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11 — Modern images for an ancient Roman text

The cover of 'Shapeshifters: Tales from Ovid’s Metamorphoses', retold by Adrian Mitchel and illustrated by Alan Lee, showing a minotaur leaning over a parapet

Above: The cover from Shapeshifters: Tales from Ovid's Metamorphosis. Retold by Adrian Mitchell & illustrated by Alan Lee. Copyright © Frances Lincoln Ltd 2009, reproduced with permission

Both this and the previous sequence explore the context of modern adaptations and representations of ancient Roman writing through the text Shapeshifters: Tales from Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

In this sequence the students will focus on the illustrations accompanying the poem ‘The four ages’ and will explore multimodal meanings.

They will then suggest visual and/or multimodal ways that the text could be adapted to further appeal to its intended young adult readership (while preserving its roots in Roman culture and heritage).

These two sequences scaffold students in poetic techniques and the use of images to enhance meaning, both of which they might choose to employ in the production of their own fictional text in Assessment task 2.

Introduction: How can images modernise an ancient text?

Recap some of the poetry techniques and features the author employed in order to adapt Ovid’s ‘The four ages’ for a modern, younger audience. Ask the students why they think that adding images (and/or audio and film) might make an ancient Roman text more appealing to today’s audience. How can images enhance the words and meaning of a text? ACELA1528ACDSEH039

Activity 1: What is the function of the images and how can they enhance reader comprehension?

Show students the double page spread covering the end of the poem ‘Out of chaos’ and the poem ‘Gold’ (for background information tell them that the poem preceding ‘Gold’ is a creation story of the Earth, ending with the formation of humans from mud). Display the Analysis of ‘The four ages’ worksheet on an interactive whiteboard. Use the worksheet to model and guide students in a multimodal reading of the page. Explain that as we read a multimodal text we need to synthesise the information from both the words and the images to gain meaning. ACELT1619ACELY1724

Activity 2: How has the author used images to appeal to his audience?

Students independently use the Analysis of ‘The four ages’ worksheet to carry out a multimodal reading of the images from pages 14–16 and the writing from the poem ‘Iron’. Ask the students to identify the visual features or elements, which appeal to the text’s intended young adult audience. What visual features or elements are not appealing to this audience? Why? Which visual features or elements would they change to make them more appealing? Ask the students to suggest some new images or scenes that they could illustrate the text with (keeping in mind that the context of this text is the world of ancient Rome). Why might these be more appealing to the intended audience? ACELY1724

Activity 3: What other visual techniques can enhance comprehension and engage the audience?

Read students the Prologue from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (which is itself an adaptation of the story of ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’ from Ovid’s Metamorphoses). Ask them if they can easily understand what the prologue is about. Why, or why not? Show them Clip 1 (the Prologue) from the 1996 Baz Luhrmann film of Romeo and Juliet. Ask them to consider how the images and film help them to better understand the text. Students should use the information and concepts from Activity 1 to frame their responses.

Divide the text of ‘Iron’ into couplets and assign a couplet to the students, either individually or in pairs. The students brainstorm, then orally describe, an image or film sequence they would use to demonstrate the meaning of the couplet (remembering the ancient Roman context). As a homework activity, students could produce their image, or storyboard their film sequence. ACELA1528ACELY1724ACELY1725ACDSEH131

Student reflective journal

Students should spend 5–10 minutes responding to the reflection questions for this sequence, either in written form or orally, and then assess their responses against the success criteria using the rubric provided.