Word for Word: Boy bands and the Bard
RyJoLC, an Irish education company, has designed a programme that helps students engage with Shakespeare by using One Direction lyrics and other modern references
One Direction: Shakespeare’s “But thy eternal summer shall not fade” becomes “Baby you light up my world like nobody else”
Knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven, as Shakespeare wrote in Henry VI. Now an innovative service from a Dublin educational company may soon turn secondary school students into angels. RyJoLC, which operates in Sandymount, has designed a programme that helps students engage with Shakespeare using modern references.
RyJoLC provides teaching resources that use popular culture to improve understanding of prescribed texts. From well-known sonnets to those tricky soliloquys to key themes in Shakespearean drama, the system complements existing teaching programmes and has been successful both in Ireland and abroad.
Company director John Ryan, a UCD graduate with a degree and masters in English literature, came up with the idea while studying Shakespeare at university. There he founded an educational consultancy geared at making the Bard accessible to all.
Realising that familiarity and interest were vital to student engagement, Ryan sought inspiration from pop music. One Direction’s What Makes You Beautiful is used to explore the themes of beauty and youth in Shakespeare’s famous Sonnet 18, Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day: “But thy eternal summer shall not fade,” is aligned to the more direct approach of today’s poets: “Baby you light up my world like nobody else.”
Bruno Mars’s The Lazy Song explains the notion of paradox. She Looks So Perfect by 5 Seconds of Summer teaches the value of repetition in literature. Troublemaker by Olly Murs is given as an example of hyperbole. Dance floor favourite I Gotta Feeling, by The Black Eyed Peas, is used as an introduction to persuasive language, not to mention a lesson in the sales pitch.
Kanye West’s conflicted feelings towards the woman in Gold Digger are compared to Shakespeare’s tempestuous relationship with the Dark Lady in Sonnet 131.
RyJoLC also provides conventional learning resources for English teachers and study aids for students on all course material, from classic novels to poetry to contemporary fiction. More than 100 schools in Ireland have availed of the company’s resources, with a growing network of overseas schools adapting the lessons to suit their programmes.
Back to Henry VI to sum things up: Large gifts bestowed on learned clerks.