, Beacon Correspondent/strong/div
In “The Morbid Allure of Young Adult Literature,” the opening event in the First Lecture Series at Emerson, Professor Christina Marin opened up the themes of young adult novels that indulge in characterizing wizards, werewolves, and those who fight to survive. Students, professors, and administrators sat in the multipurpose room eagerly and cautiously awaiting the event that no one expected to be interactive.
Everyone in the room had prepared themselves for a lecture. They had walked in, scrawled their names in Sharpie on name tags that sported their favorite Harry Potter characters, and sat down to whisper with one another about the predicted content of the lecture. The event turned out to be an eclectic exploration through theater games of the parallels between the worlds of emHarry Potter/em, emTwilight/em, emThe Hunger Games/em, and our own world.
To delve into those other worlds, five games were played out that required the participants to become enemies, protectors, allies, strategists, quick thinkers, and rule breakers. Marin framed the seemingly innocuous games within the broader narrative of popular young adult literature at the end of the session.
“It was a great way to get into all the themes without spoiling anything else,” Marin said.
She further explained how satisfying it was to penetrate the central ideas of the novels without entering the realm of academia. According to her, the intrigue incited by theater games would not have had the same effect had she planned a lecture. Ambiguity in characters, for example, would not have seemed as chilling in a lecture as it did when the game participants were quietly stalking each other around the room, thinking that someone was their protector, when in actuality, that person was hunting them.
This theme holds true in most of young adult literature; Professor Snape from the emHarry Potter/em series might come to mind. The first six books portray Snape as a coldblooded accomplice of Lord Voldemort, until emThe Deathly Hallows/em brought all of this to a shocking culmination when the reader realizes that the dark professor was on Dumbledore’s side the whole time. He had been watching over Harry since the day his parents were killed.
With these exercises, Marin explained, light would be shed on the importance of focus, nonverbal communication, and working as a member of a group; factors that can determine the effectiveness of people in accomplishing a common goal. Within the games, participants worked in groups of two, or as one large group, emphasizing the different interactions that breed characteristics of effective cooperation.
Voice patterns, for example, were practiced by players in groups of two and repeated at rapid paces in a contest. In another game, participants were chased through “streets and avenues” that were to teach them to think on their feet and process thoughts quickly. Although the exercises that were presented did not teach people how to react and work together in the long term, it did give the players a taste of what the themes meant, and how they carried into the real world.
Underneath the themes discussed so readily by Marin and the attendants of the event, there was one foreboding one: the idea that sometimes people have to be sacrificed (in some way) in order to make change. Whether it be Harry Potter conceding to Voldemort’s desire to kill him, or Carlisle saving Edward from death at the expense of Edward’s human life, this theme holds true in fiction as much as it does in the real world.
The First Lecture Series is new to the Emerson campus, and currently has no set schedule. Future lectures will highlight the passions of various faculty members who wish to share their ideas with members of the Emerson community, students, faculty, and administrators alike.