing healthy and happy) or promotion of a product (e.g., a movie, an album, a television show, a sporting event, a soft drink, a line of clothing).
- Explain to students that celebrities use pictures of themselves to communicate messages about how they want the public to perceive them or the product they are endorsing. Inform students that celebrities have used these tactics for centuries; in this lesson, they will consider how one Victorian writer, Oscar Wilde, a great celebrity in his time, used images of himself in ways similar to the celebrities featured in magazines today.
- Show students the celebrity advertisements you found in Preparation, Step 1. First show the image of the celebrity that is used for self-promotion (e.g., magazine cover image). Ask students to discuss how the photograph characterizes the celebrity. Next, show students the image of the celebrity promoting a commercial product. Ask students to discuss what the image conveys. How is the celebrity characterized in the image? How is his or her image used to make a statement about the product being sold?
- Transition to the late-19th century, when celebrities similarly used images of themselves to promote products. Explain to students that Oscar Wilde was one such celebrity. Briefly introduce Wilde to students, explaining that he was born of Anglo-Irish parents, educated at Oxford, and became a prominent figure in the Aesthetic Movement. Explain the concept of aestheticism, which promoted art as conveying beauty rather than morals. In 1882, Wilde toured America to lecture on the Aesthetic Movement. Use the biographical websites you bookmarked to provide appropriate background information as needed.
- Distribute “A Pen Sketch of Oscar Wilde” and read it aloud to students. Ask them to discuss the way this article presents Wilde to the American public. What type of man and artist does he appear to be? Does this article create a visual image of Wilde? If so, what does Wilde look like? How does the article create this image through language? Students might describe Wilde as upper-class and fashionable because of his clothing or as attractive and gentile from remarks made about his hair, face, and body build. Prompt students to notice the literary references to his shirt as “ultra-Byronic” and his voice as being “rhythmic” as ways to make him appear especially poetic.
- Show students the Napoleon Sarony Photograph of Oscar Wilde #10 and explain that this photo was commissioned by Wilde to promote his lecture tour. Ask students to analyze this photograph to look for ways that it communicates Wilde’s character to the audience. How would we describe Wilde in this image? Does it reinforce the image presented in the article? How does it demonstrate Wilde’s theory of aestheticism?
- Next, show students a picture of Wilde Advertisements Aesthetic Cigar Ad. Ask students to discuss how Wilde’s persona is being used in this image. Why would a cigar company want to show a picture of Wilde to sell their cigars? How does Wilde’s persona contribute to the public’s perception of these cigars? How does the association impact Wilde’s public persona?
Session 2 (90 minutes)
- Introduce this session by reminding students that during the previous discussion they had looked at examples of contemporary celebrities using their images to sell a product (either themselves or commercial goods). Also review their discussion of Oscar Wilde (e.g., he similarly used both newspaper articles and photographs to create a public persona of himself as sophisticated, upper-class, handsome, and intelligent) and the use of his image to sell cigars.
- Segue from this overview to an introduction of the podcasting project by telling students that they will spend the next two class periods composing a 5- to 7-minute podcast where they will compare two images of Oscar Wilde produced during or around the time of his American lecture tour in 1882. The first of these images, a caricature, will be given to them during class where they will discuss it in a small group; then, they will work individually searching the Internet for a second image of Wilde, either a drawn picture or a photograph. The podcast will present both images and discuss how they either work to promote Wilde’s lectures or denigrate Wilde’s character. Distribute the Podcast Assignment as a reference, as it will be helpful to students as they complete the assignment.
- Distribute copies of Caricature: Oscar Wilde From Punch and tell students that they will analyze this caricature together as a large group to prepare them for their small-group work. Ask students how this illustration attempts to undermine or make fun of Wilde. What characteristics of Wilde does it address? How does it poke fun of these characteristics?
- Ask students to get into groups of four or five. Distribute copies of one of the three remaining Wilde images from Caricature: Harper’s Weekly, Caricature: The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco, and Caricature: Eccles Centre for American Studies to each group. If there are more than three groups, it is fine to recycle some of the caricatures and give two or three groups the same image. Explain to students that these images were published in American magazines and newspapers during or around the time of Wilde’s lecture tour.
- Ask students to work within their groups, discussing how their caricature attempts to undermine or make fun of Wilde. It may be helpful to write some guiding questions up on the board, such as “Does the image make Wilde appear intellectual, radical, sophisticated, strong, weak, etc.?” “Does the caricature exaggerate any physical features of Wilde’s face and body?” “Does the caricature include any props or people, and why are these items included in the picture?” “Does the caricature include any text or caption, and what does this say about Wilde?” and “What type of persona does the caricature paint of Wilde?” Make sure students take notes on their discussion, since the conclusions reached by the group will play an important role in each student’s final project.
- Have students individually view other images of Oscar Wilde, including those at UCLA Humanities: Photographs of Oscar Wilde by Napolean Sarony, Oscar Wilde—Standing Ovations, National Portrait Gallery: Oscar Wilde, Encyclopedia Britannica: Oscar Wilde, and The Victorian Web: Oscar Wilde. Instruct students to choose one photograph for their podcast projects. Encourage students to take notes on how these photographs communicate Wilde’s character, using the same set of guiding questions you asked for the previous image analysis activity.
- Instruct students to begin composing a script for their podcast and to complete this script for homework. This script should be 2 to 3 pages in length and should conform to the same analytical organization as an essay. Therefore, each student should have a brief introduction with a thesis statement, supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion. The script must be turned in along with the podcast. If necessary, offer students more specific guidance when constructing their script, particularly in formulating their thesis statement.
- Show students the Napoleon Sarony Photograph of Oscar Wilde #10 from the previous session, alongside the Caricature: Oscar Wilde From Punch. Ask students to volunteer a sample thesis statement about these two images. A possible thesis statement might be, "The Napoleon Sarony photograph of Oscar Wilde makes him appear intelligent and sophisticated, but the caricature of Oscar Wilde from Punch pokes fun of Wilde by claiming that his association with the aesthetic movement makes him a flighty and uninteresting poet." Students can then discuss the evidence they see in the images that would support this thesis statement.
Session 3 (60 minutes)
- Ask students to return to their groups. Within the groups, have each student recite his or her script. Because the same caricature was viewed and discussed by each student within the individual groups, the students’ analysis of the caricature will most likely be similar to other members of their group. However, students will have chosen different photographs with which to contrast the caricature, thereby making their comparisons different from one another.
- Have students use the Peer Review Sheet to offer feedback to their peers on the scripts. Remind students that these sheets will be used to help them revise their scripts, and that they will turn them in with their final projects.
- For homework, have students revise their scripts according to the peer group’s suggestions.
Session 4 (60 minutes)
- Distribute the Podcast Rubric. Read through this rubric, explaining to students the different skills that will be evaluated by this project. Answer any questions as necessary.
- If necessary, provide a brief tutorial for your students on using Audacity or other podcasting software. Show students the bookmarked sites Apple.com: GarageBand ‘09 Tutorials and Wise-Women: Learning Podcasting, so that they can reference them as needed while they construct their podcasts.
- Have students record their podcasts. Depending on the proficiency of the students, it may require two sessions to compose and edit their podcasts. Circulate around the room to answer any technical questions and to make sure students understand how to use the software. Depending on the software being used, students may struggle with their ability to add background images to their podcast, background music, or save their file.
- When students have completed the assignment, have them save their podcasts on the class or lab computers and also on a format suitable for grading (e.g. CD-ROM, flash drive). Instruct students to turn in their scripts and Peer Review Sheets.
Read The Importance of Being Earnest, Lady Windermere’s Fan, or other Wilde plays, or view film adaptations of these plays, and discuss the importance of the characters’ public images. How do the characters develop their public personas? Why is the development of a public persona important to them? How does their public persona compare to their private persona?
Student Assessment / Reflections
- Observe and note student participation in the introductory discussions. Collect any notes taken by the students during the class discussions to ensure class participation and an understanding of the subject matter.
- Evaluate the thesis statement, organization, support, analysis, style, and delivery of each student’s podcast according to the Podcast Rubric. Provide students with feedback on their assignment based on this rubric. If students are struggling with this assignment, and this is reflected in the feedback on their Peer Review Sheet and Podcast Rubric, you may want to provide students with the opportunity to revise their podcast. Some common areas that challenge students are the generation of a thesis statement and the collection and organization of supporting evidence.