When we are done with this entire unit of study:

  1. You will have to POST to your websites as ONE of the characters from Flowers for Algernon. In that post you MUST show understanding of the UNIVERSAL THEME of your choice such as Knowledge is Power, or Ignorance is Bliss, Friendship is Essential to Happiness, etc. Here, this might help Universal Themes documents… Get outside yourself, be a character, understand another, practice EMPATHY (the hidden goal of this assignment IS to come to understand (1) what motivates others & (2) how and why others feel/think/act the way they do).
    1. THROUGH YOUR CHARACTER,  you WILL show that you can practice empathy and illustrate a thorough understanding of theme, universal theme, and main idea. Your character has to talk about and answer:
      1. Where is someone else “coming from”?
      2. What truths about oneself are uncovered by the study of art, literature and others?
      3. What are Universal Themes?
      4. Why is it important to understand where other people are coming from?
      5. What is your purpose in life?
      6. Why are we here on earth?

First off, what you are about to see are themes, but they are not THEMES. Or are they?

SUBJECT vs THEME

One must crawl before one can walk. SO let’s get down to the lowest level here. Start at the beginning.

In order to get this, we have to all be very clear about the difference between the subject and the theme.

The subject is the general topic being dealt with . . .

. . . let’s say LOVE. This is the subject or topic

The theme is the position on the topic the reader/viewer gets on the topic . . .

. . . let’s say LOVE CONQUERS ALL. This is the theme.

VERY IMPORTANT – IF this THEME is true ACROSS CULTURES and for all HUMANITY then, and only then, can we call it a UNIVERSAL THEME.

INTRODUCING . . . . THEMES

Begin with a method for identifying theme in author’s, or artist’s, work. This UNDER 2 MINUTES  video lays out a 5 step process that can help anyone uncover the theme in a piece of, well, anything, I guess. . .

INTRODUCING . . . UNIVERSAL THEMES

From SHMOOP, I offer Themes-Part 1, a brief introduction to THEME in general… Here, brief and to the point . . . Check it.

On the topic of UNIVERSAL THEMES, which for most of us is a journey of discovery, we watch, pause, and discuss themes presented in a video on DISCOVERY EDUCATION.COM. You will need your own sign in to use this amazing resource offered by the Discovery Channel. First, a video called Universal Themes in Literature. You will be taken through some of the more common overarching big ideas dealt with . . . Check it –  Universal Themes in Literature.

To go deeper as we bring in other disciplines, this video clip (about 6 minutes) delves into Universal Themes as they are dealt with in ART. Very insightful – Common Stories and Themes.

This one, also offered on Discovery Education, I was able to find on Youtube. It is old and corny at times, but it is well worth the time. Prep your group for the rough video clips that may date back to the early seventies (hehe). Good stuff. This one will illustrate how the same Universal Theme can be carried in different works by different authors at different periods in history. Truly, Universal Themes hold true throughout history . . . Here check it out . . .

This is what it’s all about. Theme, I mean. Theme is what everything is about. I’ve told you before, I’ll tell you again, and again, and again . . . No matter what you taste, read, see, hear, live through…it all connects with a theme. One way or another, THROUGH YOU, everything can be connected to a theme. That is the KEY. YOU are the key. You have to work on the text, painting, sculpture to uncover a theme. Not just that, if it is a big deal. That is, if the THEME you uncover is a BIG DEAL, a truly BIG IDEA, then it’s VERY likely it can be described in terms of one (and likely more than one) UNIVERSAL THEME.

To start, let’s take a look at some introductory clips on theme and universal theme.

In this video, we are taken on a journey, with musical accompaniment, through some of the more common themes in literature. I enjoyed it, and it will definitely bring some of your more reluctant learners to the table. Watch this . . .

This next one moves fast, so be ready to click the screen or pause button, if you are going to use this as an introduction to themes in art and literature. I use it in the midst of study as I attempt to capitalize on teachable moments, if you will. VERY cool. Yeah, it’s a little tricky to catch the click moments, but it is well worth it. Have a look see . . .

Here is a piece from a high school teacher – How to Find a Theme. It can be a little slow moving at times, but this isn’t an action movie after all. Full of useful information. Embedding was disabled by the user, so I can only offer the link. – How to Find a Theme.

We return to Shmoop-land with Part 2 which goes a little deeper as they take us into UNIVERSAL Themes. Here, check it out –

WHERE CAN WE FIND THEMES?

So, let’s go back to where we started. I would like you to answer a question for me.

Can you argue that there is a SUBJECT presented by one of these themes? And if you can, then can you identify what you would call a THEME on that subject? And if there is a theme, then would you please explain a supportable UNIVERSAL THEME in any part of this video?

SEE THEMES IN FILM

Here is a CLASSIC!!! As the diverse group of students becomes closer, Brian asks if they will remain friends on Monday.This clip is from a defining film in cinematic history, The Breakfast Club. It touches on the following SUBJECTS: Cruelty, Friendship, Insult, Hypocrisy, Stereotypes, Empathy, Conceit, Popularity, Embarrassment, Candor, Identity, Image, Ego, Insensitive, Discrimination, Peer-Pressure. Pick one of these CORE SUBJECTS. Explain it in terms of THEME. What did you get out of how the SUBJECT was dealt with? Is this true across cultures?

How ’bout a SPIKE LEE joint? In this clip called Humiliating The Homeless, a homeless man gets ridiculed by local teens who have no sympathy for his plight. Heads up y’all, there is a subdued S-bomb and a quick F-bomb in here. I had to include it though, it’s tight!! You really feel how young people are SO insensitive toward the reality others live. Topics dealt with in here make strong thematic connections through Homelessness, Insult, Teasing, Bullying, Sadness, Humanity, Empathy, Disrespect, Apathy, Indifference, Judging, Discrimination, Stereotypes, Insensitive, Humiliation, Poverty. Check this out . . . then lets’ talk about it.

In this clip, called Insulting Del, as an argument escalates, Neal insults and humiliates Del, just for being who he is. Topics dealt with here are: Humiliation, Insult, Bickering, Insensitive, Argument, Candor, Judging, Power of WordsCruelty, Mocking, Teasing, Self-Esteem, Shame, Hurt, Annoying. Can you talk to me about how being insensitive toward another person is dealt with?

In this clip called Your Destiny from the film Back to the Future, after getting some much-needed advice from Marty, George gets the courage to approach Lorraine to ask her out. Topics dealt with include: Dating, Coward, Courage, Destiny, Romance, Embarrassment, Awkward, Advice, Carpe Diem, Nervous, Insecurity, Confidence, Self-Confidence, Fear, Risk, Anxiety.

In this clip from the wondrous film Gladiator, called Remembered As Men, as the new gladiators prepare for their first spectacle, Proximo gives them a speech on dying with honor. Topics dealt with include Fighting, Spectacle, Courage, Bravery, Legacy, Death, Fearless, Fear, Machismo, Bloodlust, Speech, Coaching, Survival, Preparing, Battle, Slavery, Manhood. One theme could be summed up as stated above, DYING WITH HONOR or we should at least die with honor.

How about in this video? Can you argue that there is a SUBJECT presented in this clip? And if you can, then can you identify what you would call a THEME on that subject? And if there is a theme, then would you please explain a supportable UNIVERSAL THEME in any part of this video?

Oh, yeah? How ’bout this one? Can you argue that there is a SUBJECT presented in this clip? And if you can, then can you identify what you would call a THEME on that subject? And if there is a theme, then would you please explain a supportable UNIVERSAL THEME in any part of this video?

We will take this broad knowledge into our study of Flowers for Algernon.

  1. Where is someone else “coming from”? If you truly understand a character, then you should be able to tell me “where they are coming from.” When you complete an assignment like this, when you act as another person/character, you are showing that you understand and can practice empathy.
  2. What truths about oneself are uncovered by the study of art, literature and others?
  3. What are Universal Themes?
  4. Why is it important to understand where other people are coming from?
  5. What is your purpose in life?
  6. Why are we here on earth?
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