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I think the videos do a good job at introducing a book and offering a bit more information for both literature students and newcomers, and I really love the animations. I don’t always agree entirely with the offered interpretations, but they’re interesting and fun overall.
As for John Green, I find it difficult to say if you can enjoy the videos when you really dislike him. Not only is he the only presenter, but the scripts have his signature quick-fire jokey style all over them as well. Personally, I find him very likable and I think his enthusiasm works really well for the Crash Course channel, so my advice would be to watch a video or two and then make a decision.
In which John Green teaches you about the poetry of Sylvia Plath. When a lot of people think about Sylvia Plath, they think about her struggles with mental illness and her eventual suicide. Her actual work can get lost in the shuffle a bit, so this video really tries to focus on the poetry. You’ll learn about Sylvia Plath’s role as a feminist poet, and you’ll also learn about her extraordinary ability to recreate the experiences of real life in beautiful and relatable way.
In which John Green teaches you about the poetry of Langston Hughes. Langston Hughes was a poet and playwright in the first half of the 20th century, and he was involved in the Harlem Renaissance, which was a cultural movement among African Americans of the time that produced all kinds of great works in literature, poetry, painting, sculpture, music, and other areas. The Harlem Renaissance mainly happened in Harlem, the traditionally black neighborhood in upper Manhattan in New York City. Langston Hughes was primarily known as a poet, but he was involved deeply in the movement itself as well. John will teach you a bit about Hughes’s background, and he’ll examine a few of his best known poems.
On June 6th, Twentieth-Century Fox releases “The Fault in Our Stars,” the movie version of John Green’s wildly successful 2012 novel about teen-agers with cancer. “T.F.I.O.S.,” as fans call it, has been on the Times Y.A. best-seller list for seventy-eight consecutive weeks, fifty-one of them at No. 1. In recent years, whenever Green has appeared at a book signing he has been greeted by hundreds, often thousands, of screaming fans, mostly teen-age girls.
In which John Green teaches you about Beloved by Toni Morrison. I’ll warn you up front, this book is something of a downer. That’s because it deals with subjects like slavery, the death of a child, a potential haunting, and a bunch of other sad stuff. John will talk about Beloved in relation to slavery, and how that terrible institution affected individuals, families, and all of American culture in the years surrounding the Civil War. We will also not be getting into whether or not Beloved was a ghost, because it really has no bearing on what the book has to say. Also, as usual, spoilers abound, so we recommend you read the book before you watch this video!
In which John Green continues to teach you about Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. (WARNING: When Slaughterhouse-Five was published, some of the crude language in the book caused controversy. We quote one mildly controversial line in this video. If you’re mature enough to read this book, you’re likely mature enough to tolerate this quote, but we’re obliged to warn you about it.) Anyway, this week, John is going to talk about Slaughterhouse-Five’s status as an anti-war novel, and what exactly anti-war novels are good for. He’ll also get into the idea of free will, and to what degree Billy Pilgrim’s time-travel and abduction by aliens were hallucinations induced by posttraumatic stress disorder. John will even give you an interpretation of why the Tralfamadorians look like toilet plungers. Hint: it has to do with plunging metaphorical toilets.
In which John Green teaches you about Kurt Vonnegut’s most famous novel, Slaughterhouse-Five. Vonnegut wrote the book in the Vietnam era, and it closely mirrors his personal experiences in World War II, as long as you throw out the time travel and aliens and porn stars and stuff. Slaughterhouse-Five tells the story of Billy Pilgrim, a World War II veteran who was a prisoner of war, and survived the Battle of the Bulge and the fire-bombing of Dresden, goes home after the war, and has trouble adapting to civilian life (this is the part that’s like Vonnegut’s own experience). Billy Pilgrim has flashbacks to the war that he interprets as being “unstuck in time.” He believes he’s been abducted by aliens, and pretty much loses it. You’ll learn a little about Vonnegut’s life, quite a bit about Dresden, and probably more than you’d like about barbershop quartets as a metaphor for post traumatic stress.
In which John Green teaches you MORE about To Kill a Mockingbird. In this instalment, John teaches you about race, class, and gender in the American south, as seen through the eyes of Scout and Harper Lee. John will talk about how Scout learns about these aspects of the social order as she interacts with the people of the town, learns from Calpurnia, watches the trial of Tom Robinson, and endures the attack of Bob Ewell. You’ll also learn a little bit about Demi Moore and Mila Kunis, and John will ask just who is the Mockingbird, anyway? Not that he’ll answer that, but he’ll ask it.