Hunger Games Trilogy Influencing College Courses

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Many people may recognize the title The Hunger Games from the theatrical blockbusters released over the past few years. However, the teen book trilogy-turned-movie is also being used as course material in college classrooms across the nation.

This modern piece of literature actually has classical roots, write Professor Barry Strauss for the Wall Street Journal.  Strauss, who teaches history and classics at Cornell, says The Hunger Games is filled with themes going back to Greece, Rome and the foundation of Western Culture – themes that are perfectly suitable for a liberal arts core curriculum.

At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, lecturer Kathleen Lacey uses the book in her women’s and gender studies courses.  The students discuss the protagonist Katniss and what it means to be a strong female character in literature.

“I hope the students get a more complicated understanding of the variety of experience for young women, and what makes them strong or brave or heroic,” Lacey said. “Eventually, students will point out the fact that she’s kind of a hot mess and she doesn’t really know what she wants, aside from going home and protecting her family.”

Later this year Lacey will present a paper on the tendency to pit female role models against each other instead of accepting their differences, writes Kate Howard for Omaha.com.

At American University a course called “American Culture History: Hunger Games: Class, Politics. Marketing” uses the book to cover a wide range of educational themes.

“In my curriculum, we’ll use the book series as a case study to examine larger academic themes,” says Stef Woods, an AU history instructor. “We’ll explore politics and class for (one-third) of the course, issues related to race, gender, food justice and feminism in the second third, and publishing, marketing and writing in the remaining third.”

The students read all three books along with 48 other sources in order to produce 20-25 pages of written work that includes a marketing plan and a research paper, writes Ben Sheffler for USA Today.

Students say they enjoy the coursework more because they can get into the content without having to take the time to first “translate” what they are reading as they would with something like Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Because it’s a compelling read, professors find the books work well for courses such as introductory English. At Union College, professors Jill Morsta and Tanya Cochran use The Hunger Games for their freshman English courses. The class still focuses on composition and grammar, but now those lessons are made more exciting with adventure, romance, and “mutant wolf-human hybrids”.

The exciting content makes a good assignment for students who may not have been heavy readers before college, but maintains themes that are discussion worthy at that level, writes Micah Mertes for Journal Star.