Thug Notes - Giving Literary Criticism a Fresh Voice

Getting pupils to take an interest in classic literature can be a real challenge. The literary canon on which most English curricula are based is an intimidating array of weighty tomes. Most of it was written by old bearded white men decades or even centuries ago, and on the surface it bears very little relation to the lives pupils live today. It's not that they can't get something valuable or familiar from these books, but that sometimes the challenge is seeing it.

That's where Thug Notes comes in.

What Notes?

Picture a muscled street guy in a sports singlet and huge trainers, sat in the leather armchair of an old time study. That strange juxtaposition of styles is the heart of Thug Notes, and the first thing you'll see when you hit their Youtube channel. In weekly five minute bursts, the show provides summaries and thematic reviews of literary greats like Moby Dick, Hamlet and Animal Farm.

The language of Thug Notes is like a cleaned-up version of the slang from The Wire. Used to discuss Beowulf it becomes comedic, the modern and low-brow meeting the ancient and high-brow. But that humour hides succinct summaries and articulate insights into the themes and messages of these books. It's an English lesson compressed into a short, exciting burst, and it's nothing if not memorable.

Using Thug Notes

Thug Notes may not be for everyone, but you can bet that it will get attention in the classroom. It could introduce a text to a class, if you don't mind spoiling the ending, or be presented as a summary during revision. It could provide inspiration for classroom exercises about telling a story in a different voice, or an example of how to pick out key points for a summary. By giving a different voice to the story, and to literary analysis in general, it may make them interesting to kids who would otherwise turn up their nose at these books.





Image via Thug Notes.

Andrew Knighton

About Andrew Knighton

I'm a writer and ex-teacher. You can find more of my writing on education at: I also have a blog on reading and writing:

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