By Karen Selesky
Tired of Writing Essays for your English Classes?
A creative option might be possible.
It seems, sometimes, that the only way to respond to topics and assignments in your English classes is with the time-worn reality of an essay. And I don’t want to suggest you should abandon the essay, but exploring creative options might give you more room to communicate your ideas.
For example, when I am teaching English 280 – Children’s Literature I give students the option to write a children’s short story for their take-home exam. A student in my English 207 – Victorian and Early 20th C Literature class painted an image of the three heroines she discussed in her paper. The painting remains on display in my office. Not every professor will encourage such responses, but it never hurts to ask.
Sarah Sovereign, a recent graduate, combined her work as a photographer with her love of literature in my English 333 class. About the process she writes,
I have always approached assignments artistically – in elementary school, instead of submitting a report, I created a complicated (and not entirely winnable) Elizabeth Simcoe game, with intricately drawn board spaces, carefully chosen symbolic playing pieces and everything I was able to learn through hours spent with the World Book encyclopedia. As I’ve grown as an artist, a therapist, and a student, I’ve realized just how much I love the process of creative learning: of reworking the bare bones of the assignments we are given into pieces of art. This way of learning has always engaged me, helping me to delve into course material passionately and purposefully, and leading me to a deeper understanding of what it is I’m studying.
Taking English classes helped me better define my art practice because I fell in love with so many of the rich characters and themes that I studied. If an instructor is open to it, I think the sky is the limit with how creatively you can interpret an assignment – in the past I’ve used textile arts, stop motion, filmmaking, bookmaking and painting in a variety of ways. I’m incredibly lucky that I have a really supportive collaborative community around me and wouldn’t have been able to create so much without their efforts as well.
I also can’t conclude without making mention of how important English 333 was for me. I deeply appreciated getting to know the complex characters within the novels that we studied, and I’ve continued to borrow inspiration from those books over the past year.
The photographs posted here emerged from Sarah’s creative projects in my classes.
Sarah Sovereign (www.sarahsovereign.com)
Elizabeth Ann Makeup Techniques
Models: Jennifer Marie, Dixie Delight, Emily Hamel-Brisson, Sheri Eyre, Pauline Dynowski, Sinead Julia Penner
Assistant: Aimee Franson (for “The Forgotten Library” and “Medieval”)
Some styling by Shiverz Designs (“Goblin Market”, “The Secret Garden”, “Cocoon” and “Skeleton”)