Updating Fahrenheit 451: How do you turn it into a modern-day comic book?

Fahrenheit 451 is undoubtedly on the top of my lists of greatest books of all time.  The novel was probably one of the reason’s why I became an English teacher, due, in great part, to the way it was taught by my freshman-year English teacher, Kevin Brewner (now retired).

Last year, I crafted a rather unsuccessful project that made the book stick out of the actual authentic part of the project.  This year, after some work with the UIUC Nano-CEMMS center over summer, I re-visited how I would be using Fahrenheit and pair it to our new social studies curriculum for current events.  As we finish Fahrenheit, students will not be diving into the hard work to answer:

How do we, as young, creative writers, craft a comic-book remix of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451
that speculates about the future of science and technology enhancements?

And then be evaluated on the following rubric: rubric – NanoF451comic

fahrenheit-451Bradbury, now deceased, wrote about the technological advancements that he could see not only physically destroying the world, but also psychologically destroying our country.  With the advent of the atomic bomb, Bradbury began exploring how war and politics changed thanks to the fact that entire megatropoli could go up in flames with the drop of just one bomb.  Bradbury feared how sound-bites for television would lead to the end of our attention spans and our inquiry into author’s purpose, conflict and other literary crafts that make good writing into art.  He saw us retracting into our homes, inundated with media and overwhelmed to the point of numbness.

Today, we face any number of technological advances that could destroy our society.  English teachers feared how instant messaging and texting will destroy our written language.  The Internet has obviously kept us connected, but also given us the opportunity to check out of current social spaces and engage in virtual ones — even at the dinner table!  Now, we hear about how 3D printing could uproot our preconceptions of manufacturing and our idea-driven economy.

For the last two weeks, students have been critically reading Fahrenheit and enthusiastically examining technological advances like Google Glass.  Now, this week, they will take that knowledge and start to apply it into the Fahrenheit plot line, but add depth to a remix of the book by updating one, two or all the characteristics that put 451 in the sci-fi genre: 1) its emphasis on science or technology; 2) its speculation about future or current events; or 3) its social commentary.  Students will have some questions to ask and answer as they play.  Aside from how they will illustrate the novel and what quotes/elements they will recreate, they will also have to think about where tech and emerging sciences fit into the social context of today.  We also have some good vs. evil brainstorming coming up, too, after we play with some Nitinol in a lab provided by the UIUC Nano-CEMMS center.  With much luck, we might even be able to Skype later this week with the artist who made the graphic novel interpretation of Fahrenheit.  Coming off of a great week already, I sure am looking forward to the creative spirit guiding this next one.

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