Teaching Students About Expressionism In Literature
Expressionism is a significant movement in literature and the arts, dating back to the early 20th century, with roots in Germany. It is characterized by a focus on subjective emotions and experiences, as well as the use of symbolism and exaggerated imagery to convey an individual’s perspective. Teaching students about Expressionism helps them recognize this influential movement in literary history, understand its elements, and appreciate how it has impacted modern storytelling.
To introduce students to Expressionism, it is important to clarify the significant differences between this movement and realism or naturalism. While realism seeks an objective representation of life or reality, expressionism aims to depict the subjective experience of an individual’s inner emotions and psyche. Also, naturalism explores external factors shaping human behavior, whereas expressionism is more about internal emotions defining the character’s actions.
Key Features of Expressionist Literature
Several features characterize expressionist literature. Teaching these elements will provide students with a foundation needed to identify and comprehend expressionist works.
1. Intense Emotion: The most significant aspect of expressionism is its emphasis on emotion, often with heightened or exaggerated feelings that go beyond everyday experiences.
2. Nonlinear Structure: Expressionist narratives often abandon traditional linear structures, which can result in fragmented or disjointed narratives.
3. Symbolic Imagery: Visual or verbal symbols are frequently used to convey meaning in expressionist literature, adding layers to a work that can be explored further.
4. Characterization: Characters in expressionist works generally represent abstract ideas or types rather than fully developed individuals.
5. Distortion: Physical features or situations may be distorted in expressionist works to reflect the emotional state of the character or artist.
There are various teaching strategies that can help students connect with the materials and deepen their understanding of expressionism:
1. Read Examples: Read aloud or assign examples of expressionist literature, such as Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” or August Strindberg’s “A Dream Play,” to introduce students to expressionistic style.
2. Analyze Symbols: Have students analyze the use of symbolism in expressionist works. For example, they may identify the significance of a particular image or perform a close reading of an excerpt to discuss how a symbol enhances their understanding of the text.
3. Creative Writing: Encourage students to create their own expressionist works through creative writing exercises, which inspire them to explore and convey their inner emotions and thoughts.
4. Role Play: As a form of participatory learning, have students reenact scenes from expressionist works, allowing them to immerse themselves in characters’ emotions and understand better the complex narratives.
5. Group Discussions: Facilitate discussions about themes, symbols, and techniques used in expressionist literature to encourage critical thinking in students.
Teaching expressionism in literature promotes an appreciation for this significant movement in literary history while providing essential tools for understanding its key characteristics. Students will learn about this unique storytelling method, allowing them to recognize its influence on contemporary works and expand their appreciation of diverse literary styles.