Sunday, November 8, 2009

The "Twilight" saga and moral education


Several factors contributed to my recently getting into the dreaded "Twilight" saga, something I'm pretty sure I swore a blood oath I would never do. It was Halloween recently; my friend dared me to; with the recent passing of anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, I've been thinking more about structural analysis of myth; finally, I've had a bad cold and have had plenty of time on my hands while recuperating. So I'm well into the second book of Stephenie Meyer's series, and I have to report that despite the fact that I am not a teenage girl, it's been worth it.

Why the hell, you might ask? Has McLennan dulled his hard, unforgiving critical-Marxist edge? Is he punishing himself in some way? is Stephenie Meyer paying him? None of it. I've discovered in Twilight not only an entertaining mythology, but a great entering wedge into moral education. Every twist and turn of the story involves some kind of horrible dilemma or moral quandary, and leaving aside how the characters actually deal with these, it's gratifying to see a popular series that might actually get kids thinking in moral terms.

I've tested this against my intro Moral Reasoning students. Many of them read Twilight books on break in class, so when I gave a pop quiz joining elements of the series to John Stuart Mill's harm principle and the critique of Mill by James Q. Wilson, many of them snapped to attention and went to work like mad. Sometimes you have to play to the crowd. But beyond that very interesting experiment, I continue to find grist for the mill.

This post is of course somewhat redundant, as I see that Blackwell has put out a "Twilight and Philosophy" collection as part of their "Philosophy and Pop Culture" series. But I never take those books very seriously without thinking through the links between philosophy and pop culture artifacts myself.

5 comments:

Devin Zane Shaw said...

As a partisan of The Notes Taken, I happen to think the Blackwell volume is redundant.

santi said...

Every once in a while you completely surprise me Devin.

Devin Zane Shaw said...

Why am I surprising? I've refused to read anything related to Twilight. Matt's post is, in fact, the first.

santi said...

Ah, let me retract that then, I thought you had written that piece, and hadn't noticed that you were not the author.

Devin Zane Shaw said...

Yes, that would be surprising!