Pop Culture = Bridge Into Classic Texts

“Hey, haters gonna hate you every time.”
– Uncle Si, Duck Dynasty
“The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise.”
– Henry David Thoreau, Walden

What do the Duck Dynasty guys have in common with Transcendental philosophers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau? Apparently, quite a bit. Both sets of men believed in writing their own rules, celebrated the benefits of time spent in nature, and suspiciously eyed any enterprise that required new clothes or fancy manners.

Regardless of how you feel about the Robertson clan, the popular A&E cable T.V. show provides a great opportunity to hook your students’ interest and pull them into a deeper study of Transcendentalism. Use this challenging exercise where students examine lines from the show and match them with similar sentiments from the writings of Emerson and Thoreau.

Looking for a larger assignment to help your students find examples of Transcendentalism in today’s pop culture? Encourage them to find echoes of Emerson and Thoreau in their favorite T.V. shows, movies, and music. Click here to see this end-of-unit assignment, which has led my former students to successfully link works by Lady Gaga, Imagine Dragons, and the film Avatar to the tenets of Transcendentalism.

Your classes will soon discover that Emerson’s words in “Self-Reliance” fit so many of today’s non-conformists:
“Is it so bad then to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.” Well said, Mr. Emerson.

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